Long-time City Council member Michelle Sandoval was elected mayor for the third time in her 19 years of service by her fellow council members at the first regular meeting of the new year, Jan. 6.
Sandoval first served as mayor from 2008 to 2010 and was re-elected in 2010 until 2012.
She succeeds Deborah Stinson, who was unseated by Monica MickHager in November.
Sandoval said where the City of Port Townsend is today versus where it was when she was first elected mayor is like night and day.
In 2008, national economic downturn shuttered storefronts, the city had lost its ferry service and the Hood Canal bridge was closed for several weeks in 2009. Today the biggest issues she hears from people are the housing shortage and the street infrastructure.
Sandoval said council members and community members recognize that right now the city is in a transition period with the relatively new City Council, the new city manager, several new or retiring department heads as well as a large population of new residents.
She said she sees herself as being the ideal person to help the city transition and keep its valuable institutional knowledge but once the end of her four-year City Council and two-year mayor term is up in 2022, she will not be running for re-election.
Sandoval has lived in Port Townsend for close to 30 years, and when she retires from the council she will have served for 20 years; five consecutive terms.
Sandoval said she sees an important part of her role as facilitating the discussion on agenda items at City Council.
While a regular member, she was known for her outspoken nature but she said as mayor she thinks it’s important to take time to hear from every voice on the council.
Something she said she wants to bring to the attention of Port Townsend citizens is that a community, in order to be fully whole, must make room for everyone. She said she hopes to see the prevailing “us versus them” attitude dissipate into a more accepting and welcoming spirit. She said this applies to anything from a youth versus retirees mentality to a locals-versus-transplants mentality.
The City of Port Townsend operates under what is called a council-manager form of government.
Residents get direct representation by electing City Council members who execute legislative functions like passing ordinances, writing budgets or setting priorities for city staff.
The city manager is selected by the council and is responsible for overseeing city administration and implementing policy. This is similar to a CEO and board of directors relationship as in a publicly traded company.
The mayor is a mostly ceremonial role. Councilors nominate and elect a mayor from the council who will chair City Council meetings, mediate discussions, work closely with the city manager, represent the city to the public, assign people to committees and set the council agenda.
Besides those roles, the mayor enjoys no extra executive powers such as hiring and firing of city staff, additional voting authority or veto power. This is known as a weak-mayor form of government.
The next regular City Council meeting is Jan. 21 at 6:30 p.m