In an unexpected announcement on social media Tuesday evening, June 16, Gresham Mayor Shane Bemis said he is stepping down from his role leading the city, effective 9 a.m. Wednesday, and he suggested that entrepreneur and community leader Travis Stovall eventually take his place.
In a post to Facebook, Bemis wrote about the difficulties trying to balance raising a family, supporting a business during the COVID-19 pandemic, and dealing with challenges within City Hall.
"At the current moment, facing a pandemic; a rising, powerful, and necessary social justice movement; and the City's budget woes, all while trying to keep my business afloat, is not tenable," Bemis wrote. "I must fight for my business to provide for my family."
This is the third high-profile Gresham city leader who has resigned or retired in the last week. Gresham City Manager Erik Kvarsten tendered his resignation Tuesday, June 9, while Police Chief Robin Sells announced her retirement Thursday, June 11.
The mayor's seat now will be open in the November election, and Bemis is pushing for Travis Stovall to run for the position.
"Travis has been intricately involved in the City of Gresham, serving on committees ranging from public safety, to affordable housing and community development," Bemis wrote.
Reached by The Outlook Tuesday evening, Stovall said he would be "honored" to have the job, if voters approve. Bemis's resignation will trigger a vacancy on the City Council, and Stovall hopes to win appointment to that seat before running for mayor in November.
"I love the city of Gresham and, as we navigate these challenging times, I stand ready to assist in any way that I can. It would be an honor if the citizens of Gresham place their trust in me to lead the city forward as its mayor. I have great respect for Mayor Bemis. He has been an amazing leader. Him feeling the need to resign is evidence of his leadership character to help guide his city through this time."
Bemis wrote that he watched Portland Police Chief Jami Resh step aside last week in order to allow an African American officer, Chuck Lovell, to lead the organization.
Stovall, who is black, has spoken about the challenges he has faced as a business person of color. In addition to being CEO of his own business — the Stovall Group — he also is a member of the TriMet board of directors and the former executive director of the East Metro Economic Alliance.
Bemis said Stovall was better equipped to move the city forward at this particular moment.
"As a political leader, it is always tempting to see oneself as the solution to whatever problems we may face," Bemis wrote. "However, when I spend time in self-reflection and consider the entirety of the critical work our city and broader society must address, I need to be willing to say I am not the best solution to these specific problems."
Bemis wrote in the coming days he is focusing on saving his business and seeing his oldest son off to college. He thanked the community for supporting him during his public service in Gresham.
"I came to Gresham as a 15-year-old kid. My family had nothing, and I knew nobody. This community has given me everything," Bemis wrote. "I will never forget your generosity and I will always do everything in my power, in any capacity, to give everything I have to this community."
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