New commissioners take office; Gramson to become mayor

It was out with the old, in with the new at the Warrenton City Commission meeting Wednesday, as three newly-elected commissioners who have never held public office before took the oath of office.

As soon as Mark Kujala, Terry Ferguson and Frank Orrell were seated, Orrell nominated Commissioner Gil Gramson to serve as this year's mayor. The vote for Gramson was unanimous.

Gramson, 64, is halfway through his first term on the commission, but he's far from being a newcomer. He served as Warrenton's city manager for more than 25 years, before his forced retirement in 2001.

"About the only thing I haven't done in Warrenton is be mayor," Gramson said when asked how it feels to be "sitting on the other side of the desk." He'll be continuing a family tradition of public service. His father, Harold Gramson, was a member of the city commission for more than 20 years and served as mayor from 1951 to 1969, Gil Gramson said.

Gramson said the city faces many challenges in the coming year, and results of the last election show that voters want accountability from the commission. He said a review of water rates and financing for the waste water treatment plant now under construction are among the topics to be discussed at a goal-setting meeting 9 a.m. Wednesday at city hall. The meeting is open to the public.

At the request of Commissioner Dick Hellberg, who was unanimously approved for another term as the commission's vice-chairman, commission meetings will be changed to the second and fourth Tuesday of each month. The commission has been meeting on Wednesday nights for 10 years, but Hellberg said Wednesdays have traditionally been "church night" in Warrenton and he would like to see a return to that tradition.

He noted that he had to miss "lent festivities" at his church one year because of his commission commitment. "I thought it would be good to get back to what the vast majority of citizens are involved in," Hellberg said afterward.

The time of Warrenton commission meetings will also be moved back an hour, to 7 p.m., which commissioners said is a more convenient time for them and presumably for the public. The change of day and time will not take effect this month.

Hellberg also requested that former mayor Paul Rodriguez and former city commissioner Russ Farmer be removed from a subcommittee that meets weekly to talk with staff and consultants about the ongoing sewage treatment project, saying it "would not be appropriate" for them to remain on the subcommittee after having been voted out of office. The commission agreed and decided those meetings with consultants will now include only city staff.

At the same time, at Gramson's suggestion, sewer consultants will appear more often at regular commission meetings. The change "would get the information out to the public better," Gramson said.

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