Mayor seeks applications for boards, commissions

October 11, 2018

In his final months as mayor, Ardell Brede is slated to fill at least 15 seats on volunteer advisory boards and commissions.

The mayor’s office put out a call for applications to replace board members whose terms are expiring at the end of the year.

The recommended appointments could be the last for Brede, who has opted not to seek another term as Rochester’s mayor.

They also come at a time when the mayor’s recommendation process has drawn criticism from some Rochester City Council members tasked with approving the appointments.

Council members Nick Campion and Michael Wojcik have said they want more information related to why appointments are being recommended.

“The recommendation should include some reason for the selection,” Campion said during an Aug. 20 council meeting, noting he’s aware there are legal limits on private information that can be revealed.

Since that meeting, Campion has abstained from voting on appointments, citing a desire to see a public statement of why the appointment was recommended.

During the Aug. 20 meeting, Brede noted that an appointment doesn’t mean other applicants were not qualified for the position.

“We are so fortunate that we get many people that are qualified, and it’s a matter of selecting which one,” he said.

On Sept. 17, Wojcik joined Campion in abstaining from a vote on a Mayo Civic Center Commission appointment. Both council members cited a desire to see more information about why the appointment was recommended.

During an earlier meeting, Wojcik briefly clashed with Brede regarding an appointment to the city’s Pedestrian and Bicycle Committee.

Wojcik said he asked for the applicant’s information but was sent the wrong paperwork. He asked the council to postpone a vote on the appointment.

Brede, who sits beside Wojcik during council meetings, attempted to hand the council member a piece of paper, asking if he wanted to see the information.

“I want your staff to provide this in a responsible manner,” Wojcik said. “This kind of not getting the information — this buffoonery — is not acceptable to me.”

“It’s foolishness,” Brede muttered in apparent response to Wojcik before a 5-1 vote to fill the seat.

Appointments have also been subject to public criticism in recent years, with community members pointing to a lack of diversity on boards and commissions.

Approximately a third of the volunteer members are women, but racial diversity on several boards and commissions falls short of being representative of the community.

Brede adjusted his practice for accepting applications, using the city’s program for accepting employment applications in an effort to limit implications of screening by race or gender, but he’s noted the process hasn’t increased the number of diverse applicants.

The process, which has included personal interviews conducted by the mayor, is being used to fill the open seats.

According to Donna Bussell, the mayor’s assistant, the seats to fill include five for a newly created Board of Appeals to respond to issues raised regarding building, housing and fire codes.

Additionally, four seats need to be filled on the city’s Music Board, which has been short of members.

With the exception of the Planning and Zoning Commission, which will need two new members, the rest of the boards and commissions have single openings planned for 2019. Those seats are on the Citizens Advisory on Transit, Energy Commission, Library Board, Mayo Civic Center Commission, Pedestrian and Bicycle Advisory Committee and Rochester Public Utilities Board.

In all cases, Bussell said the openings are created by the end of a term.

She noted a second seat on the Energy Commission could become open by the end of the year, if current member Kim Norton becomes mayor. Norton faces Charlie O’Connell on the Nov. 6 ballot to replace Brede.

The Ward 1 Rochester City Council race could prompt another opening on a board that doesn’t have an expiring seat at this point. Candidate Patrick Keane is a member of the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals and is running against Heather Holmes for the council seat in Rochester’s southernmost ward.

“That one I can’t post because you don’t know if we will have to replace anyone,” said Bussell, who along with Brede will be leaving the mayor’s office at the end of the year.

Rochester residents interested in serving on a city board or commission can apply online at www.rochestermn.gov/departments/human-resources/employment. Applications are due by Oct. 22. Citizens without internet access can apply at the Rochester Public Library.

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