Dear Mr. Clarkson, Ms. Dawson, Mr. Kotary and Mr. Kuhn,
We write as town residents to share our recommendations with respect to making an interim appointment to the Town Board seat vacated by Mark Jordan. We urge you to make this appointment on the basis of qualifications and experience, as well as a willingness to work collaboratively with others on the board to achieve consensus on Town issues.
Few would argue that in the year ahead, Bethlehem faces unprecedented challenges. The need to increase our economic development efforts, address infrastructure needs, and support needed services will not be easy against the backdrop of diminished resources.
In this context, the choice to fill this vacancy is extremely important. We recommend the following process and criteria for your consideration:
• Select an individual with strong general knowledge, qualifications, experience and character, so as to reassure all residents that they will be fairly represented, even though they have not had a chance to choose a candidate through election.
• We encourage you to select someone who is knowledgeable about town government and its services, and prepared to help you make group decisions on the significant issues you will need to address. Carefully consider the professional or volunteer expertise and background potential candidates would bring to Board discussions and what their general approach to reaching consensus on Town issues would be.
• We support selection of an individual who will serve for the remainder of this year only, and agree not to seek election this coming November. Why? Serving for a year via appointment creates an overwhelming advantage for the incumbent, making it more difficult and possibly discouraging others to run. This could result in Bethlehem voters being denied a choice among candidates competing on a level playing field this November.
Because you will also be evaluating candidates using other criteria such as their knowledge, background, ideas and other qualifications, you (and town residents) can also be assured that this individual indeed will have a strong stake in the results of their votes and other actions. There is no reason to think that such an interim appointee who is otherwise qualified by these criteria, would not also be committed to working with other board members to move forward with long-term sustainable solutions.