You Are Wanted
The announcements are brief — the Office of the First Selectman is seeking residents to fill vacancies on boards and commissions, followed by which vacancies and basic information on applying.
Most residents can check off a couple of the requirements: the political party of affiliation, and getting a resume ready. But what should that resume contain? Is any resident qualified to serve on a board or commission in town? How much expertise in an area should a citizen have to apply?
Many questions go through the minds of potential volunteers, including, why does political affiliation matter? (The Town Charter determines that memberships be balanced “according to minority representation standards,” therefore certain parties only can fill certain vacancies or be appointed.)
What seems an intimidating process has some easy, though a bit lengthy, steps to follow — and all interested residents are invited to apply. A board or commission made up of people of various backgrounds can be beneficial in providing a wide range of opinions, and that is vital to ensuring that all community members’ interests are best served. There is a place on boards and commissions for those who care about town government but do not have the time or ambition to run for an elected office.
Start by considering which of the vacancies are of interest or which may benefit from your knowledge. Descriptions of boards/commissions are found on the town website, along with meeting schedules. A look at past agendas and minutes may clarify how this board/commission functions. The Town Charter, also accessible at the town website, can further clarify rules for the different bodies. Knowledgeable current members are a great source to learn more about any board/commission one considers joining.
Go to a meeting or two — or more. That is where it is possible to see the process in action and witness public participation, as well. Some meetings may generate more energy or public interest than others; what is your comfort level?
The letter of interest and resume submitted may be passed forward to a Town Committee, an interview scheduled, or in some cases, brought to the Board of Selectman directly by the First Selectman. The recommendations are voted upon, and once the appointment is confirmed, the selected resident is sworn in.
It is not a trifling thing to apply for or to be offered a position on any board/commission of Newtown; nor is it intended to be off-putting to those citizens anxious to be a part of shaping the town’s policies. Keep in mind that the people on these boards/commissions are your neighbors. They are as vested as any other resident in understanding how their decisions affect everyone in town.
Be fearless. Attend meetings, explore the various options, and take the leap to share your insight that can benefit progress in Newtown with a diverse and positive attitude. A community is moved forward — or not — by the power of boards and commissions.
A detailed guide to membership on an appointed board or commission can be found at newtown-ct.gov.