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From My Decision To Resign

October 12th, 2010 at Tue, 12th, 2010 at 8:22 am by Russell Sparkman

Yesterday I finalized the very difficult decision to resign from City Council. My resignation was effective yesterday. This short message is a summary of the full text of the letter that I submitted to Mayor Samuelson, yesterday. The full text is added, below.

This decision to resign began as discussions with family and business partners/associates starting in the Spring of this year. Fundamentally, the demands on my time are very different than they were a year ago. It boils down to no longer having the time to balance family, business and civic duty; balancing the load has become untenable. Something had to give, and my family and my business are priorities that must come ahead of volunteer community service at this point in time.

I would like to emphasize that this is a decision based upon personal and business commitments.

Unfortunately, the timing isn’t good, given the issues the city is currently facing. To this point,  I’d like to emphasize that my resignation is not to be interpreted as a vote of no confidence in the administration, city council or staff.

To the contrary I am a strong supporter of Mayor Samuelson’s restructuring efforts in City Hall since 2008 and look forward to the community gaining greater clarity into what has transpired and why in the coming weeks and months. The early start of the 2011 State Audit will be an important step in that direction. Also, Mayor Samuelson’s “Neighborhood Coffees,” in which he will be meeting with groups of citizens in Langley homes in coming weeks, will be an important part of this process, as well. I intend to host one of these gatherings in my home.

I’d like to thank the community for having provided me with the opportunity to serve them. Altogether, from my start on the PAB to my time on City Council, about 5 years have passed. It has been an honor and a privilege to serve the community during these years.  And it has been a huge education!

See you around town!

Warmest regards,


Hand Delivered
October 11, 2010

Honorable Mayor Paul Samuelson
Langley City Hall
PO Box 366
112 Second Street
Langley, WA 98260

Dear Mayor Samuelson:

It is with deep regret and great sadness that I have made the decision to tender my resignation from Langley City Council, Seat #2. My resignation is effective immediately.

This decision, one of the most difficult of my adult life, is the culmination of discussions with my wife, my teenagers and my business partners and associates that began in the Spring of this year. For almost 5 years now, from PAB to City Council, I have somehow managed to balance family, work and civic duty.

But this combination of activities is no longer tenable. Something has to give.

The demands of both family life and business commitments today are very different from what they were just one year ago. They both require my undivided attention at this stage of my life, so this is where my attention to priorities must be directed.

This is not a decision that comes easily, particularly at this point in time. Given the issues that we’ve been dealing with in city government it’s predictable that the local media will frame this as exiting when City Hall is in the midst of “controversy.”

To this point I emphatically state: Let no one interpret my resignation as a lack of confidence of your administration, the sitting City Council, or your staff. Period.

To the contrary, I strongly praise and support the leadership that you have shown during the past three years. In writing this letter the thought occurred to me that beyond cordial greetings and brief coffee shop chats, we really didn’t know each other prior to working together as we have the past three years.  From the professionalism you’ve demonstrated through something as small yet significant as coming to work everyday in a suit and tie, to the way I’ve seen you listen to and validate the thoughts and opinions of community members, even when you disagree with them, to the way I’ve seen you interact with City Council and staff, to the way you’ve led the charge to correct the inefficiencies in City Hall which you inherited from previous administrations, I’ve been impressed.

During the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression you have stayed the course on the particularly daunting challenge of restructuring City Hall to bring greater cost and operational efficiency to our local government. Drawing upon your background and experience (presiding over the School Board, chairing the board of WICA, leading the Say Yes for Langley initiative, leading the negotiations between the Port of South Whidbey and the city regarding the marine, to name but a few of your activities, come to mind) I have seen you make the tough decisions that we need a chief executive to make in hard times and you’ve taken some particularly ill-deserved bruises in the process. From this viewpoint, I look forward to the accelerated start of the prescheduled 2011 State Audit as an important step toward clearing up the issues of the day.

I have enjoyed working with City Hall staff over the years. They are people of the highest integrity, intelligence and work ethic.  There are particular members of your staff who have truly impressed me with their professional dedication and selfless devotion to their jobs. My observations based upon recent conversations with many of the staff is that you have great internal support for the work that you’re doing, and you should take solace in that support, especially in these times.

I’d like to take a moment to acknowledge my fellow council members Robert Gilman, Rene Neff, Bob Waterman and Fran Abel. Although “electeds” no one should ever forget that our city council is made up of community “volunteers.” The time and effort they put into careful, thoughtful and selfless examination of issues in their decision-making roles as city council members is, and will remain, an inspiration to me. It has been an honor and a privilege to have worked alongside these neighbors in a community service role that very few are willing or able to fill.

And finally, it has been an honor to represent the people of Langley. From the sidewalks to the soccer fields to the shops, from restaurants, pubs and coffee houses, from the community garden to the dog walks around town I have had numerous opportunities to discuss the topics of the day. These conversations have been very gratifying in that they’ve demonstrated to me that our community is by and large attentive, thoughtful, reasonable, pragmatic and supportive of our local government.

In recent weeks I have drawn comfort, as should you, from the spate of letters of support to the Mayor and City Council that have come into City Hall from members of Langley’s business and residential community. This outpour of support in these times has been gratifying to see.

To the people who support their local government – and there are a lot of them out there — my message moving forward will be this: complacency and silence is not an option in an era in which the strident voices of a few can take on a perceptually disproportionate say over the pragmatic voice of the many.

In closing, Mayor Samuelson, please know that while I am ending a formal, elected relationship with the city of Langley, I will continue to be an active community member, as time allows. I look forward, in this capacity, of working with you for many years to come.

Best regards,

Russell Sparkman

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