WAPATO — Mayor Juan Orozco resigned Tuesday and was almost immediately appointed as the new city administrator.
After his resignation as mayor at a City Council meeting, Councilwoman Dora Alvarez-Roa was appointed mayor in his place. She then appointed Orozco to serve as Wapato’s first city administrator.
Councilman Robert Reyna also resigned his position, saying he feels he’s “no longer needed.”
Despite the shake-up and some pushback on social media, Orozco said the change will bring greater stability to the city in the future.
“This will stabilize the city in terms of the positive direction we’re going and set a good path going forward and continue in the future,” he said.
Orozco signed a seven-year contract for $95,000 per year, he said.
City officials couldn’t be reached to say when Alvarez-Roa’s term as mayor will be up for election or how much the position pays.
Orozco said his new contracted position will create more stability since the city administrator isn’t elected. He said that continuity will be important when turning the city’s swimming pool into an indoor swimming complex and working with business owners to develop blighted property, among other projects.
The council met for a special meeting at 8:30 a.m. — 30 minutes earlier than its usual meeting time — during which Orozco resigned, citing the fulfillment of promises he made while running for mayor. The city gave notice about the meeting, but didn’t give residents any indication that such a change was coming.
When the council convened for its normal meeting at 9 a.m. — with Orozco in the audience — the council appointed Alvarez-Roa as mayor. Councilman Keith Workman was the only member to vote no.
Alvarez-Roa then appointed Orozco city administrator, a job Orozco said he’s essentially been doing since he started as mayor.
“I know the idea (of appointing me as city administrator) was talked about,” he said in an interview. “This is something that’s needed in our city. It was the wisdom of the City Council to pass the resolution.”
He said when a city is functioning “in a perfect world,” the mayor-council system — in which the mayor controls the city’s day-to-day operations but in a smaller city works only a few hours a day — works because the department heads get their jobs done and a mayor is needed only to oversee operations.
But he said he’s had to put in long hours almost every day and works more than five days a week because of problems he’s been trying to fix.
“If you have a city running without a city administrator, it’s a disaster,” he said.
Some Washington cities have added a city administrator position as a part of a strong-mayor form of government over the past 30 years. It’s especially popular among cities and towns with fewer than 10,000 residents. A 2009 survey from the Association of Washington Cities showed 75 cities and towns with a strong-mayor form of government had established an administrator position.
The administrator serves full-time under the mayor and assists with administrative and policy-related responsibilities, according to the Municipal Research Services Center. The city administrator typically is responsible for budget preparation, personnel administration and daily supervision of departments. That allows the mayor to focus on “policy development and political leadership,” according to the center.