Councilmember Phil Lemley acknowledged in an email to the Observer that the sale of his Richland home means that he is leaving Richland. Lemley said that he will move to Arkansas to be near family. Lemley has served on the Richland City Council since 2009, the year he retired from Bechtel National Inc.
Grateful for support
Lemley wrote, “I want to make sure that the citizens of Richland know how grateful I am for the support they gave me over the last twelve years. I was determined from the very first to give this job 100% of my time and efforts and did just that. I did not come with an agenda, I did not have an axe to grind. It was not about ego.”
Lemley described himself as “just an ordinary guy trying to make a difference.”
“I have great respect and trust for the city managers that I worked with and every member of the senior leadership and entire staff of our city. They have a thankless job sometimes because pleasing everyone is impossible, sometimes not being able to please anyone,” Lemley wrote.
Fellow councilmembers describe a “tireless advocate for the city of Richland”
Fellow councilmember Ryan Lukson described Lemley as a “tireless advocate for the city of Richland.”
“Phil was always the first to volunteer for any event to represent the city,” Lukson wrote in an email to the Observer.
Former council member Dori Luzzo Gilmour echoed Lukson, calling Lemley’s commitment to service “unmatched.” Gilmour served on the council with Lemley from 2015 to 2017.
Gilmour noted that in addition to serving on the council, Lemley also volunteered at the Tri-Cities Food Bank and the Kadlec Medical Center emergency room.
“I have always appreciated his humor and kindness,” Gilmour said. “I will miss Phil and I know that the community will miss him too.”
Lemley wrote that being a council member was “the highlight of my life most of the time. It is as thankless as the staff jobs are most of the time.”
Lemley wrote that, “Sadly some people believe that the council and staff do things to hurt our city and its citizens. I don’t believe that could be further from the truth.”
It is not in the council’s job description to micromanage staff, Lemley wrote. The city needs goals and guidance, but also needs to let the professionals do their jobs.
Lemley said, “I don’t like goodbyes and don’t do them very well. I did my part, now it is time for someone else to do theirs. I will miss all of the people that I have met along the way and hope that they remember me fondly.”
Picking a replacement
The council will pick a replacement to serve the remainder of Lemley’s term which ends in January 2024.
The council has not announced a timeline for replacing Lemley. After Brad Anderson’s resignation in 2020, 33 people applied for the open seat.