“I’m recommending a citywide slate of candidates,” said Council Member John Beresford.
Beresford said the boards have been made up of a “small, select group” in past years. Boards with community members appointed by the City Council include the Downtown Development Authority, the Stormwater Advisory Board, Planning and Zoning and other boards.
“We have grown in the past 13 years. Our population in 2000 was around 5,000. Now we have over 23,000 people. We have a tremendous amount of talent and people who are interested,” Beresford said.
According to the city’s charter, the mayor has the power to nominate board members. His nominations can be approved or rejected by the council.
If the nominations are rejected, council members have the opportunity to nominate people and vote on those nominations.
Council Member Glen Cummins said council members are overstepping their bounds by working up a slate of candidates before hearing the mayor’s nominations.
“It’s a very defined procedure, and I think we ought to adhere to it,” he said. “I think that’s a lot of the reason we’re having problems in the council. I am a very procedurally oriented person. When these council members figure that they can do anything they want to do, I don’t agree with that. Don’t just violate the method that’s described.”
While nominations have historically been made in January, Mayor Gene Hobgood did not make any nominations during last month’s council meeting.
Hobgood said he first saw the slate of candidates on Jan. 16, the day before the council’s regular January meeting.
“I couldn’t possibly nominate somebody I didn’t know. I wouldn’t nominate somebody I haven’t met,” he said.
Hobgood said he is open to nominating people suggested by council members but must decide whether to replace standing board members who want to continue serving.
“It’s always good to get new blood in certain areas, but those should be put in as vacancies come up. I would say if someone left a board, then I could see where we could pick somebody from the list of nominees that would like to serve,” he said. “I don’t know why you’d want to replace someone who’s doing a good job just for the sake of replacing them.”
Hobgood said he may make some board nominations at the council’s voting meeting this month, but he expects the vetting process to take some time.
For the vast majority of the city’s boards, commissions and authorities, current members continue to serve after their terms expire until they are reappointed or someone else is appointed to the slot.
Beresford said the mayor is “sitting back” to delay action.
“It’s a shame that we can’t move ahead with this,” Beresford said.
Beresford said the city’s current board members have served well, but the time has come to bring in new members.
“In the past, people have been locked out by not reaching out citywide,” he said. “I’m not trying to do anything other than getting more of our city involved.”
But Cummins said he sees the new appointments as a retaliation move against the mayor.
“It’s very retaliatory and vindictive in who they have decided to remove from these boards and commissions. They are removing anybody who has expressed vocally, in a public forum, opposition to the things they are doing,” Cummins said. “They are removing anybody they can who has any close relationship with the mayor.”
Council Member Bob Rush said he contributed some names to the slate of candidates in an effort to get participation from more of the city’s population.
“What we’re trying to do is pull people from all over the city, from the various subdivisions within each of our wards,” Rush said.
“The committees have had the same people on them, and we’ve got some people on multiple committees.”
Hobgood said the three members of the stormwater committee slated to be replaced under the council members’ plans are the ones who “made the most noise” about reducing stormwater rates.
Beresford said he suggested removing these members because they “personally attacked” council members.