PORT ANGELES — The City Council elected Councilman Patrick Downie mayor and Councilwoman Cherie Kidd deputy mayor through 2017 on 4-3 votes Tuesday after discussion that focused, once again, on fluoridation.
The council-member tallies were split down lines similar to the council’s much-debated Dec. 15 vote to continue fluoridating the city’s water supply — a decision that passed with Downie’s and Kidd’s support.
The votes for the city’s top elected officials were met Tuesday with the same degree of derision from fluoridation foes who had packed the City Council chambers Dec. 15 and punctuated that session with booing and shouts of disapproval.
They have been blunt in criticizing the fluoridation decision, which went against the results of a survey of city water users that showed a strong majority of respondents wanted to end fluoridation.
“Step down,” shouted one council critic after Downie’s selection.
“You don’t respect us; we don’t respect you,” insisted another.
Downie, Kidd and Councilmen Dan Gase and Brad Collins voted for Downie, the sitting deputy mayor, over fluoridation opponent Sissi Bruch, who until the Dec. 15 vote was supporting Downie.
Downie, Kidd, Gase and Collins also voted to continue to fluoridate the city’s water through June 30, 2026.
Members of the audience who spoke at a lengthy public comment session following the votes referred to them as “The Fluoride Four.”
The same four council members voted for Kidd, a former mayor — for a second time not selecting Bruch.
Bruch, council members Lee Whetham, and newly elected Michael Merideth voted for Bruch for mayor and then deputy mayor.
Merideth, a fluoridation opponent, was attending his first council meeting in the Position 5 seat vacated by Dan Di Guilio, who did not run for re-election — and who was in the minority with Whetham and Bruch on Dec. 15.
Downie, 73, is a former program coordinator for Catholic Community Services-Volunteer Services of Clallam County who was elected in 2009 and 2013.
After his selection as mayor, he invited members of the audience to meet with him to share their feelings about the issue.
“Don’t do it the way you just did it,” he cautioned. “That doesn’t serve both of us.”
Then Kidd was booed upon her selection.
During the ensuing public comment session, Port Angeles resident Jane Vanderhoof suggested the council’s selection for mayor and deputy mayor should have been seized upon as an opportunity to bring more diversity to the panel’s top positions.
“It seems like that would have been a natural to get a little more balance in the City Council and mayor and deputy mayor position,” Vanderhoof said.
Kidd, who like Downie is in her third term, said Wednesday she is honored to serve as deputy mayor.
“Fluoride is one of the thousands of issues we have to deal with,” she said.
“We have so many issues to work on and many positive directions.”
The mayor makes $650 a month, the deputy mayor $600 monthly and other council members $600.
The city operates under a weak mayor system.
Under state law, the mayor’s authority is confined to running council meetings and appearing at ceremonial functions.
Collins had suggested to other council members that he be mayor, but no one nominated him, and he said Wednesday he would not nominate himself.
Bruch could not be reached for comment Wednesday.