Open Letter to Winter Park Residents
Open Advisory Board Service to All City ResidentsEditor's Note: Articles written by citizens reflect their own opinions and not the views of the Winter Park Voice.
by Phil Anderson
A Task Force to review the Winter Park City Charter is currently meeting, as they do every 10 years, to make recommendations on how we should update our City Charter to make Winter Park better.
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,
Thank you Phil Anderson for your service to Winter Park. For those reading this who do not remember it was Mayor Ken Bradley who invoked the the rule that only the Mayor could appoint. It was a turning point in Winter Park.
Thank you Phil Anderson. I think this is an excellent point. I’m glad you brought it to the attention of our community. Winter Park is a wonderful city with amazing residents and as a city we should certainly be inclusive and support diversity in our leadership and in placing trust in those who shape our future.
We are both strong supporters of Mayor Leary, and think he is doing an outstanding job for our city.
We do however, agree with you Phil, that our city commissioners should participate in board nominations.
I agree also. Thank you Phil Anderson!
Autocracy and Oligarchy or Democracy?? There has to be a more democratic way to select board members.
I have seen some fairly unqualified people (when compared to the overlooked applicants with actual *applicable* experience) end up on these boards. It is cronyism at its worst. We need to change.
Once again, Phil Anderson is a voice of reason in the city. From the Florida Legislature down to county & city commissions, equal & inclusive participation in the the process and decisions of government are being hijacked & held captive by those in power. This MUST end or the construct of “representative government” will die.
Thank you for this Phil. It is unfair for a mayor to wield this sort of power.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Phil!
I am in total agreement with your views and feel that a change is needed with no further delay!
Thank you Phil.
It’s a governance best management practice.
Only way to go is Up.
Thank you Phil for an honest assessment of our current board appointments. I personally know well qualified individuals with professional backgrounds who submitted applications to the mayor, yet were overlooked in favor of his cronies.
While none of the advisory board members are bad people and all should be commended for their willingness to serve – when you stack boards with people who all think alike, the outcome is lopsided, often skewed decisions that create conflict. This is all on the Mayor, not advisory board members.
Moreover, I’ve known board members who didn’t agree with the mayor’s policies who were then removed from the board they served on – even a few chairs.
That’s wrong too. A good leader shouldn’t be so thin skinned and certainly have the basic understanding that allowing differing opinions on boards is the best form of democracy.
The HP board is probably the best example of the mayor’s unfairness. Most every member of that board is not only property rights proponents, but NONE are members of WPHM or FOCF, nor do they attend events for these organizations. They don’t believe in or support historic preservation. If I recall, not one members lives in a historically designated home. Even their annual awards have become a farce.
We need a fair system run by fair leaders. Changing this statute is a great first step!
Thank you. There is nothing better for Democracy than open government. Always a good idea to make it easy for citizens to participate in their city.