Unless there is an unexpected shift in commitments among Sammamish City Council members, Ramiro Valderrama is out as Deputy Mayor and Bob Keller in.
Selection of the Deputy Mayor ordinarily occurs at the first Council meeting of the new year, which is tonight. The Mayor and Deputy Mayor are selected by the Council, not the voters, under the “weak mayor” form of City Manager government to which Sammamish was incorporated. The mayoral position is a two-year term. It’s not up for selection this year.
Long-standing divisions between two factions on the Sammamish City Council continued through behind-the-scenes maneuvering over the weekend, with Mayor Don Gerend becoming the deciding commitment to support Keller for the position.
Keller is supported by fellow Council Members Kathy Huckabay, with whom he is closely aligned, and Tom Odell, a Keller ally. The three make up a usually consistent voting bloc generally known as the “H-3,” after the leader of the bloc, Huckabay.
His appointment is opposed by Valderrama, who wanted a second, one-year term, and allies Tom Hornish and Christie Malchow. This voting bloc is generally known as the “V-3,” after Valderrama. Malchow was also suggested for Deputy Mayor if Valderrama was out. According to information obtained by Sammamish Comment, Gerend opposes Malchow because she’s been on the Council just one year. He favors Keller for his long service to the City, including the Planning Advisory Board, the Planning Commission and his current three years on the Council.
The Comment is told Gerend opposed another term for Valderrama on the principal that the Deputy Mayor’s position should rotate every year and that it is the turn of the H-3. But Huckabay served two consecutive terms (2014/15) and early in the City’s history, so did Council Member Ron Haworth. Gerend initially did not support Huckabay for a second, one-year consecutive term when it came up for a vote in January 2015. However, he switched his vote in favor when it became clear she had four votes (at the time, Huckabay, Keller, Odell and then-Mayor Tom Vance. Valderrama and then-Council Member Nancy Whitten opposed Huckabay in the final vote.)
The H-3 oppose Valderrama for a second term due to long-standing political differences.
The Deputy Mayor’s position is largely ceremonial. The Deputy Mayor, Mayor and City Manager comprise the leadership team, setting the agenda for the Council, among other things.
Gerend was a compromise
When Vance was defeated for reelection in November 2015, and a new Council seated in January 2016, Valderrama was named Deputy Mayor following fierce behind-the-scenes maneuvering in which Huckabay, Odell and Keller lined up to oppose Valderrama’s appointment as Mayor; and newcomers Malchow and Hornish lined up behind Valderrama.
Gerend, who served in both positions at various points during his then-15 years on the Council, emerged as the compromise choice. Huckabay, Odell and Keller reluctantly supported Valderrama for Deputy Mayor to prevent his selection as Mayor. Valderrama, Hornish and Malchow went along with the Gerend compromise.
The split reflected the bitter 2015 election in which the Vance-Huckabay-Odell-Keller ruling majority on the Council recruited a candidate to oppose Valderrama’s reelection. They also opposed the first-timers, Malchow and Hornish.
Keller briefly emerged as a compromise candidate for Deputy Mayor, but he was opposed by Valderrama, Hornish and Malchow because of his close ties to Vance, Huckabay and Odell. His close ties to Huckabay, and to a lesser extent, Odell, remain the principal sticking issue today with the V-3 in his selection as Deputy Mayor tonight. Huckabay and Keller consistently vote together. Odell usually, but not always, joins them.
Gerend worked the V-3 over the weekend to persuade them to support Keller when the selection comes to a vote tonight. Whether he is successful will be beside the point. If a public show of unity is reflected in a unanimous vote, the Council Members themselves know the Council remains split 3-3. The V-3 now view Gerend, the swing vote in the past, as solidly aligned with the H-3.
Terms for Gerend, Huckabay, Keller and Odell expire this year. None has indicated whether they will seek reelection. They must file for reelection May 1-12 for the November ballot. They can declare their intentions, one way or the other, any time before the final filing date.