Camas, WA — Camas City Council member and Mayor Pro Tem Ellen Burton will not run for re-election this year. Burton announced her decision on Wednesday, April 28.
“It was a really tough decision,” said Burton.” It’s an honor to serve our Camas community as the council and administration worked together to strengthen our city operations and community. My intent throughout my term was and is to keep the communities’ best interest in the forefront and ask the questions citizens want to know about city plans and investments.”
Appointed to the city council in 2019, Burton was then elected in 2020. Her fellow council members selected her to serve as Mayor Pro Tem in January 2021. In total, she will serve three years.
“I want to thank Mayor McDonnell, City Administrator Fox and staff for their on-going commitment, especially during this difficult year so we emerge stronger on the other side.” Burton says she believes all of us need to work together to create the community where we live.
So, why is Burton leaving?
“Lifestage. I retired from my career in 2018 and started serving on the council in 2019,” she said. “Now, my youngest son is graduating from high school.”
Are there issues within the city that make you want to leave?
“There are no issues with/at the city causing me to leave. It’s a personal decision,” she said.
What have you learned since being appointed in 2019 about the city and how it operates?
“I’ve learned so much about our community and our staff, and our fellow council members,” Burton said. “If you’re open to learning you can learn a ton. Running a city is highly complicated. There are many conflicting stake holders, and there are unfunded mandates which conflict with the desire of our community, for example the North Shore development. There are restrictions about funds, they can’t be crossed over, and the planning horizon is very long. For example, the Brady Road expansion was planned 10 years ago and it’s just a mile.”
She said drafting a plan is required to get grants and state funds, and low interest loans, which is why the city often hires consultants to help make effective plans.
“There are so many nuances that are buried to the public,” Burton said. “You have caring, confident people that have navigate this huge system. You have to approach this as a system.”
What direction do you want Camas to take with how it operates?
“I think with city operations we need to make the investment in people and resources and systems to automate some aspects of city business,” she said. For example, we are using a Y2K accounting system. We need to increase efficiencies so we can better manage our assets. People are on top of it, but we have a very lean staff and we need the tools to do the job.”
Do you think Camas is heading in the right direction?
“I think we need to improve our processes and have an equitable approach in funding parks across the city,” she said. “We need to make sure we continue to be welcoming to newcomers and long-term residents alike. We have many people over 65 so what does that mean? Do we need to accelerate the ADA corner replacements which cost $8,000 to $10,000 each? The city is well run, we are very financially conservative. We need to invest in our future. Where do we do that? For example, downtown infrastructure and the storm drains need to be fixed, but that will require tearing up the roads for several years, and people don’t want to see the streets torn up.”
“We have to make the right decisions but we need to do that with great community input, such as what we did with the Lake/Everett Road roundabout. We need to co-create with our citizens, our business, non-profits and regional partners.”
Burton is 64 and would be 68 when she’s done with a full term serving Ward 3 along with Greg Anderson.
“That was it, it was adding up the numbers,” she said. “One of my friends said ‘you’re done for now, but that doesn’t mean it’s forever.’”
What surprised her most about serving on council?
“I’m very team oriented and due to the open public meetings act you’re not able to pull together a team and solve a problem. Take a topic, such as the GP Mill, and I can only talk to two council members and we’re the only three that can talk about it privately. We do this because we follow the law, but the trade off is you can’t just pull the right people, good honest people in the room and solve a problem.’