Battle Ground City Councilor Adrian Cortes will have a new title in city government this year after being appointed as mayor by fellow councilors Jan. 6.
Cortes is a second-term councilor, having served from 2012 to 2015 and then rejoining the council in 2018. When he spoke to The Reflector Jan. 9, Cortes said the appointment was still sinking in, noting that even at the Camas School District where he works as a special education teacher co-workers were congratulating him on the new title.
Cortes said that after living in the area since he was six, he has seen the change in the growing community, noting proper management of growth as one of his chief priorities.
“People see subdivisions going up and they fear the small-town feel is being lost,” Cortes said. “I want to make sure we never, ever lose that.”
Cortes also wished to maintain good working relationships with other entities, be it the school district or the business community.
Focusing on public safety was another priority for Cortes, something voters will have a say on in February with a vote on annexation into Clark County Fire District 3. Currently, the city contracts with the department, but for purposes of long-term planning both approved a ballot measure that if approved would bring the city into the district, resulting in an additional property tax levy.
Cortes replaces fellow councilor Mike Dalesandro who served as mayor for 2018 and 2019. At the Jan. 6 meeting, council also approved the appointment of Councilor Philip Johnson as deputy mayor and swore in Shauna Walters, who won the seat vacated by former councilor Stephen Phelps, who did not seek another term in the 2019 election.
“I think that we’re going to be able to do some really, really great things,” Cortes said. “We’re not going to agree on everything in terms of every issue that comes before us, but that’s OK … We need vigorous debate.”
Cortes said that the council currently has several past mayors, including Johnson, Dalesandro and councilor Shane Bowman, that he could turn to for advice while becoming accustomed to the new role.
Dalesandro’s second year in office was marked with controversy over the city’s stance on gun control legislation after Battle Ground did not pass a resolution proclaiming itself a Second Amendment sanctuary city. Dalesandro took heat, especially from Patriot Prayer Founder Joey Gibson, who had filed a tort claim against the mayor in November over allegations that being blocked from the mayor’s personal Facebook page was unconstitutional censorship.
Cortes intended to take any negative feelings in stride, saying it came with the territory of being in elected office.
“I don’t care who you are, how well liked you are, you’re going to have your detractors and they are going to say pretty mean and nasty stuff about you,” Cortes said.
He explained during his term he intended to lead by following the tenets of “being respectful, being responsible, and being kind,” ones he strives to instill in both his students and his two daughters.
While taking up the mayoral position Cortes will be stepping down from his position as chair of the C-Tran Board of Directors, though he will remain on the board. Experience as chair there, on the city’s planning commission and generally on city council as a whole would help him in his mayoral duties.
For someone who has lived in Battle Ground nearly all of his life, Cortes said the opportunity to serve as mayor was especially noteworthy.
“You’re talking to a kid that grew up here in Battle Ground (with) the fields and the farms when they were out here,” Cortes remarked. “To be able to go from that to basically the leadership of this community, it’s quite humbling.”