Karylinn Echols appointed new Gresham mayor

Civic Affairs

Karylinn Echols succeeds Shane Bemis, who resigned June 16

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — In the midst of an upheaval that’s seen Gresham city leadership turn over in the past few weeks, the city council appointed Karylinn Echols as the new mayor.

Echols, who was sworn in during a brief ceremony at noon, replaces Shane Bemis, who stepped down June 16 after 18 years as mayor. Echols will be Gresham’s mayor until a new mayor is elected in November. She has pledged not to run for the office.

His resignation comes days after both the Gresham police chief and city manager announced their impending retirements.

Bemis — who is also a restaurant owner, husband and father — said at that time he is stepping down as mayor to be able to focus on fighting to keep his business afloat and provide for his family. Bemis said the choice “is the most difficult decision I’ve ever faced.”

Echols, who was the Council president, joined the Gresham City Council in 2011. According to her official biography on the city’s website, she has a master’s degree in organizational management and a bachelor’s degree in political science.

However, Police Chief Robin Sells reversed her resignation decision on June 23 and returned to work Monday. Sells declined a request by KOIN 6 News to comment.

Finger pointing is underway over whether the police department dropped the ball on diversity training. There is resentment and mistrust of the people in those leadership positions that brought Gresham to this point.

The Gresham city attorney said an investigation into accusations the city is a hostile work environment is about to get underway.

In a statement, outgoing City Manager Erik Kvarsten stood up for Deputy City Manager Corey Falls, who “has recently been the focal point of much attention. I want to state definitively that Corey is a valued team member, has most recently coordinated the City’s Emergency Operation Center response to Covid-19, and that I have appreciated his contributions. To be clear, Corey has had nothing to do with any recent retirements or resignations. After 17 years at the City of Gresham and 37 years in public service in Oregon, and the recent celebration of my 60th birthday, I decided to retire. The timing is unfortunate, given the challenges we currently face, but if one waits for a perfect moment to enter the next chapter, he or she may never do so.”

The Gresham City Council meeting, June 29, 2020 (KOIN)

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