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City changes policy for board and committee appointments

 


Sidney is changing the method it uses for appointments to its boards and committees to allow for term expirations and vacancies to be advertised to the public beforehand.

The change was brought to the Sidney City Council during Tuesday’s regular meeting in an agenda item concerning the reappointment of three members to the city’s planning commission.

The planning commission is comprised of nine members serving on staggered three-year terms so at least three members are eligible for reappointment annually.

On June 1, the terms for Jerry Spiker, Deanna Volkmer and E. Todd Sherlock are set to expire.

The agenda item brought to council by city administration was for the temporary reappointment of all three members through the month of June, allowing the city time to publicly advertise the positions. Prior to the meeting, Spiker, who has served on the planning committee for the last 12 years, opted to not seek reappointment.

During the agenda item, City Manager Ed Sadler took the blame “for being late in dealing with this.”

Sadler said by allowing the vacancies and reappointments to be advertised, it would give the public an opportunity to step forward and volunteer, as well as give the council more of a choice.

“And had I been more on top of this, we wouldn’t have had to have asked you to appoint them for a month to give us time to advertise,” he said. “But that’s all this is really intended to do, is give us time to advertise and see if we have any other volunteers that would like to serve on this committee.”

Sadler said he thinks it’s “the right thing to do” to give the public an opportunity to volunteer to join a committee or board.

“I won’t say that you are going to get flooded with volunteers, but to not give people the opportunity to volunteer for any number of committees that they may well be interested in, I think, is remiss on our part.”

Sadler said if a vacancy has a large number of volunteers, interviews might be conducted to give council a better sense of what they would like to select for appointments.

Councilor Wendall Gaston said the new policy gave him “a little bit of heartburn.”

Gaston said he would be more in favor of instituting a term limit rather than advertise for volunteers every time reappointment comes up.

“Especially this committee, with the idea of how much experience it needs to make good decisions and to bring that information forward to us,” he said. “I trust that committee a lot to do that, and particularly like, if somebody is willing to continue to serve, to use that experience to our advantage.”

Sadler said the incumbents would continue to be asked if they would like to still serve in their position.

“And council may well choose to continue to appoint them because they indeed want that experience and they like the policies that they’ve set,” he said. “I don’t think this is meant, in any way, to say that just somebody volunteers you’re automatically going to replace the experience that you have on any of these committees, especially if you like the actions that they have been recommending to you.”

Gaston said, in the past, they have had to “twist a lot of arms” to fill positions.

“I just don’t like losing the experience and the amount of education it takes for any of those committees,” he said. “There’s a pretty big learning curve. I was on one of those a while ago, and it takes a while before you feel like you’re even competent enough to bring up a question.”

Councilor Joe Arterburn asked Sadler about Spiker’s decision to decline serving on the planning commission.

“Jerry resigned because he didn’t want to be appointed for a month?” Arterburn asked. “Or he didn’t like the process?”

“I think the process bothered him, to be honest, and I apologize for that,” Sadler said. “I tried to make that clear in the memo. If I had done it faster, the advertising would’ve been over and you would have been making your decision tonight.”

Mayor Mark Nienhueser said while he would not be surprised if there are not a lot of applicants, the correct thing to do is advertise.

“I’ve always been in favor of that,” Nienhueser said. “Otherwise, we as council would never know, either. We would like to know when that advertising goes out so we can urge people.

“In the past, it shows up in our packet, and we approve it. We haven’t had any ability to influence, or even nominate, people for those committees. It comes up in front of us, we approve it and move on, whereas at least now there’s a public process.”

Arterburn said he agreed with Nienhueser.

“We never know what the process is,” he said. “Were there more applicants than (what came before us)? I think this is a way that is at least more open to the community and more visible to us.”

Councilor Roger Gallaway said he agreed the appointments should be “as public as possible.”

“And in no way, shape or form is it meant to discourage incumbents from applying to be reappointed,” he said. “I guess that’s the message I would try to stress.”

Sadler said the city would continue asking incumbents whether they want to be reappointed.

“And it ends up council’s decision,” he said. “Relish the day that we get our doors beaten down with volunteers.”

The council then voted 4-0 to reappoint Volkmer and Sherlock to the planning commission through June 30. Councilor Chris Gay was not present for Tuesday’s meeting.

After the vote, Gaston restated his belief that incumbents should continue to serve.

“Just so I’m on the record for that,” he said.

Gallaway then asked that Spiker reconsider his decision to not seek reappointment.

“He’s been a huge asset on the city planning commission, and hopefully it’s just miscommunication between the two parties,” he said. “I’d like to see him stay on it.”

 

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