By Anne Acheson
I ran for Winthrop Town Council position 5 after serving several years on the planning commission because I wanted to have a voice in a broader range of issues facing the Town of Winthrop.
When I was elected in November 2015 I never had any intention of serving as mayor. In September 2016, when Mayor Sue Langdalen stepped down, I was appointed by the Town Council to serve as mayor. It was not a position that I sought out but I agreed to step into it because I wanted to serve my town and the council asked me to take on the position.
Serving as a local elected official is not easy, whether it be as mayor, on town council, or on another elected board. There is a steep learning curve to understand the framework of federal, state and local regulations and resource limitations that impact tough decisions that many will not understand. I do not approach any decision recklessly and always place the town’s interests first.
In terminating Marshal Hal Henning’s employment with the town, I considered a wide range of factors related to his position and I made a difficult and apparently unpopular decision. Some do not understand how I could make this choice and are frustrated by the lack of explanation. Employment and privacy laws prevent me from providing the answers that some are seeking. Opinions have been formed based on the incomplete information that is publicly available. Since the decision has not been reversed and I was not removed from office, some in the community may feel their voices have not been heard.
The Town of Winthrop’s government structure is established by state law in RCW 35.27. The council is responsible for establishing policy but has no role in personnel decisions or evaluations. The mayor is responsible for executing policy and administration of the town including the hiring/firing authority of all town personnel. At its last meeting, the council heard from critics of the decision who wished them to reinstate Marshal Henning, but it is not within their power to do so. I heard from those critics that they wished for the council to fire me but the council does not have the power to do so. The critics should not feel that their voices were not heard because the actions they desired did not occur.
The Town of Winthrop is facing an unusual situation where all five council positions and mayor will be up for election in November. Individuals who wish to seek election may file online or at the Okanogan County Auditor’s office. The filing period for the November election is May 15–19. More information can be found at the county auditor’s website.
So, if you are interested in shaping the direction of Winthrop I encourage you to learn about town government functions and where you can serve. The MRSC website, www.mrsc.org, is a great resource for learning about government functions and limitations. State law establishes how the town government works and is organized. The Winthrop Municipal code (accessible at www.townofwinthrop.com) establishes local regulations. And I encourage you to continue to express your opinions and concerns, good or bad.
Anne Acheson is the mayor of Winthrop.