Appointing a fifth supervisor in Ferguson Township

In the next couple of weeks, the Ferguson Township Board of Supervisors will have to appoint its fifth member. It will be a fairly straightforward decision, if a bit difficult. Because of the way that the issue has evolved, I want to put my thoughts out so people can understand how I’m thinking about it. That seems fair.

A little background: As you might know, Colleen Unroe won the election to be the Ward 3 supervisor. However, on January 4th, she declined the seat. I knew that she would do this beforehand and had communicated it to some. However, some complication prevented her from getting her name off the ballot. I don’t know what those are, but her name remained on the ballot and she won by a large margin in Ward 3.

As of the January 4th meeting, she was also being taken to court by two different entities: Ferguson Township itself and the former supervisor she defeated in the November election, Drew Clemson. Ferguson’s government filed a lawsuit because she hadn’t met a residency requirement in the home rule charter. She hadn’t resided in Ferguson Township as a registered elector for at least one year prior to November 3, 2015 (election day). Clemson filed suit because the election results should not have counted because she did not meet the requirements. However, when Ms. Unroe stepped down in January, the new Board voted to stop the township’s lawsuit. I don’t know the status of Clemson’s suit now. If it isn’t resolved by the Board’s second meeting on February 16th and we appoint someone else, I’m not sure if Clemson’s lawsuit will matter. That’s up for the lawyers to decide.

Upon Ms. Unroe’s stepping down, we initiated a process under the charter for appointment. In short, the township posted the position as open and began accepting applications almost immediately. To date we have four. As the announcement website says, “The Board will conduct interviews of potential candidates beginning at 6 pm on Monday and Tuesday, February 8 and 9, depending on the number of applicants. All candidates should make arrangements to participate in this meeting. The Board anticipates making the appointment on Tuesday, February 16, 2016.”

Four things work in my mind as I am evaluating the candidates. They are the basic qualifications, the service record of the individual themselves, their performance in the interview, and the will of the people. First, we have to have someone who meets the residency requirements. Obviously, we have to avoid Ms. Unroe’s situation. Second, how have they served the community? Third, does their position on political issues align with the will of the voters in Ward 3? I can’t read tea leaves but the election results should be honored as well as we can honor them with the candidates before us.

Finally, to some degree I want to know what it will be like to work with them as an individual and see how they respond to questions from the sitting board. This criteria means that I have personal and political priorities too. One of the things that I’m very happy to report is that our board right now is working quite well together. That comes as a surprise to some I’m sure because of the rancor around the Toll Brothers development. But unlike our state legislature and the U.S. Congress, we are grown-ups who actually know how to work together and prioritize the demands of governance. Yes, yes, we are small potatoes relatively speaking, but the board’s comity is instrumental to governance. As Elizabeth Warren recently wrote, “Personnel is policy.”

In short, I will gladly appoint someone who displays a solid track record of service, whose positions reflects the will of the people, and with whom I can share enough common ground that we can accomplish new things and sustain our community’s expectation of good service and support. I should say that I have known one of the applicants for over 25 years, Mike Radis. He is the father of my one my oldest friends and I am fond of him, though my fondness for him far from disqualifies any of the other four candidates.

I can’t speak for the other supervisors, but I’d bet they will be thinking about each of these things. They may prioritize them differently than I will, but we will cooperate and deliberate in a way that will serve Ferguson Township.


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