CRESWELL – A critical role during a particularly tumultuous time in Creswell, the application process for mayor will soon be open to the public. Two city councilors – Kevin Prociw and JoeRell Medina – also declared interest during the last seconds of Monday’s city council meeting.
“I’ve given this very serious consideration … I really do feel that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few or of the one, so I will be an applicant,” Prociw said. As council president, he is serving as acting mayor until the position is filled.
“I’ll be an applicant, too,” Medina said. He did not respond to requests for further comment.
Council hopes to fill the position in October, which would run until the term expires in November 2022. The empty position is a result of the resignation of former mayor Amy Knudsen earlier this month, who said “undue stress” forced her decision.
Before the position can be filled, the council will need to:
γ Establish the criteria for the position. Right now, criteria only includes being a registered voter and having lived within the city limits for a year. “There hasn’t been a lot of criteria established before this…. the process is (council’s) to develop,” said Michelle Amberg, city manager.
γ Finalize the voting and interview process. It discussed making the appointment through a majority council vote.
γ Seek clarification from city attorney Ross Williamson on matters of voting abstention for the two councilors vying for the position.
Council chose to use a public application process to fill the position this time based on the feedback it’s been getting from community members. “Based on the emails that we have received, I think that there is support needed to open the application process to the entire community,” councilor Shelly Clark said.
It’s the second time in a year that the City has been in this position, after former mayor Richard Zettervall resigned a few weeks before the November 2020 election. Back then however, two councilors – Prociw and Knudsen – were already on the ballot for the mayor seat. Because of the proximity to the election, the council chose to leave it vacant until the election results, at which point it appointed the winner, Knudsen, to fill the seat until her formal installation as mayor in January.
The next work session is scheduled on Sept. 27 at City Hall, at which point council will finalize its process for appointing a new mayor. It will then advertise the position, hold interviews, and plans to decide in October.
For the first time in nearly a year, the subject of equity and inclusivity resurfaced among councilors after Prociw suggested the topic become part of the Strategic Plan.
“A five-year plan is our guiding document for Creswell; let’s call it our true north … I don’t see how we can do a five-year plan and not talk about it,” Prociw said.
Prociw said that the topic would be discussed “not with a bias, not with any sense of doing any particular thing. It won’t be just about race; it will be about diversity and inclusion at all levels.”
“Do you not think Creswell is an inclusive town? I’m pretty sure Creswell is a pretty inclusive town. Anybody who lives here would say that,” Medina said to Prociw.
Medina stated during his campaign that the City’s conversations last year on equity and inclusion sparked his interest in running for city council. He was staunchly against a resolution. After that topic was squashed last year amid council confusion, he was noticeably upset to hear the words “equity” and “inclusion” resurface at Monday’s meeting.
“Given the nature of the community’s reputation and as the ones that are trying to repair ...” Prociw said, before Medina interrupted him.
“The community doesn’t have a reputation,” Medina interjected. “The community was attacked by news outlets and locals in regards to that matter.”
Residents have been voicing concerns to council about Creswell’s public image since Fourth of July activities and the subsequent fallout. The unauthorized parade garnered local, regional and national criticism because it included the presence of a hate group.
“I am not pointing fingers, I am just saying that this is where we’re at,” Prociw responded to Medina. “It is important to affirm our position on equity and inclusion just because of the fact that because (recent events) have now forced us into it.”
“Not everyone in Creswell is comfortable or feels like it is equal or a place to be. I don’t think ...” councilor Misty Inman said, before being interrupted by Medina, whose comments were
Resident MaryAnn Howard, who was in attendance, shared her perspective. “You can’t sweep it under the rug; it’s out there. Let’s talk about it in public, not on Facebook. And let’s be adults about it because of our reputation since … Richard (Zettervall) left has really gone down the tubes,” she said. Another audience member added that, “it is very important that an inclusion statement be discussed. It needs to be discussed.”
Prociw said that he knows that equity-and-inclusion conversations are a “hot topic” in Creswell, and that it is one that “cannot be approached without caution and without careful consideration about how we do it.”
Medina disagreed. “Using those terms (equity and inclusion) is very troubling.”
Amberg recommended that equity and inclusion initiatives be a part of the work that comes out of this plan, and not part of crafting the Strategic Plan itself. “This is something that is a part of a work process outside of that plan,” she said, noting that it could include town halls and qualified moderators to facilitate discussions.
“We’re having this conversation so it helps us to think about it, with intent,” Prociw said.