RIDGEFIELD, Wash. (AP) Merchants in this Columbia River town say they have a great relationship with a would-be city manager who strolls through town every day, making sure everything's running smoothly.
He's an 11-year-old Boston terrier, and Donna Quall was one of the first to put an ''OTIS FOR CITY MANAGER'' sign up in the window of her gift shop earlier this month.
''Otis will have a leg up on the city council,'' the sign declares. ''A doggone improvement.''
The signs are all over this city of 2,195 people about 13 miles northwest of Vancouver.
No one's saying who made the fliers, complete with a profile shot of Otis and a disclaimer that the signs were paid for by the ''he will do better than the last guy committee.''
Ridgefield's former city manager, Randy Bombardier, was placed on administrative leave in March, then fired after being accused of removing lead-based paint from city hall without public safety or environmental precautions.
In June, the state attorney general's office charged Bombardier with official misconduct, a gross misdemeanor that carries a maximum penalty of one year in jail and a $5,000 fine.
Bombardier has said he did nothing wrong and that city council members knew more about the paint than he did.
George Fox, a certified public accountant from Tacoma, is serving as Ridgefield's interim city manager during the search for a permanent replacement. He works at city hall two days a week.
The city advertised the job shortly after firing Bombardier, and 36 people applied, but the council decided to put the search on hold until sometime next year, said Kay Kammer, Ridgefield's chief financial officer and city clerk.
''There are certain transition tasks that need to be complete. Once that's done, they'll restart the process,'' Kammer told The Associated Press on Tuesday.
As for Otis' qualifications or lack thereof, Kammer said she didn't have any comment.
In an interview with The Columbian newspaper, council member Gary Holmberg said he'd publicly support Otis at Thursday night's council meeting.
Otis, a black and white pooch that stands about 18 inches tall, doesn't seem keen on courting Ridgefield residents. He rarely deigns to be petted, and his style of begging could be more accurately described as waiting.
''He walks around town with purpose,'' said Scott Hughes, one of his owners. Usually, the purpose is dog biscuits. ''He begs everywhere, it's almost embarrassing.''
Every morning around 8 a.m., Otis walks eight blocks from his home to the hardware store where Scott and Cathy Hughes work. He also stops by the First Independent Bank and several other shops around town.
He does it every day, with or without his owners sometimes on Sundays and holidays.
''He's wonderful and he's steady,'' Quall said. ''Everyone loves Otis.''
Information from: The Columbian, http://www.columbian.com
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