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Colburn steps down from Langley council

LANGLEY — His health is fine. In fact, he’s been working out.

Mayor Neil Colburn said he’s sick, though, sick of the sniping that’s been filling an online chat room about his efforts to lead Langley.

Colburn announced at the close of Wednesday’s council meeting that he was resigning from his new position as city councilman just as soon as his new term starts on Jan. 1. Colburn was elected to the position after running unopposed in the November election.

“It is with mixed emotions that I now tender my resignation from Position 2,” Colburn told the council.

“I’m not ruling out running again someday, however,” he added with a small smile.

Colburn cited his desire to focus his efforts on his restaurant, the Clover Patch Café.

The resignation caught almost everyone by surprise.

“I was very surprised,” Clerk- Treasurer Debbie Mahler said. “I had just sworn him in!”

Colburn kept his decision close to the vest, deciding only in the last few weeks to quit.

“I didn’t want it to affect discussions at our meeting or play any role in votes on issues,” he said.

Colburn also said he consulted with the county auditor who advised him to take the oath, then announce his resignation.

Colburn served as councilman for 14 years and has been mayor of the Village by the Sea for the past four years. He also mentioned the recent resignation of Rick Hill, the city’s public works director, and the upcoming departure of City Administrator Walt Blackford.

“With Rick, Walt and I leaving, there’s a loss of institutional memory, but it’s time for new blood,” Colburn said.

On Thursday, Colburn expanded on his reasons for leaving.

“I’m just turning 60 but I feel like a dinosaur after so many years,” Colburn said.

“And I’ve come to feel my shoot-from-the-hip style has become part of the problem, not the solution. I love this city — I’m a Langleyphile — and demonstrated that through my 18 years of service.”

He added that the heated council debates and repeated personal attacks on the Langley Community Forum Website have taken a toll.

“It’s amazing how so many people don’t know the difference between representative democracy and direct democracy,” he said. “Without the former, there would be chaos.”

Councilman Bob Waterman was taken by surprise at the announcement.

“I’m sad that Neil won’t be on the council,” Waterman said.

“I enjoyed working with him as mayor. It’s true he’s been on the receiving end of a lot of criticism the last few months, but I understand his family and business need his attention.”

Another key factor in his decision is the time involved.

Colburn said that when he first took office, councilmen typically worked on government issues about five hours a week.

“Now it’s up to 20 or 30 hours and I want to spend more time with my family and running my business,” he added. “And I’ve re-discovered the value of exercise.”

He’s proud of his victory in the fall fitness exercise contest held recently at Island Athletic Club in Freeland.

“Bet you didn’t know I was an aerobics instructor 20 years ago,” he said.

Colburn noted that some residents have never accepted him as a pragmatist.

“I’ve always tried to take a business, not a political, approach to managing city hall,” he said. “It really has been a great privilege serving the folks of Langley.”

The city council has 90 days from Jan. 1 to decide on a replacement.

Jeff VanDerford can be reached at 221-5300 or jvanderford@southwhidbeyrecord.com.

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