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Vernonia ousts two more councilors

In second recall vote of summer, city ditches Burch and Nicks by wide margins

Residents of Vernonia recalled two city councilors during a special election on Thursday, Aug. 4, capping a months-long power struggle within the city.

The vote showed strong opposition to the councilors, Willow Burch and Marilyn Nicks, who lost their elected positions by more than 73 percent of the vote.

It was the second recall vote of the summer for Vernonia residents. They successfully recalled former Councilor Kevin Hudson in June with a similar percentage of the vote.

The recalls of Burch, Nicks and Hudson came as fallout of their firing of former interim City Administrator Bill Haack.

Haack upset the three councilors during the spring with his decision to assist the state's Department of Public Safety Standards and Training in its investigation of Vernonia police Sgt. Michael Kay.

City Council fired Kay in June as a result of the DPSST investigation, which concluded that Kay had lied to his superiors and mischaracterized his K-9 certification.

Nicks told the Spotlight prior to the vote that she wanted 'what was best for Vernonia,' but said she had no further comment on the recall.

Burch blamed the media coverage for the recall and said she would not comment further.

Mayor Josette Mitchell and Councilor Randy Parrow are the remaining members of City Council and will have two weeks to fill the vacant councilor positions. After that, city officials will make a decision on hiring a long-term city administrator.

Despite being fired in May, Haack is a finalist for the permanent city administrator position.

Vernonia real estate agent Sharon Bernal led the recall effort and said she was 'thrilled' with the results.

'Now we can get the city back on track with its projects,' she said.

Those include the planned Rose Avenue Project - a combined health center, senior center and foodbank - and woody biofuel district energy system, both of which have stalled during the political infighting, sources say.

A version of this story first appeared online Aug. 4.