Public process

  • Published in Editorials

In response to an impending vacancy on the Fayston Select Board, board members reached out to the public seeking letters of interest from residents interested in being appointed to fill the vacancy for the balance of the three-year term.

The board received five responses from five town residents all uniquely qualified to do the work of the board and all sincerely interested in the notion of service and all passionate about the importance of local government.

The Fayston Select Board has interviewed all five candidates and will meet this week before appointing one of the candidates to fill the vacant seat.

In Waitsfield, the select board is also facing a vacancy. This week the select board met to consider how to handle the vacancy. The board learned that state statute requires the vacancy to be handled “forthwith” but fails to define how fast “forthwith” means.

The board debated whether or not it made sense to go through the process of collecting letters of interest, screening them and then appointing someone when the vacant seat only runs through Town Meeting Day on March 6.

Board members pondered whether appointing someone to serve from mid-January through March 6 was a good idea and whether doing so would lend some aura of incumbency (and hence credibility) to the appointee should he or she choose to campaign for the seat.

Those are fair concerns. Yet, given the caliber of the candidates who came forth to throw their hats in the ring for the seat on the Fayston Select Board, and given the fact that members of the public could sue Waitsfield for failure to appoint a new member, it makes a great deal of sense for Waitsfield to seek interested parties for its open seat.

Yes, it’s more work for the board during budgeting season and that appointee may only serve for five to six weeks before Town Meeting. But the public process is important. Waitsfield voters are discerning enough to recognize that the appointed select board member is appointed rather than elected.

And, if that appointee decides to collect the appropriate signatures and campaign for the seat in the run up to Town Meeting, voters are also discerning enough to recognize what he or she (and any other candidates for select board) will bring to the office.