YACHATS — November’s General Election promised the city of Yachats a drastically different city council once it convened Thursday for its first meeting of 2021.
And after the formality of swearing in new Mayor Leslie Vaaler and newly elected councilors Ann Stott and Greg Scott was complete, the new Yachats City Council didn’t shy away from tackling some pressing issues the city faces during its first official work session and regular meeting held virtually via Zoom.
Yachats City Manager Shannon Beaurcaire first administered the oath of office to the city’s new mayor before Vaaler returned the favor and swore in Stott and Scott individually.
Vaaler, a retired mathematics professor who began a term as a Yachats city councilor in 2019, defeated incumbent mayor John Moore by 199 votes in the November election to earn her new seat at the virtual table. Stott and Scott won a five-person race in November for two seats on the council, defeating sitting councilors Max Glenn and Jim Tooke, as well as challenger Dawn Keller.
Following the nearly four-hour meeting, Vaaler spoke positively about the new council’s ability to work as a cohesive unit.
“I think we have a good group, and we had lots of interested citizens there (at the meeting),” Vaaler told the News-Times on Thursday afternoon. “It did go longer than I hope our average meeting would be.”
Right off the bat, the council tackled some staffing concerns, which included the previous council’s approval during a November meeting for Beaucaire to advertise a job opening for a city of Yachats administrative assistant. With the hit the area economy took from the events of 2020, the new council seemed apprehensive about going forward allowing Beaucaire to conduct a first round of interviews with the five people who applied for the position.
After lengthy discussion, the council granted Beaucaire permission to interview applicants, with the caveat that all be informed that even though interviews are being conducted, the city may decide not to make a hire to fill the position.
Beaucaire also asked the previous council to hire a code enforcement officer and a finance officer. And though the council eventually elected to continue discussions on the possibility of hiring two additional staff members, council agreed that code enforcement is a priority.
“I think we all agree that we need code enforcement,” Vaaler said.
At the suggestion of Scott, later in the meeting the council set a 10 a.m. Monday meeting to focus specifically on city personnel issues.
The next order of business was to elect a council president, who, according to city mandate, runs the city as mayor in the event she cannot perform her duties. That vote went unanimously in favor of Stott, who told the council, “I’d be honored and willing to do that.”
However, after the vote was taken, Stott took a tongue-in-cheek jab at the city’s new mayor. “And like I say, mayor, you better do you your job so I don’t have to step in for you,” Stott joked.
Other appointments made during the meeting included Scott joining the city’s Finance Committee as the council’s representative, the council selecting Vaaler to represent the city on Oregon Cascades West Council of Governments board and Councilor Mary Ellen O’Shaughnessey to that organization’s transportation committee.
The council then decided on a timetable to make an appointment to fill the council seat vacated by Vaaler upon her election as mayor. Councilors chose to advertise the position immediately and to set a deadline to submit applications at 1 p.m. Jan. 22.
At 2 p.m. Jan. 22, the council plans to meet to review submitted applications. If necessary, councilors will conduct candidate interviews that week before appointing the city’s new councilor. Immediately following, the newly completed council will host its annual goal-setting meeting. That yearly meeting must take place during the month of January as mandated by city code.
After Thursday’s meeting, Vaaler remained positive the 2021 Yachats City Council is well equipped to meet the needs of the people of Yachats.
“The mayor, and I believe the council, look forward to serving the citizenry,” she said. “I look forward to hearing what the public needs from us.”