April 19, 2014

Council should consider changes to appointment process

The Gardner City Council has been a revolving door for the past few years with members resigning, being thrown out, and relocating due to work. The current five member council boasts three appointments. They were appointed by the mayor rather than elected by the people. The planning commission consists of seven members who are appointed by the mayor and approved by the council for three-year terms.
Meanwhile, the Gardner Electric Utility Board boasts a handful of members who were all appointed by the Mayor with the approval of council. Two members are currently awaiting approval of the council after council president Kristina Harrison asked whether the soon-to-be open terms were publicized.
They were not posted. Instead, once appointed, members have traditionally been given the option to stay on  boards as long as they want.
In the past, filling some of these community boards may have been challenging, but now many citizens are fully engaged. They should be given the opportunity to be considered for positions as terms expire.
When making previous council appointments, former Mayor Carol Lehman said it is her policy to appoint to the city council from the planning commission.
Current there appears to be no such policy, although open council positions, for the most part, have been advertised.Current appointments to the council have all been done differently with some being interviewed by council with advertised positions. Not having any rules at all in the appointment process seems like a bad idea.
Considering Gardner’s revolving door on councils and the stagnant nature of its commissions,  local authorities should leave no room for negative appearances in the city’s appointment process.
Gardner’s appointment system has no rules, and a system without rules is asking for trouble.
Before the April elections, the city council should adopt a formal policy about how the mayor makes appointments to the council, planning commission and other boards. The process could include how  resumes for potential openings will be sought and the qualifications the mayor will be seeking.
It doesn’t have to be a deep and involved process, but the policy should place a premium on transparency.
We are pleased that the council is considering such a move.

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