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Poll: Should There be Term Limits for Bedford's Boards and Committees?

The issue was revisited at the town board meeting Tuesday night.

When seven members of town boards and committees (see the full list on the board agenda) were approved in routine re-appointments at Tuesday night's town meeting, Peter Michaelis, a long-time volunteer for the town and recent candidate for county legislator, approached the podium.

"Have any of these positions been advertised beyond the town's website? If not, I would suggest that in the future they are as a way of getting some new blood," he said. "Otherwise I don't know why we have term limits of five, four or three years because it seems if you want to be on the board or continue serving on the board, you just write a letter and you're reappointed....I'm asking for a look at the governance of these boards."

Michaelis —which resulted in the establishment of a two-person committee, board members David Gabrielson and Francis Corcoran, to examine the possibility of establishing term limits.

What they said then:

Francis Corcoran: “I personally support the idea of term limits but also think for elected positions if the public isn’t satisfied with the job an official is doing they are voted out. That said, we are trying to make sure the public is best served—we’ll take the temperature on term limits from an elected standpoint and look at whether it is practical for our boards.”

David Gabrielson: "While you do get to bring in new perspectives with term limits, you can lose out on institutional knowledge. The challenge is coming up with a process so we have rules and be fair and bring in new blood but not lose people whom we are lucky to have.”

What the board said this week:

Gabrielson: Francis and I were going to spend time looking into it and we haven’t, for a couple of reasons. There’s no simple answer to any of this. It would be good if we had a system for advertising—for getting a formal list together of people serving on boards. People aren't clamoring in general—you're the only one who has raised it. People are not beating down the doors to serve. But we should have a process. We need to weigh the value of people who have experience on the boards against doing things the way we've always done them."

Supervisor Lee Roberts: "Currently the process is that we have a list of the boards and commissions and individuals who serve on them with their expiration date (posted with this story). Their re-appointments are on the board agenda and distributed to all community organizations. I invite all who are interested to send in resume and let me know area of interest. We have many opportunities to serve—the permitting boards a bit more competitive and we interview them more closely. If someone would like to serve they may. I think to change the process mid-stream without discussing how to replace someone who has served well...if they are desirous of being re-appointed, we have always re-appointed them. It's something we can look at but if we are going to do it, we should do it carefully and with a great deal of public discussion."

Peter Chryssos: "One of the reasons board operate as well as they do is that people are not afraid to come forward and ask. When I came to town 18 years ago, I asked, 'who do I talk to about getting involved?' We want people who are going to come forward to contribute and aren't going to wait for advertisement. There are numerous opportunities."

For additional background

Currently there are vacancies on the open space committee, the Drug Abuse Prevention Committee and the deferred compensation committee and the communications committee—see the full list of boards posted with this story.

Are you interested in serving, but didn't know about the opportunities?

Do you think we should have term limits for the town's volunteer positions?

Take our poll below and feel free to elaborate in the comments.

Donald Diamond December 22, 2011 at 04:50 PM
I believe that a person who does a good job has the right to returned to office by the voters and am opposed to term limits. However, I also believe that vacancies should be better advertised. Some qualified persons may not be serving because they do not know the opportunity exists.
Bea Rhodes December 24, 2011 at 12:52 AM
I agree with much of what Peter Michaelis says regarding term limits, new blood, etc. I do think that Peter would make a stronger point if he led by example! Please see attached PDF with start dates for Boards and Commissions.
David Cohen February 15, 2012 at 11:22 AM
I think that if a person is doing a good job, there is no reason why they should not be able to remain. That being said, the town needs to do a MUCH better job in getting the word out on vacancies and getting new blood into the system.

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