UPDATE | Sparkman resigns from Langley council
October 13, 2010 · Updated 1:51 PM
Russell Sparkman resigned Monday from the Langley City Council.
The resignation was effective immediately.
“I’m sorry to lose his energy and efforts,” Mayor Paul Samuelson said Tuesday. “He’s a huge supporter of the city. He’ll be missed.”
Sparkman, who was appointed to the council in early 2008 and elected to Position 2 on the council in November 2009, said he needed to spend more time with his family and on his business. Sparkman is the owner of Fusionspark Media, a new-media communications firm, and recently opened the Langley Center for New Media downtown.
“Something had to give,” Sparkman said when reached by phone Tuesday morning. “My priorities are my business and my family.”
“The time demands of the city council exceed my capacity to deal with them,” he continued. “The current workload of the council pushed me over the edge.”
“It’s been an honor to serve Langley,” Sparkman added. “I’m just leaving the formal role. I will still continue to work for the future of Langley.”
Sparkman dropped off a resignation letter at city hall on Monday, and announced his decision in a post on the langleyelecteds.org website Tuesday morning.
“I would like to emphasize that this is a decision based upon personal and business commitments,” Sparkman said in his blog post.
“Unfortunately, the timing isn’t good, given the issues the city is currently facing,” he added. “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.”
Langley has been embroiled in controversy in recent months over the mayor’s pay and other financial issues. State officials announced earlier this month they would conduct an audit of Langley a year ahead of schedule because of the number of complaints made to the state auditor’s fraud and abuse hotline.
There have been numerous calls online for the mayor and council members to resign.
“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,” Sparkman said in his resignation letter.
“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,” he continued.
Sparkman also praised the mayor in his departure letter.
“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,” Sparkman wrote. “To the contrary, I strongly praise and support the leadership that you have shown during the past three years.”
Sparkman, 52, joined the city’s volunteer Planning Advisory Board in 2006, where he worked on a massive revision of the city’s growth plan. He was appointed to fill the unexpired city council position vacated by Neil Colburn in the winter of 2008, and was elected to a new four-year council term in the last general election.
He said Tuesday he’s most proud of his efforts to nudge the city toward experience-based economic activity. He pointed to the city’s former firehouse on Second Street, with its glass-blowing operation and micro-brewery, as a prime example.
“It’s not something that’s just business as usual,” he said. “It’s a unique experience.”
Sparkman said he wants to concentrate on the needs of his family, including wife Noriko and children Guy, 15, and Maia, 14. Both teens are involved in a number of sports, which also require a substantial time commitment, he said.
Sparkman said he got into the public arena after several years of dodging participation.
“Five years later, it’s been an invaluable experience,” he said. “But I’m taking an indefinite break from politics.”
Samuelson said he would meet with the other city council members Tuesday and begin the process of filling the vacant council seat. He urged anyone interested in the job to contact city hall.
“We want to fill the position as quickly as possible,” the mayor said.
Meanwhile, Samuelson said Sparkman would continue as chairman of the Mayor’s Council on Economic Health.
“He’s not going away,” Samuelson said.