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Too many empty chairs

Boards, subcommittees go wanting

July 19, 2010
SOUTHBRIDGE — Town government needs you.

In democracy, the whole point of government is to represent the people, and there's another chance now for new faces to be part of the process. Eighteen seats are open on 12 appointed town committees and all of the citizen seats on council subcommittees are up for grabs.

George Parent has seen several such committees in action over his nearly 40 years in town government. He was one of the founding members of the Conservation Commission back in the early 1970s and is still on that board, but also sits on the Agricultural Commission and has been on a few subcommittees.

When asked why he stays involved, his response is simple — "I like the town and what they do. Not everything they do, but a lot of things they do."

For the most part, the town's tradition has been to appoint people on a first-come, first-served basis, with the town manager interviewing the applicants and making recommendations in some cases. But in the last year or so, there has been some agitation for changing the process — particularly for subcommittees — to make it more consistent and less based on whether the applicant is known to people in town government. To some, that means a more resume-based system.

For the past couple of years, there has been a lot of talk about promoting more citizen involvement, but vacancies have not been well posted or advertised. At present, the subcommittee seats do have a deadline — July 30 — but the other appointments are more open-ended. According to Town Manager Christopher Clark, people interested just have to submit a form available on the town website to his office. (The subcommittee seats use a different process. There, people submit a letter of interest and resume to Council Chair Steven Lazo.)

Clark said he hopes people step forward, but wasn't confident that would happen in the current political climate.

See Wednesday's Southbridge Evening News for complete coverage of community news.

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