Mayor absent again as McCleary residents ponder future

Many residents came out to fill the community center.

McCleary Mayor Chris Miller was absent again from the third city council meeting in three weeks as residents voiced concerns about his leadership and voiced thoughts about restructuring the leadership of the city.

Miller was in California on a scheduled vacation, said Public Works director Chad Bedlington during the meeting.

“The hot topic for an update is the mayor,” said Councilor and Mayor Pro Tem Brycen Huff in the opening of the meeting. “Obviously, he’s not here tonight.”

There is no requirement that the mayor be present for council meetings, Huff said. However, a number of people present voiced their thoughts on Miller’s repeated absences amidst the controversy in hiring city staff he had caused, with some calling him a coward and saying he ought to be there to face the public.

Speakers brought up the possibility of creating a city administrator position, a permanent employee of the city who would take over many of the responsibilities currently held by the mayor. Creating that position would require a special election to ratify the new structure of government. City administrators are common in towns in the county and Washington.

“If you want to get (expletive) done, you need one captain of the ship, to drive the boat,” said Paul Nott. “Get the right guy or gal in there to run the show. Let’s really look at what our vision of what McCleary is.”

Nott argued that having a city administrator rather than a part-time mayor responsible for the city’s smooth running would pay off in terms of focus and efficiency for getting things done. Others mooted that the city, with its modest size, couldn’t afford to be a bad employer or to have a toxic work environment.

Councilor Andrea Dahl said, “There might not be a lot we can do but there’s a few of us trying to make it what it was.”

Police Chief Sam Patrick updated attendees on the city’s plan for an ordinance regarding the the sunset on the Blake decision’s drug laws, which occurs on July 1, and how the city was working on getting an ordinance ready if the state didn’t make a decision.

Councilor Max Ross voiced a need for updated or more specific policies for the city in a number of areas, including IT and social media, safety and risk management, hiring, and an ordinance for how the city would be handling the Blake decision.

Bedlington also detailed efforts after a server crash hobbled the city last week, as the city lost months of files, with the last backup of the servers occurring in mid-February. The city’s aging IT infrastructure and staffing have been an ongoing public issue in recent months.

“Ultimately it failed in an untimely manner,” Bedlington said. “It wasn’t intentional. It’s where we’re at right now.”

Councilors took a moment to nod to Public Service Recognition Week, thanking public servants for their work.

“You’re not getting paid right now and you’re still here, listening to city business,” Dahl said as she thanked them for their work and for being there.

Contact Senior Reporter Michael S. Lockett at 757-621-1197 or