Keith Locke reverses decision to step down from council, will remain for the rest of his term

LockeSt. Helens City Councilor Keith Locke announced last week that he will fill out the remainder of his elected term.

Over the last year-and-a-half Locke has publicly stated on multiple occasions that he was planning to leave the City Council this year, before his elected term of office ended.

Locke told the Spotlight earlier this year that he would be leaving the council in June, but during a City Council meeting Wednesday, July 17, Locke announced a change in his plans.

"The news that I want to bring to you tonight is that I want to fill my term out. You'll be seeing me for the next year-and-a-half sitting in this seat," Locke said. "Right now, we have a little uncertainty on the council and I just want to stay and make sure things go the way we need to go."

Earlier this year, Locke said that he was living part time in Salem and part time in St. Helens, and was spending three to four days a week in St. Helens. In May 2018, Locke and his wife purchased a home in Salem to be closer to family. Locke said he was still registered to vote in the city and owned property in St. Helens.

According to the St. Helens municipal code, anyone who runs for elected office in St. Helens must reside in the city for at least a year prior to the election, but the code doesn't specify that an elected official must continue to live in the city once elected.

The St. Helens charter indicates a vacancy on the council exists when a council person is absent from the city for 30 days without the mayor's written permission, or a council person misses all city meetings within a 60-day period.

Additionally, the code states, "the council shall be final judge of the qualifications and election of its own members."

Mayor Rick Scholl said from his perspective there is no reason to be concerned, but the news came as a surprise last week.

"It was a complete shocker to us too. We were waiting for him to announce his departure and look for someone to appoint," Scholl said.

Scholl added that Locke is still active with community groups, and works as a council liaison to the police department per his appointment. Additionally, Locke has continued to help with unofficial project designations, like working with the city's lessee, Cascades Tissue, and helping with industrial site development.

Locke previously drew criticism and questions about his involvement with an industrial marijuana grow facility that is slated to purchase land from the city. Locke developed a personal friendship with one of the business owners, Alex Reverman, of ACSP LLC, and had traveled with Reverman for a vacation to Mexico in 2017.

Locke did not respond to requests for comment by the Spotlight's press time.

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