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Fed up WL city councilor walks out of meeting, resigns

'People are fighting over nothing,' said a bone-tired Mike Gates

West Linn resident and public servant Mike Gates has resigned from the West Linn City Council.

Late in Monday night's meeting, Gates scribbled a few words of resignation on a scrap of paper and passed it to Mayor Norm King as he left the council chambers.

'I have come so close to resigning so many times over the last 12 months,' Gates said. 'I probably should not have put my name on the ballot the last time. I was already tired before I even ran for office. I am just so bone-tired now that I don't want to take the time anymore.'

Even more than the fact that the wheels of government turn slowly, Gates said he is frustrated that the issues are becoming so small and inconsequential.

'People are fighting over nothing,' he said. 'We are at a point in the city where we are down to analyzing our processes - not setting visions for the future.'

Gates will be replaced in an appointment process before the November election.

Gates has been at the forefront of public service for about two decades.

He first decided to run for office, he said, after he heard a councilor at a meeting tell someone: 'I don't care what you say, we're not going to change our minds.'

'That just struck me as such a bad attitude,' he said, 'and I thought if I ran for office I would be able to say: 'Whether I agree with you or not, I'm at least going to listen to you and make sure that you are heard.' That's been my rationale for being in office ever since.'

Later, he was elected to regional government on the Metro Council. When Metro changed its council from 13 volunteers to seven paid members, Gates chose not to run for that office again, choosing independence over partisanship. Instead, he was elected to the West Linn-Wilsonville School District Board of Directors.

About seven years later when a series of family issues required more of his time at home, he resigned the school board before his term was expired. About three years ago, he was elected to the city council again.

'I'm pretty proud of what the council has done by bringing financial stability back into the community,' Gates said. 'This allows folks in town to pay attention to quality-of-life issues instead of growth.'

Mayor Norm King described Gates as a 'dedicated, positive force on the city council.'

'The experience and knowledge gained in his long and multifaceted career in public service has been invaluable to the council and city. I will miss him personally as I am sure the council will, and I thank him for his service on behalf of the citizens of West Linn.'

Gates as well as other members of the city council have heard a lot of criticism over the past three years, most of it regarding policies the council initiated that were different from the previous council. But Gates isn't too concerned. He says it is likely to happen to anyone in public office.

'Even if you are performing well in government,' he said, 'you're going to find folks that are saying you're doing something wrong - no matter what you do.'

Gates doesn't feel bad about leaving the leadership of the city. He believes it is in good hands.

'The city is now on a pretty sound financial status,' he said. 'Plans are either in place or about to be adopted for every infrastructure that we have. Every department has a strong department head, and I'm really pleased with all the work Chris Jordan has done and the people he has hired. Our city staff are stellar.'

After nearly 20 years in positions of public leadership, Gates says he doesn't believe that West Linn will see its predicted population build-out of 31,000. He notes that from 2006 to 2007 the population did not increase in West Linn, and he expects it is about the same the year following.

'With the way the ordinances and code are structured, there are always going to be appeals,' he said. 'And they'll be over tiny issues. It's going to be neighbor against neighbor from here on out, and I don't feel comfortable in that environment.'

It was at the end of one of those appeals Monday night that Gates reached his limit of what he called 'trivial issues,' and gave King his note of good-bye.

'I'm just tired, ' he said.