Citing both the need for a balance of Republicans and Democrats and a state statute that prohibits more than two elected officials from serving on the commission, the selectmen voted unanimously to appoint the following: Democrat Ken Edgar, an elected member of the Planning and Zoning Commission; Republican Nina Daniel, an elected member of the school board; Democrat Michael O’Brien, who tendered his resignation from the finance board Monday night; Democrat Arne de Keijzer; Democrat Denny Brooks; Republican Woody Bliss; and Republican John Stripp.
The town formed a Charter Revision Commission last year that virtually rewrote the town charter. After living with some of the changes — especially changes to the Annual Town Budget Meeting (ATBM) process — the Board of Selectmen decided some “tweaking” needed to be done.
Mr. Edgar, Mr. deKeijzer, Mr. Bliss and Ms. Daniel were all members of the first Charter Revision Commission. Of the other original members, only Democrat Susan Moch put her name in the pool of applicants for the new commission.
The candidates who had not served on the previous commission were Mr. O’Brien, who serves on the appointed Insurance Committee and just stepped down from long service on the finance board; Mr. Stripp, a former selectman, finance board member, and state representative; Democrat Harvey Bellin, who was actively involved in the original charter revision process as a vocal member of the public; Democrat Denny Brooks, a scientist; and Democrat Allan Grauberd, a securities corporate attorney.
As the selectmen were trying to decide on who to choose, they acknowledged all the candidates were worthy choices. “This is tough. As is often the case when we ask volunteers to step forward to serve, we always seem to end up with an embarrassment of riches,” said Selectman David Muller.
First Selectman Gayle Weinstein helped the board to narrow its choices by first recommending the appointment of Mr. Edgar, who had served as the previous Charter Revision Commission’s co-chairman and offers, she said, needed leadership and experience to a new incarnation of the commission.
Then, Ms. Weinstein said, it made sense to choose the two members they had previously chosen to serve who are not elected officials: Mr. Bliss and Mr. deKeijzer.
She then pointed out that of the new candidates, only Mr. Stripp is a Republican, and so, despite his also being very qualified, she said, “I think he has to serve” in order to provide the needed political party balance. By the same token, former member Ms. Daniel was chosen over former member Ms. Moch due to party affiliation. (Both Ms. Daniel and Ms. Moch became elected officials after they were named to serve on the original charter commission.)
That left two seats on the commission. Selectman Muller recommended Mr. O’Brien, citing his financial background, plus his experience running many Annual Town Budget Meetings. Since much of what the new commission is going to be looking at are the ATBM procedures, the selectmen all agreed Mr. O’Brien would be an asset on the commission.
“I think Mike brings a maturity of judgment I think is very valuable,” Selectman Dennis Tracey said.
From the remaining three candidates, the board then went with Ms. Weinstein’s recommendation to welcome a “newcomer” to the political process rather than someone who has volunteered before. “For me, I’d love to give someone new a chance to get involved… This is a great way to do that,” she said.
Because Mr. Bellin has often contributed to town discussions and has served on several appointed select committees over the years, that left Mr. Grauberd and Mr. Brooks. By virtue of the fact Mr. Brooks had said he has participated in several ATBMs and understood after this year the need to refine the process, and Mr. Grauberd admitted he had never attended an ATBM, the selectmen chose Mr. Brooks.
The Charter Revision Commission was given until Oct. 31 of this year to complete its work reviewing the charter and making any recommendations for changes. That will give the Board of Selectmen time to put any recommendations on the Nov. 5 ballot.
The commission has certain time constraints specified by state law regarding public hearings.