Newcomers on Ways and Means, Public Works, Public Safety
By Steve Bowman
Editor, The Brentwood Spirit
After mulling it over for two weeks, the Brentwood Board of Aldermen changed its mind and approved Mayor Chris Thornton’s appointments for standing committees that serve the board.
After rejecting Thornton’s appointments in a 5-3 vote on May 4, the board approved them 5-3 at its meeting May 18 at City Hall. The mayor’s only revision was to move the chairmanship of the Public Works Committee from alderman Steve Lochmoeller to alderman Patrick Toohey.
The two who changed their vote from “no” on May 4 to “yes” on May 18 were Lochmoeller and alderwoman Maureen Saunders. The three other “yes” votes came from Toohey and aldermen Keith Slusser and David Plufka. Voting once again in opposition to the appointments were aldermen Tom Kramer and Andy Leahy and alderwoman Cindy Manestar.
The four groups Thornton appointed are the Ways and Means Committee, the Public Safety Committee, the Public Works Committee and the Communications Committee. He added appointments to the Communications Committee after the May 4 meeting, as he previously thought the group had disbanded.
In contrast to May 4 when neither Thornton nor the board explained their positions on the appointments, the matter was discussed at length on Monday. Thornton said his nominations were based more on qualifications than on years of aldermanic experience. Some board members expressed concern that the mayor did not seem open to discussion about his appointments. Some are bothered that the city’s four wards are unequally represented in the committees.
Committees chaired by newcomers
Of Thornton’s 12 appointments to the Ways and Means, Public Safety and Public Works committees, almost half are newcomers to the board and two of the groups are chaired by the recently elected. That raised some eyebrows at the May 4 meeting. On that night Leahy submitted to Thornton his own list of recommended appointments, with all three committees being chaired by experienced board members.
“I didn’t discount anybody because of a newly elected status or give extra points to anybody because they’d been on the board for a number of years,” explained Thornton on Monday. “I’m also of the opinion that from time to time it’s not a bad idea to bring in a new set of eyes and look at an old set of problems. If anything, I would probably say that I was more inclined to put newer sets of eyes in those positions rather than older sets of eyes. I know that goes against some people’s conventional wisdom.”
More discussion wanted
Saunders said she initially voted “no” at least partly because she said there was not enough discussion about the appointments in the May 4 meeting.
“(The Brentwood City Code says) such appointments shall be made with the advice and consent of the majority of the members of the Board of Aldermen,” Saunders said. “Nowhere does it say that it’s only the mayor’s appointments. … I was hoping there would be more discussion, more give and take. Not ‘This is it and there will be no change.’”
But Alderman David Plufka commented, “I think we’re reading too broadly the notion of advice and consent.”
Thornton said he asked for board members’ input about standing committees via email in mid-April.
Ward representation on committees
A couple of the board members complained that the proposed committees do not adequately represent all four wards. Kramer, from Ward 4, pointed out that the Public Works and Public Safety committees have four representatives from Ward 3 and only one from Ward 2, and that Public Works has nobody from Ward 1.
“There has been in the past a tendency towards a political agenda and a lack of balance of representation by ward,” he said, and later added, “I don’t need to be on any committee, but what I do seek is balance for the city and perhaps a new direction from what we’ve had in the past.”
Leahy agreed with Kramer, saying, “Mr. Mayor, I don’t think your appointments are wrong, they’re just not as balanced as I’d like them to be by ward representation.”
Thornton pointed out that each committee has a representative from three of the four wards.
“I would have liked to have had equal representation from each ward,” he said. “But I did not put that as high a priority as getting the right people in the right committees who I thought could do the best job for the city.”
But Toohey commented, “I realize people want this ward representation [but] I think it would be foolish to put somebody on a committee that they don’t have the best background for. And I realize that Ways and Means doesn’t have to be run by a CPA, but based on our city’s history, Lord I think it would help.”
Kramer, Hart, Wegge approved
On Monday the board also voted for Kramer to serve as its acting president and approved reappointment of Michael Hart and Brandon Wegge to five-year terms on the Brentwood Board of Adjustment.
Mayor’s approved committee appointments
Ways and Means Committee
Chairman Keith Slusser, Ward 2
David Plufka, Ward 1
Maureen Saunders, Ward 1
Patrick Toohey, Ward 4
Public Safety Committee
Chairman Plufka, Ward 1
Andy Leahy, Ward 3
Steve Lochmoeller, Ward 3
Tom Kramer, Ward 4
Public Works Committee
Chairman Toohey, Ward 4
Cindy Manestar, Ward 2
Leahy, Ward 3
Lochmoeller, Ward 3
Chairman Lori Coulter, owner and Chief Marketing Officer of Lori Coulter Designs, clothing design company in Brentwood, Ward 3 resident; Dan Duffy, owner of Dan Duffy Productions, in Brentwood, Ward 1 resident; Lochmoeller, Ward 3