HAUSER – Hauser’s new top city official is also its first woman mayor.
Olita Johnston was appointed to the post to replace Don Werst, who resigned earlier this year amid a recall effort.
Johnston will serve as mayor of the 670-population city until January 2010.
She has been the acting mayor since Werst’s resignation and was previously the City’s Council president.
“I don’t feel any different than I did as a council member. What’s the big deal?” said Johnston of her appointment.
At the same time she said she would miss her vote since the mayor only votes to break ties.
Claire Hatfield was appointed to take Johnston’s place on the City Council.
Johnston is a longtime Hauser resident. She ran Hauser’s Rainbow Inn for more than 20 years, first with her husband, Perry, and then on her own.
She serves as a Lake-A-Syst coordinator, working to protect Hauser Lake’s water quality and is the town’s unofficial historian.
Johnston is now retired from that operation, but has her work cut out for her running the city.
Werst’s resignation came at a time of upheaval at the city.
Former Hauser City Clerk Janet Crapo recently filed a sexual harassment complaint with the Idaho Human Rights Commission against the city, alleging that City Council Member Carmen Miller made advances and then belittled her when Crapo didn’t respond.
Others complained that Werst was making decisions without consulting the council, including terminating a contract with code administrator Tina McCoy. McCoy’s partner, Ben Nelson, led the recall effort.
Werst won his position last fall as a write-in candidate.
Now Johnston said she’s focused on making sure the city’s finances are in order.
“Right now we’re just hanging on to what we have,” she said, adding that if finances allow she’d like to see the city someday build a community center.
Most of all, though, Johnston said she wants to preserve Hauser’s small-town feel.
“The word city gets blown up. It really isn’t. It’s still a village,” she said. “It’s very small and community minded.”