Originally Posted October 18, 2020
A friend of mine—you’d probably know her name if I mentioned it; but I’ll respect her privacy here—bookmarked her own prior campaign for public office with a conclusion she’d drawn for herself, namely that it was “A Time to Step Up.” Maybe, for you, it’s a time to step up as well.
We on the Enfield Town Board stand short-handed. Supervisor Beth McGee resigned September 30th. Councilperson Mimi Mehaffey followed with her own resignation just five days later, October 5th. Each had her unique, yet perhaps loosely-tied reasons for leaving us. You can read their explanations elsewhere on this website. But the work remains. The responsibilities continue. As we stand now, our Enfield Town Board has fallen to just three members; the bare minimum legal number required for conducting business. To take any action, we must all concur. That’s dangerous for any democracy. Good Government thrives on healthy disagreement and dissent.
As much as I’d prefer that you, our voters, fill both of our current vacancies at a regular or special election, I know that such a delay, while desirable, is also legally dangerous. What if one of us, the three continuing Board members, should become ill, be called up for jury duty, or need to leave town to attend to a death in the family or to an ailing loved one? No, we must fill at least one of those current vacancies expeditiously. And at least for me, the Councilperson’s vacancy, the one created by Mimi Mehaffey’s resignation, is the easier of the two to fill.
A Councilperson’s responsibilities are legislative only, those comparable to my own. True, they are significant; indeed, at times, awesome. An Enfield Councilperson holds a full 20 per cent of the Town’s legislative power. Each of our job’s duties cannot be taken lightly. But when our Town Board functions cooperatively, collegially, each of our respective talents and intellects complements those of another. We gain help through those who sit beside us. (Yes, I wish we could return to sitting together again; not just zooming on computer. Oh, for the Good Old Days!)
I’ve urged and continue to urge that we postpone our selection of a new Town Supervisor. As you know, one of our Board members actively seeks elevation to this more powerful and prestigious position. But I’ve urged we postpone a Supervisor’s appointment, at least until after the November General Election.
The November ballot contains two important Enfield Propositions. Their outcome will determine whether our Town Offices of Town Clerk and Highway Superintendent will remain elective, or whether they’ll become appointive. I’ve stated publicly that I believe the election results will tell all of us how much Enfield’s voters value their individual democratic choice. More than 100 of our residents petitioned us back in July urging that any future Supervisor’s vacancy—Supervisor McGee’s departure had been presaged through her own words months earlier—be filled by election, not by Board appointment. Should Enfield voters decide this November to keep our Town Clerk and Highway Superintendent elective, I must assume those same voters also oppose our Town Board making a Supervisor’s selection ourselves, a decision they believe they should make for themselves.
But back to you, perhaps that next potential candidate to sit beside us on the Enfield Town Board. At our meeting October 14th, our Town Board set Wednesday, November 11th, as the target date for choosing Councilperson Mehaffey’s successor; an interim appointment that would run through December 2021.
The Town’s Official announcement can be viewed on our Town’s Website, http://townofenfield.org/notice-serve-enfield-on-our-town-board/. Here are selected excerpts:
“PLEASE TAKE NOTICE that the Town Board of Enfield, New York, having a vacancy in the office of Town Councilperson, is now accepting one page letters of interest containing information on the candidates’ background, qualifications, and interest in public service from legal residents of the Town of Enfield… who are at least 18 years old by November 11, 2020, for the public office of Councilperson on the Enfield Town Board.
“This will be an appointment until December 31, 2021. The yearly stipend for this position is $3,500.00, paid quarterly.
“A Special Meeting will be held upon Tuesday, October 27, 2020 at 7:30 pm, via the Zoom Online Meeting Platform… in the Town of Enfield, New York, where interested applicants will have the opportunity to introduce themselves to the Town Board and to the Enfield Community. Each candidate will be invited to speak for 3 minutes….
“At the time and place of this Special Meeting and the November 11, 2020 Regular Town Board Meeting, the Town Board will take statements, testimony, and evidence from all persons interested in the Councilperson Appointment, and the Town Board may or will take such other action thereupon as is required or permitted by law including making an Appointment to the Board by a unanimous vote of all three Councilpersons at the Wednesday, November 11, 2020 Regular Town Board Meeting.
“All residents of the Town and the general public are invited to attend the October 27, 2020 Special Meeting and the November 11, 2020 Regular Town Board Meeting….
“One page letters of interest may also be dropped off in the secure drop box at the Town Hall at 168 Enfield Main Road, Ithaca, New York 14850, mailed to the same address, or emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Applications must be received by October 27, at 7 pm to be read at the Special Meeting. Attendance by Interested Candidates at the October 27, 2020 Zoom Special Meeting is Strongly Encouraged.
“Applications will be accepted until November 4, 2020, as the Enfield Town Board plans to Appoint our interim Councilperson at the November 11, 2020 Regular Meeting of the Enfield Town Board….”
Now, may I share my further thoughts, some of which I wrote in an open letter posted on the Enfield Democrats Google Groups chatroom one day before the official Notice was finalized and published relating to our filling the Councilperson vacancy. One colleague later suggested I’d jumped the gun a bit; that I’d surrendered my role as a “team player.” I respectfully disagree. I remain entitled to my own insights; my own opinions; my own perspectives. Here’s what I wrote:
“Insisting on maximum transparency, we’ve invited Democrats, Republicans and Independents to step forward and express their interest in filling this seat. I personally would encourage the political parties to become involved. But the party route is not the only route. Many of our residents remain non-affiliated. Independence should not dissuade anyone from involvement….
“I believe I can speak for all Board members that we set no litmus tests for consideration. Our continuing Board represents diverse perspectives. We don’t always agree on every issue. Yet we must agree on this appointment, as we currently hold the bare minimum number of members to constitute a majority.
“I, for one, will place politics aside in deciding upon who stands best to join us. I will concern myself less with ideology than with love for this community; does the person we select hold the passion to sacrifice his or her time, effort and mental sweat to serve their neighbors. The pay is nominal, just $3,500 a year. Yet the non-monetary rewards are greater than you might first imagine….
“Our Board seeks diversity; racial, ethnic, socioeconomic, and philosophical. Mimi Mehaffey did much for our Board, for our Town. Her shoes were big. We invite your interest in filling them.”
Please, if you hold even a passing interest in becoming a member of our Enfield Governing Team, our Town Board; allow this seed of interest the nourishment it needs to grow in your mind these next few days. Consider it thoughtfully. Consult with family and friends. Weigh the consequences; the potential sacrifices, yet also the bountiful rewards.
Who knows? You might become the next great leader of Enfield; a mere participant at first, but ultimately a welcome fixture in this Town’s vibrant Democracy. Then, again, you might choose to commit to this appointment the mere 14 months it requires, to learn from the experience, and then to return to private life. The choice is yours. And it’s a choice only you can make.
For you, it may be your own Time to Step Up. If so, please submit your application to our Town. I promise I will accord it serious, responsible consideration. My colleagues will as well. The more people we consider, the wiser our choice. I eagerly await discovering someone new to join us.
Bob Lynch, Enfield Councilperson