County supervisors have 90 appointments open—no waiting
At the conference table in her district office, Maureen Kirk looked over the most recent list of open seats on Butte County government committees and commissions.
Her review wasn’t brief, because the list was extensive: five pages, 29 boards, 90 positions. And, as she went over the report Tuesday morning (Aug. 1) with the CN&R, she encountered clusters of familiarity.
“There’s some [vacancies] that I’ve been really frustrated [to see],” said Kirk, who’s served on the Board of Supervisors for 10 years, representing Chico. In particular, she cited the Behavioral Health Board, upon which she sits, and the Water Advisory Committee, upon which she served back when she was a Chico city councilwoman.
“Some of these others, I know there are difficulties finding people,” she continued, adding: “I would love it if all of our appointments were filled.”
County committees and commissions have a range of mandates. Many act as public sounding boards to provide the Board of Supervisors counsel on specialized issues. Certain committees attend to entities such as cemetery districts and veterans halls; others hear appeals, such as on assessments, disability access and other matters.
When a seat remains open, the group operates shorthanded.
Unlike the city of Chico, where appointments occur on a set schedule, before terms expire, county supervisors can make an appointment at any regular meeting. Forest Harlan and Talmadge House got appointed to the In-Home Supportive Services Advisory Committee at the last meeting, July 25; that still left three IHSS vacancies.
More slots on that and other committees could get filled next Tuesday (Aug. 8). The agenda includes one nomination, for the Richvale parks and rec board; that day, any supervisor can put forth eligible appointees.
Shari McCracken, deputy chief administrative officer, explained that some positions carry special requirements, such as professional credentials or a specific location (residence or work). Many do not.
In most cases, anyone interested needn’t even fill out an application—he or she simply can express a desire to serve, and the Clerk of the Board’s Office will verify eligibility.
“We don’t do the [public] interviews like they do in the city,” Kirk said, harkening to her time on the Chico City Council. “A letter of interest and why you’re qualified oftentimes gets somebody appointed.”
Some panels experience regular shortfalls. IHSS, for instance, tends to have churn among providers and clients who, as representatives of their respective constituencies, can be replaced only by peers. This board advises county officials on in-home-care policies.
“It’s a quarterly meeting, you have to arrange transportation, and it just doesn’t fit into everyone’s day,” said Karen Ely, assistant director of Employment and Social Services, who sits on the board. “Which is why we’re always looking.”
Two water boards await appointments. Ryan Schohr and D.C. Jones have continued to serve on the Water Commission following the expiration of their terms in January and March, respectively. Meanwhile, the Water Advisory Committee has four specific seats vacant, including a countywide environmental representative open for eight years.
“A lot of people show up to meetings who could be appointed,” said Paul Gosselin, director of Water and Resource Conservation.
A spot Kirk has prioritized is youth representative on the Behavioral Health Board, which she and others have tried to fill since 2009.
“It seems like that would look good on someone’s résumé to go to college,” Kirk said. “This youth doesn’t have to be somebody who uses the services, just somebody who’s interested.”
That applies to any citizen and any committee: “If it’s a topic they’re interested in,” Kirk added, “it’s a great place to start and learn and advocate.”