Camas City Councilor Shannon Turk is one of four candidates who recently applied to be the city’s next mayor.
The September resignation of former Mayor Scott Higgins leaves the office vacant, and it will be filled by City Council appointment. Four have applied for the job — City Councilors Melissa Smith and Turk — as well as Georerl Niles, who is Chair of the Camas Parking Commission (a volunteer position), and former Camas Mayor, Dean Dossett.
A 2011 city resolution requires the council to interview them all.
“We have seven on council and so the five remaining council members will decide who becomes the next mayor,”said Camas City Administrator, Pete Capell. “They will interview all the candidates with pre-prepared questions. They will work it out until a candidate has a majority.”
Applications were due Friday, October 26, and the special interview meeting is scheduled for November 14. There will be a public swearing-in at the council meeting on November 19. The new mayor will complete the existing term, and then run again next Fall.
Turk, who has a Master’s Degree in Public Administration, was appointed to the council in July 2011 to fill the vacant seat left when Scott Higgins became Mayor. Turk would run on her own in November 2011 to finish the Higgins term, and then ran again in 2013, then again in 2017.
“People call me a four-term councilor,” said Turk. “But it’s really two terms that I’ve been representing Ward 3, Position 2 with Greg Anderson. That’s the area by Dorothy Fox, west of Sierra.”
With seven years of experience on the council, what has Turk learned?
“I’ve learned that even though I knew things take time to happen, they take more time than I anticipated,” said Turk. “It takes time to get good policy passed. I think a good strategic plan may help shorten it. Right now, it feels like the community has varying goals. People are moving in many different directions. The firefighters, the pool, the budget.”
Is there a leadership vacuum?
“There’s a lack of leadership focus, because I think there’s a tendency to respond to every email, to every citizen concern that comes up, but when you do that it’s bad from a comprehensive view. I think it’s more lack of focus. People are sincerely trying to help, but there’s a lot going on. There’s a tendency to take too much on. There are big things going on, but we’re going in many different directions. It’s hard to always resolve everything so quickly.”
Turk says in a small town “it’s easy to get bogged down by multiple initiatives because you have to be all things to everybody. You have to know a little bit about a lot of things.”
Turk said she would start using the city’s strategic plan, and would go further into the community and identify the goals of what people want us to focus on time on.
“Do we need another firefighter station? I really want to know what we need to do. Then we can set our priorities,” Turk said. “With the pool — it’s a funding issue. First we have to decide what we want. I agree with John Spencer, we need to go big or go home. We need a competition pool. We have a need for more sports fields, too. If you build it they will come.
“We have to first get public input and then we have to decide if people are willing to pay for it. How do we get the rest of the people to agree on it, and pay for it. This council is exceptionally good at compromising. They always find a middle point to get things done so everyone gets a little piece of victory.
“I would agree we should have a plan, or an idea of what we should be doing. We also need to have a plan for a firefighter district, or a regional fire authority. It’s essentially a tax for just a fire service. These two things need to happen concurrently.”
What Are Turk’s Skill Sets?
“Primarily, I’ve worked in government and have done that for 25 years as a budget analyst,” said Turk. “It’s about making recommendations to leadership with full knowledge of the subject. I know this well. I have a way of bringing diverse opinions together and coming to a consensus. I don’t have any problem being yelled at when I know we’re doing the right thing.”
Turk, a mother of two adult children, Emma, 18, and Lanie, 20, touts her volunteer activities as a basketball and cheer coach. Her family makes a point to deliver meals on Thanksgiving, and encourages her daughters to be involved in the community. As an animal lover, she helps out at West Columbia Gorge Animal Shelter.
She’s worked at City of Vancouver for 11 years, and previously worked for Multnomah County, and for the city of Gresham — in budgeting and as a management analyst. Currently, she oversees warehouse and support staff.
“I’ve had a lot of opportunities to grow professionally and I’ve learned from them,” said Turk. “If we had a good strategic plan, we could make decisions based on that plan. I feel very comfortable having a full-time job and being the mayor. The employees would feel that empowerment.”
Does The Mayor Position Need Full-Time Attention?
“We have a professional administrator, but the mayor administers the policy the council sets, and the administrator does the day-to-day operation of the city,”said Turk. “My job is very flexible. They have been very accommodating of my schedule. As long as I get my work done, and I account for every minute. It would be stressful, but no more stressful that having to come up with the other things I’ve been doing.”
So, what are her top three reasons for running?
“I see so much opportunity in Camas,” Turk said. “There are so many things — the community center/pool, which will drive me for a long time. I want to impact the community so that my kids want to come back here. We need to make changes to affordability. We need to have kids and seniors be able to afford to live here. If we had unlimited resources, we could make sure cost of living here is affordable. This is done through zoning and creating incentives for development to include affordable housing. I want to do this to make the community better.”
2- Professional Growth
“It’s just closely tied to opportunity and having a sense that I left the world better,” Turk said. “I’ve always worked for the councilor-manager form of government, aka ‘weak mayor’ so in a way being a councilor has prepared me as I’ve been exposed to multiple facets of city administration. I’ve learned a lot about policy and administration and the differences.”
3- Legacy Building
“I want to make the world a better place,” said Turk. “I want to build something that will outlive me. It’s about legacy building. I just want to be in the room when it happens. I want to be part of the decision-making. I’d like to get more people engaged in the community and to be more face-to-face. I think we’re also missing civility.”
Turk said the city has a public relations problem, and as mayor would encourage more face-to-face ward meetings.
“Hazen’s (former city councilor) resignation last year created a distrust,” said Turk. “We just need to become more transparent, and engage the citizens more. Have more meetings where you bring citizens in, and explain what we do. There’s a general distrust of government across the country. We need to explain how we do our work. This needs to be explained to the people. To get to truth is to come up with a plan, decide what it is, and then actually follow through and do it. Stick to the plan, and do what you say you’re going to do.”