Open nominations sought for Lewisburg committees

Friday, April 17, 2009

What might otherwise have been routine appointments to one of Lewisburg's volunteer panels became a subject for two candidates' call for, or support of, reform in city procedures.

Without identifying people who apparently expressed interest in being on the Industrial Development Board, candidate Jerry Freeman and Councilman Odie Whitehead followed up on a position taken by Councilwoman Quinn Brandon.

She suggested that appointments to the Industrial Development Board be more open, and speaking up for constituents who'd complained to her, Brandon said she'd rather provide that opportunity, rather than proceed toward a vote on three recommendations.

The IDB on April 6 recommended Steve Adams and former Councilman Jim Weaver for reappointment to the Board by the City Council. Former Councilman Arnold Lilly was nominated to succeed Bubba Tankersley who's rotating off the Board.

IDB Chairman Eddie Wiles noted that Tankersley had adjusted his career to become more involved in commercial real estate and should be complimented for avoiding a conflict of interest.

Councilman Robin Minor moved to accept the recommendations and Councilman Phil Sanders seconded the motion.

Brandon emphasized that she wasn't criticizing the IDB or its recommendations. Others might have applied, had they known, she said.

Mayor Bob Phillips asked if and Sanders would withdraw the nominations and Minor said he wished the issue had been raised sooner. Brandon said the vacancies don't arise until July.

Whitehead, who's running unopposed in the May 5 election, said he agreed with Brandon.

Brandon and Whitehead voted no on the IDB recommendation. Minor, Sanders and Commissioner Hershel Davis voted for the recommended candidates for the IDB.

Brandon and Whitehead emphasized they weren't voting against the nominees, but rather were making a point about the selection process being without an application process.

Whitehead added that he'd been contacted by someone who'd expressed some desire to serve on the IDB.

During the public comment period, city resident Andy Henson thanked Brandon and Whitehead for suggesting a delay in the current appointment to see if there might be others who wanted to be on the IDB.

Freeman then spoke up, asking if the vacancies been announced.

Phillips said an announcement had been made at an IDB meeting and Freeman asked, "How would the general public know?"

Brandon pointed out that IDB meetings are open, but Freeman replied, "Wouldn't it be fairer to post it" earlier?

"It looks strange," the mayoral candidate said.

Lina Horner, chairwoman of the city's Police Advisory Board advised Freeman that there was an article in the newspaper.

The Marshall County Tribune reported the nominations in a story published on April 8.

Minor added that the two incumbents on the IDB have served the city well in that capacity.

Phillips noted that membership on the IDB is established by the Council and is not a mayoral appointment.

IDB terms are six years.

Such concerns about early public notification of openings on the various panels that serve local government are not unusual. Some municipalities post openings and have application forms for boards, committees, commissions and other such panels.