It’s an age-old question in politics: How long should the same individual be permitted to hold the same power-wielding post? When and how does a distinguished career of public service cross the line into a personal fiefdom, staleness, even corruption? Every so often, voters get into a “Throw da bums out!” mood and start calling for term limits. But too-frequent, arbitrary replacements of experienced politicians with newer faces can lead to inefficiency and a sense of nostalgia for the know-how and institutional memory of departed veterans. There’s no hard-and-fast rule for what constitutes “progress,” and more often than not, the debate splits along partisan lines.
This sometimes-contentious process of reelecting, reappointing or replacing officeholders plays out at the local as well as the national level. In the Town of Gardiner, a battle is currently shaping up over the question of whether or not it’s time for someone else to take over the reins of the Planning Board. Mike Boylan has served as chair for more than a decade and built up a solid core of support among the town’s more pro-development residents, especially construction and real estate professionals. But there are other forces in Gardiner who think that someone else ought to get a shot at the chairmanship – perhaps someone who places a higher priority on land conservation and environmental concerns.
Boylan and several of his supporters were on hand at the April 11 Gardiner Town Board meeting, where, for the second week in a row, councilman John Hinson made a motion to reappoint Boylan to the Planning Board as his term runs out. And for the second week in a row, no one seconded the motion — despite the fact that, as Hinson pointed out, the Town Board had confirmed Boylan’s chairmanship without debate at its reorganization meeting in January.
What’s different this time around, according to Town Supervisor Marybeth Majestic, is that four people have applied to fill the Planning Board opening, a fifth having already dropped out of the running. Names of the contenders have not yet been publicly released, as discussion of their candidacy is considered a personnel matter and therefore still confined to executive session.
Hinson argued again that he was content to see Boylan continuing in the chair, even though the councilman had not himself interviewed all of the candidates. Other Town Board members bristled visibly at Hinson’s attempt to push the vote through, despite the fact that he had not arrived in time to participate in the executive session immediately preceding the April 11 regular meeting and was therefore not privy to the issues that had concerned them. At the previous week’s workshop meeting, when Hinson first raised the motion to reappoint, councilwoman Laura Walls had urged that all of the group take more time to meet all the candidates. “We need a chance to think about these things,” she said.
Thus far, the process has been to split the Town Board up into subcommittees of two to conduct candidate interviews. “Some people still need to meet with the prospective candidates,” said Majestic. “Therefore I’ll table this until the next meeting.”
During the “privilege of the floor” session at the end of the regular meeting, several residents expressed a wish to see a full and transparent nomination process play out. Gardiner Democratic Committee chair Mike Kruglinski noted that in the past, it had been difficult to find people willing to run for various boards and commissions in the town. “Once people volunteer, they deserve full consideration,” he said. Planning Board member and former councilman Warren Wiegand agreed: “The Planning Board appointment has gotten to be a pretty live wire. I would like to ask that all the candidates meet with all five Town Board members.”