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Rachel Lyles Smith's resignation sets stage for scramble to become city's top elected official

"Rachel, what have you done?" Oregon City Commissioner Frank O'Donnell lamented jokingly as elected officials this month discussed the complexities of Rachel Lyles Smith's resignation as mayor effective April 22.PHOTO COURTESY: CITY OF OC - Rachel Lyles Smith

Lyles Smith's resignation will require two elections, the first on Aug. 23 to select an interim mayor through the end of the year, and a second election less than three months later to select a mayor for a full four-year term.

Elected officials are pushing for voters to select a current or former commissioner as mayor, which would narrow the list of potential candidates considerably. The city begins accepting candidate filings on May 1 for the August election, and candidates for the November election can file paperwork starting June 1.

Denyse McGriff, who took office this year as Oregon City Commission president and is serving as interim mayor, is eligible to run in both elections.

City Commissioner Rocky Smith may run in the November election, but he would be ineligible for the August election unless voters remove a confusing city-code provision that currently says no one can be "elected either to the office of mayor or city commissioner for more than two terms of four years in the previous 10 years."

Smith, who was elected to four-year terms in November 2012 and 2018, would not be eligible to run again until November 2022 under this provision.

Oregon City voters will get the chance to remove this term-limits provision on their May ballot.

Both Lyles Smith and O'Donnell encouraged voters to remove term limits and pick someone for mayor who has served as a city commissioner.

"It's really important for this leadership position to have someone who has some experience," Lyles Smith said. "There is a ton of value of having someone in this position who has been on the City Commission."

O'Donnell and Commissioner Adam Marl repeatedly have said that they have no interest in the mayoral position or for running as a commissioner in the upcoming elections. Regardless of whether term limits are removed, O'Donnell could theoretically run for the interim position during the Aug. 23 election. He would not be eligible for the full four-year term as mayor unless term limits are removed, which he says is a moot point due to his lack of interest in running again.

O'Donnell commended Lyles Smith for her excellent service as mayor after "paying her dues" as a commissioner.

"It's not one of those jobs where you can walk in here and start at the top, because the duties of the mayor far exceed the duties of each of the commissioners," O'Donnell said. "I just cringe at the thought of some of those previous candidates coming in here and trying to take over that (mayoral) job; we need someone who's got experience, and I can say all of those things because I have no interest in it."

O'Donnell's "what have you done" joke came in response to the city's manager and attorney explaining the commission's option to hold McGriff's seat open for her reappointment in case she won the mayoral election in August but lost the November election.

Commissioners generally have some flexibility in deciding the timeline for their appointment of a candidate to a vacant seat for an interim period until the next general election.

For more information on how to file for the upcoming elections, visit orcity.org/cityrecorder/city-commission-election.


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