Ruston’s circus-like political theater has led to another early departure of an elected official.
Mayor Michael Transue, who has been involved in tense arguments with the Town Council over the future of the town, announced his resignation at Monday night’s council meeting.
Transue, who has held office since 2005, had more than a year left in his term.
“Our town government is presently functioning neither cohesively nor in a fashion that benefits the good people of our town,” Transue wrote in his resignation letter, which was distributed at the meeting. “A hostile, rancorous and sometimes ill-manned environment permeates many of our Town Council meetings and study sessions.
“I have worked hard to guide this council and our community and to provide thoughtful insight, but to little avail.”
The council will hold a special meeting at 7 p.m. Wednesday to name an interim mayor.
The interim mayor must be a member of the council, town clerk Karen Carlisle said.
Transue told The News Tribune on Tuesday he has been mulling the decision to quit for about three or four months, and that the angry, tense atmosphere of recent meetings prompted his departure.
"It’s hard for me to go ahead and implement their decisions, most of which I don’t agree with," he said.
Transue also cited the council’s actions in passing in Resolution 418, which directed the council to negotiate an agreement with Tacoma for building and planning services, as a reason for leaving. The mayor said he felt the council’s quick passage of the resolution – without consulting Transue – showed that it "nether intends nor desires that this town’s executive office be involved in decisions that have a profound effect on town services."
The departure also comes a few months before a key August ballot that could significantly downgrade the responsibilities of the office. If voters approve a measure during the August election, the town will hire a city manager to run its day-to-day operations. The mayor’s job would become more ceremonial.
Politics in Ruston have been messy since Transue won office with almost 67 percent of the votes.
In November 2007, three members of the Town Council resigned. Mary Joyce and Del Brewer quit early so the men who won election and were set to replace them, Bradley Huson and Jim Hedrick, could assume office early.
Pudlo left with two years remaining on his term, and the council appointed Dan Albertson – who lost to Hedrick by eight votes – to replace him. At the time, Transue criticized the council for replacing Pudlo’s position so quickly.
Transue fired Police Chief Jim Reinhold in January 2008 after he disagreed with Reinhold’s handling of a high-profile case of alleged electricity theft and the chief’s run-in with Albertson, who requested copies of public records from the case.
Two days later, Councilman Bob Everding resigned with two years left in his term. In his resignation letter, he called the town’s government “presently dysfunctional” and attacked Transue for professional inflexibility.
The town is dealing with large issues that could have a profound impact on its future: development of large condominium projects on the waterfront, the future of the police and fire departments and a possible unincorporation and annexation to Tacoma.
"The council needs to set the direction now," Transue said Tuesday. "They’ve got a big job ahead of them."
The council meetings have become even more heated than usual in recent months, residents say.
And the ugliness apparently reached a tipping point before Monday’s meeting.
"I simply cannot and will not attempt to fulfill my responsibilities in such a bitter and tense environment," he wrote. "It has negatively impacted my health, my demeanor at times, my friends and most importantly my family – whom I value and cherish the most in this world."