College Place begins task of replacing late mayor

The City Council commemorated Mayor Rick Newby and discussed procedures to find a successor.

A vase of flowers marks the vacant chair of Mayor Rick Newby Monday night as Bernie Yanke, College Place mayor pro tem, prepares to open the City Council meeting. Newby died unexpectedly Sunday of natural causes at his College Place home.

A vase of flowers marks the vacant chair of Mayor Rick Newby Monday night as Bernie Yanke, College Place mayor pro tem, prepares to open the City Council meeting. Newby died unexpectedly Sunday of natural causes at his College Place home. Photo by Andy Porter.

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COLLEGE PLACE — With a vase of flowers and an agenda on the table in front of an empty chair, the City Council on Monday began discussion of how to fill the vacancy left by Mayor Rick Newby’s unexpected death on Sunday.

Newby died of heart arrhythmia at his home, Walla Walla County Coroner Richard Greenwood said in a news release after an autopsy was performed. The condition is caused when electrical impulses in the heart don’t coordinate properly, causing rapid, slow or irregular beats that can be life threatening, according to the Mayo Clinic’s online site.

Funeral arrangements for Newby, who was 54, are pending with Herring-Groseclose Funeral Home.

As the City Council met Monday night, members commemorated Newby in their opening prayer.

After taking action on the single item on their abbreviated agenda, Mayor Pro Tem Bernie Yanke asked City Attorney Charlie Phillips what the process was to fill the vacancy on the Council.

City Administrator Pat Reay said he would consult with Phillips today and prepare a memo outlining the Council’s options.

“We’ll bring that to the next meeting,” Reay said.

According to Union-Bulletin news files, the last time the Council had to go through the process of appointing a new mayor was in early 2009 when then-mayor Ed Ammon announced in January he was moving to Denver to accept a new job. The appointment went to Newby.

At that time, the Council decided to seek applicants to fill the vacancy by first putting notices in the city newsletter asking people to submit letters of interest, followed by a legal advertisement in the local newspaper.

After the deadline for applications closed in early February, only Newby, who was then a Council member, and former Mayor Thor Bakland had applied.

The Council interviewed both men at its March 2009 meeting and, after going into executive session to deliberate, voted 4-2 to elect Newby to complete Ammon’s unexpired term, which was up for election that year

Newby went on to win election to a full term and was re-elected to a second term last year.

Andy Porter can be reached at andyporter@wwub.com or 526-8318.

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