Open Letter to Winter Park Residents
Open Advisory Board Service to All City Residents
by Phil Anderson
One way we can make Winter Park better is to re-open the opportunity to serve on volunteer City Advisory Boards to all Winter Park residents. As the Charter stands, only the Mayor can appoint board members, leaving many citizens feeling their applications are ignored if they are not a friend of the Mayor or a donor to his campaign.
On August 13, I asked the Charter Review Committee to recommend a change to encourage more inclusion on City Boards. We can change one sentence in the Charter and re-open the opportunity for almost 50 percent of our residents to serve.
These Citizen Boards are incredibly important. Over 150 residents serve on the 19 Boards, which include the Planning and Zoning Board, which determines in many ways what the city will look like in years to come. These volunteer boards also include the Utilities Board, the Lakes Board and others that specialize in one area or another. These boards thrive in an environment of blended political views, diverse professional expertise and general business and community experience that promote good policy for the city.
Thanks to you, I served as a City Commissioner from 2008-2011. At the beginning of my term, all Commissioners participated in nominating Winter Park residents to various City Advisory Boards and Committees. When I started, I remember sitting on the floor sorting through stacks of resumes. I was amazed at the wide variety of qualified citizens willing to serve as volunteer board members. These people could run large public companies, yet they were willing to volunteer their time and expertise. This process of including nominations from the full Commission had been practiced for a long time, and I assumed that would be the continuing tradition.
Halfway through my term, however, the process changed. In 2009, a sentence in the City Charter was invoked, and the nomination process started to fall exclusively to one person — the Mayor. Since then, many people have expressed their feelings that they won’t be considered unless they are a friend of the Mayor. Since mayoral election margins in Winter Park are generally pretty close, say 51 to 49 percent, almost half of Winter Park may feel excluded from serving. As a result, Winter Park is losing out on a deep pool of talented people.
If you agree that all citizens should have the right to be fairly considered for service on City Boards for which they are qualified – regardless of their political leanings — please contact your City Commissioners and consider speaking to the Charter Review Committee. Ask them to formalize an older, more inclusive practice which a) expands the pool of talent; b) allows all City Commissioners to participate in Board nominations; and c) brings Winter Park in line with almost all other Florida City governments.
This can be accomplished by removing from the City Charter asingle sentence: “He shall annually appoint members of the city boards subject to the approval of city commissioners.”
This one change opens up the process to a tremendous talent pool and is in the best interest of all Winter Park’s residents.
The next Charter Review Committee meeting is on Tuesday, August 27th, at 6:00 pm, at the Winter Park Community Center on New England Avenue. Public comment is allowed at the beginning and end of the meeting.
Thank you for the privilege to serve,