The Battle Ground City Council elected Adrian Cortes as mayor during its first meeting of the year Monday evening.
Cortes, a special education teacher in the Camas School District, was selected by the seven-member city council during the group’s biennial appointment process. He’ll serve as mayor until 2022, replacing Mike Dalesandro, a city councilor who stepped aside from the lead role after serving a single two-year term.
Cortes said he hopes to bring a respectful, responsible and kind culture back to city politics.
“In government, in politics at all levels, I think we’ve lost that. We’ve lost the ability to be respectful of each other,” Cortes said Tuesday. “We’re not going to agree on everything and on every issue, and that’s good. There’s nothing wrong with having healthy debate. But we have to be respectful.”
“The citizens, they’re tired of bickering,” he added.
Dalesandro, the third Battle Ground mayor in a row to serve only a single term, announced in November that he’d be giving up his mayorship. He’d come under fire by Patriot Prayer following the passage of Initiative 1639, a package of gun laws approved by voters in 2018. The group’s leader, Joey Gibson, and Dalesandro had a heated exchange during a city council meeting. Gibson filed a tort claim seeking $100,000 in damages, asserting that his free speech was being restricted after Dalesandro blocked him on Facebook.
Upon stepping down, Dalesandro said he stood by his statements but didn’t like “seeing the animosity.”
In addition to fostering a civil culture, Cortes said he hopes to help guide Battle Ground through challenges that often accompany a rising population — growth management, economic stability and an increased demand on fire and police services.
He’ll also preside over a key vote next month on whether Fire District 3 can annex the city of Battle Ground into its coverage area.
“My goal is just to continue to be a voice of stability on council,” Cortes said. “I’ve grown up in the Battle Ground area since I was 6 years old, and I’ve seen a lot of change happen in our community.”
Cortes said that as mayor, he will retain his current assignments as a member of the ethics committee and public safety committee. He’ll resign from his role as chair of the C-Tran Board of Directors but retain membership on the board.
Cortes was elected to his Position 4 seat in 2017 and had been elected to a previous term as a Battle Ground city councilor, from 2012 to 2015, after serving as chair of the city’s planning commission.
Most recently, he ran an unsuccessful bid for Clark County Councilor as a Democrat during the only partisan race in the county on the 2019 ballot. He lost the race for the District 4 seat to Republican Gary Medvigy, a former Superior Court judge in California and U.S. Army general.
After the loss, Cortes called the election a “great experience.”
“As a person of color, being able to open windows and provide mirrors for others to run for higher office is definitely a win in my book,” Cortes told The Columbian in November.
In a post to his Twitter page following his appointment as mayor, Cortes pointed out that he was the only Hispanic mayor in Clark County. He expanded on that point the following day, adding that he was the only mayor of color in Battle Ground’s history.
“I take that with grace. Frankly, I wish I wasn’t,” Cortes said. “I hope I can inspire more people to move into that role.”
The next Battle Ground City Council meeting will be at 7 p.m. Jan. 20 at Battle Ground City Hall, 109 S.W. First St.