Oak Harbor Mayor gets flashy send-off

— Created January 3, 2024 by Kathy Reed

By Kathy Reed

It may have been one of the most eventful Oak Harbor City Council meetings in recent memory as city leaders, staff and community members commemorated the service of two longtime public servants.

For council member Beth Munns and Mayor Bob Severns, neither of whom sought reelection, it was the last regular council meeting of their terms, and there were a few surprises to mark the occasion.

Kathy Reed/Whidbey Weekly
Outgoing Oak Harbor City Council member Beth Munns is presented with her own keepsake street sign at the last regular council meeting of the year last week. Munns served on the city council for 16 years.

First, Munns, who has served on the council since 2008, was presented with a plaque from Mayor Severns, and then she was given her own street sign by city Public Works Director Steve Schuller. An emotional Munns shared her appreciation.

“I truly, faithfully, took the oath seriously and wanted to do what’s best,” she said. “Sometimes I was wrong, I’ll admit that, but I think a lot of times, I was right. So, thank you so much. This means a lot.”

The meeting continued with a holiday performance by the Filipino-American Association and when it was time to move on to public comment, several members of the community had a surprise for Mayor Severns, who has spent 16 years in city government – eight years on the council and the last eight years as mayor.

Kathy Reed/Whidbey Weekly
A flash mob surprises outgoing Oak Harbor Mayor Bob Severns at his last regular city council meeting last week.

A flash mob of approximately 20 people – including Severns’ wife, Rhonda – poured into council chambers, all wearing black shirts emblazoned with “Bob” across the front, and dancing to the song “Hot, Hot, Hot.” The lyrics were changed to “Bob, Bob, Bob” by the mob, as members of the audience, staff and city council held signs reading I “heart” Bob.

Severns, although initially taken aback, swiftly grabbed his phone to record the event for posterity, thanking the participants.

“Thank you. Thank you very much. I’m thinking that’s a flash mob, right?” chuckled Severns. “Gosh. Wow. That was very surprising, and very nice.”

“Has that ever happened?” asked someone on staff.

“I don’t know,” Severns said, still chuckling. “Are we still in public comment?”

Indeed, public comment continued with some heartfelt words for Mayor Severns and Council member Munns from Island County Commissioner Jill Johnson, who said the two have represented their constituents well.

“I’ve never been disappointed with either one when they have spoken up on behalf of their community,” she said. “In fact, I believe, over the last few years, they have been effective advocates for this community’s interests and point of view. It’s been impressive. We’ve traveled to Washington, D.C. together and advocated on behalf of this community, and I’ve always walked away feeling proud of my colleagues. We’ve been lucky to have both of you. I think what people don’t understand is what a gift that is that you’ve given to us through your effective leadership.”

Kathy Reed/Whidbey Weekly
Oak Harbor Mayor Bob Severns, center, has a laugh when a flash mob surprises him in honor of his 16 years of service to the city, eight as a council member and the last eight years as mayor. Severns did not seek a third term.

The final recognition of the mayor’s service came from Mayor Pro Tem Tara Hizon, who presented Severns with a plaque from staff members.

“It’s a show of their appreciation for your guidance, your leadership and your service,” she said. “We all appreciate the time that you put in. You said you were going to be a one-term mayor and you ended up putting in eight, what I’m sure seemed like, very long years, and we all appreciate you.”

Severns’ term concludes at the end of the year. Mayor-elect Ronnie Wright will be sworn in in January.