Max Denning

Joseph Mayor Dennis Sands submitted his letter of resignation on Nov. 1 at Joseph City Council meeting, citing health concerns.

At the same meeting, long-time city council member, who was also serving as mayor pro-tem, Teresa Sajonia was appointed to the position after council member Tanya Collier nominated her.

Sajonia has been a council member for 12 years and is also the owner of Embers Brewhouse in Joseph. She was born and raised in Wallowa County and graduated from Enterprise High School in 1983.

Just days after her appointment to the mayor position, Sajonia was up for reelection. Three positions were up for election, but only two candidates filed, so Sajonia won back her seat, which will now be vacant. The council will appoint someone to fill the seat in either January or February, she said.

There will be no special election for the mayoral position or the open city council seat. Both positions will be filled by appointment and the appointed individual will finish the term of the position.

For Sajonia, that means two more years as mayor. She said she believes councilors wanted to fill the mayor position quickly to make progress on ongoing projects.

“I think the biggest issue at hand was the City of Joseph has a lot of projects going on and, from what I understand, we wanted to keep business moving forward and to do it smoothly,” Sajonia said.

She mentioned the street paving project the council hopes to have finished by this summer and the long-term sewer and water projects, such as building a new sewer pond.

Along with Pearl Strum, Sajonia is the longest tenured member of the council. Her extended time on the council and outspoken nature might have contributed to why her fellow council member tapped her as Sands’ replacement, she said.

“It’s no secret that I have been rather vocal in my opinions and what I feel and know what the citizens are expecting,” she said. “I really feel it’s important to voice what their concerns are and I guess I’m not afraid to do so.”

In terms of her leadership, Sajonia said she is more of a “delegator and communicator.”

“A lot of committees will be formed and a lot of teamwork will go into this,” she said. “It’s not going to be put on one person. That’s how I run my business, too. It’s a team effort and you do it working in conjunction with each other and the city staff.”

In addition to the unexpected mayoral change, voters in Joseph also overturned the ban on the sale of recreational marijuana. Sajonia said the ban will not be officially repealed until one month after the election results are certified next Tuesday. After that, the OLCC still isn’t accepting applications for new dispensaries and most likely won’t be for the next 10 to 14 months.

“We’re dealing with it the best way we know how,” she said. “By using the proper channels and not trying to recreate the wheel, we’ll make a huge difference in how smoothly this goes.”