Wilsonville government welcomes new mayor Julie Fitzgerald
For the first time in 12 years, Wilsonville officially has a new mayor.
But after the swearing in of Julie Fitzgerald to the highest elected post in town, the council attended to lingering issues from the previous council iteration.
During the meeting Jan. 4, Fitzgerald and councilors Kristin Akervall and Joann Linville, who won elections last November, officially assumed their roles. The council also learned that, despite being told otherwise during a previous meeting, it had voted to adopt a council compensation measure, and resolved a dispute over an appointment to the Development Review Board.
Welcoming the new council
Judge Fred Weinhouse, Wilsonville's municipal court judge, conducted the swearing in ceremony. After assuming their official roles, the new councilors offered a few remarks.
In her statements, Fitzgerald emphasized the importance of collaboration between Wilsonville and outside entities like regional and state government, and of citizen involvement within the local community. She added that she felt the current council would work together well on important issues affecting the community, such as economic recovery, fostering diversity, equity and inclusion and Town Center redevelopment.
"I think we have a great council, and everyone is dedicated to serving their city," she said.
Also, the council unanimously voted to appoint Akervall as council president, meaning she will have the role of conducting meetings when the mayor is absent. The Villebois resident also served as council president in 2019 and 2020.
"I appreciate her leadership and her calm and cool prevail over all of our discussions," Linville said.
During a work session before the meeting, the council discussed appointments to regional boards and commissions.
While former Mayor Tim Knapp took on a large share of these responsibilities, Fitzgerald said she wanted to spread out the workload, asking Linville to serve as representative of a Clackamas County committee focusing on Metro issues and also suggesting the council rotate attendance to Greater Portland Inc. meetings. Appointments will be made official at an upcoming meeting.
Councilor Ben West said he appreciated the thoughtfulness and collaboration that went into the process.
During the final meeting of December, the council seemingly failed to pass a measure to increase compensation for the mayor and add compensation for councilors. However, City Attorney Barbara Jacobson said at Monday's meeting the conclusion she came to about what was needed to advance the resolution was incorrect, and that the measure had in fact passed.
Because Akervall and Linville had to recuse themselves from the December vote — given that they would directly benefit from it — only three councilors voted. West voted against the measure, which meant the vote was 2-1. Jacobson said at the time the council needed three "yes" votes to pass the motion. However, after speaking with the state's ethics commission, she realized her assertion was mistaken. Jacobson said she spoke with the ethics commission before the initial vote but assumed at the time that all three councilors would vote for it as all three had expressed support previously, which is where the confusion originated.
Wilsonville's city charter says that if a quorum is established (meaning at least three councilors are present), a majority is required to pass the resolution. Fitzgerald will receive a boost in monthly stipend from $750 to $2,300 starting the next fiscal year, while Akervall, as council president, will receive $1,150 and Linville will receive $850. Whoever is elected to West's and councilor Charlotte Lehan's seats in 2022 will receive compensation in 2023.
Also during the December meeting, the council agreed to reexamine the appointment of Jami Arbon to the city's Development Review Board after West accused Arbon of levying racial and homophobic slurs. Former Mayor Tim Knapp had recommended Arbon for appointment.
Though West voted against her appointment again at Monday's meeting, the rest of the council voted to approve it.
"Having read all of those materials and listened to people today (two people attested to Arbon's character at the meeting) I see nothing in the record that would preclude Ms. Arbon from being a contributing member of the Development Review Board," Fitzgerald said.
Arbon testified during the meeting, castigating West for "lodging completely untrue allegations against me" and asked the council to sign a written apology to her and for West to be censured — a public reprimand of his actions. Arbon was publicly critical of West during the 2020 mayoral campaign and felt he was blaming her for his loss to Fitzgerald.
"He freely throws out racist and homophobe titles. He crossed the line in an official city position as councilor," Arbon said.
West did not comment at the meeting but previously noted that Arbon had questioned why someone who is gay would vote Republican in a post about West on social media. He did not provide a basis for his claim about racial slurs.
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