February 6, 2014 10:10:44 AM
Monday, the Lowndes County Board of Supervisors chose retired businessman Lester King to represent the county on the Columbus-Lowndes Convention and Visitors Bureau Board of Trustees.
King was selected over the objections of supervisors Leroy Brooks and Jeff Smith, both of whom said they had not spoken with King and wanted to interview him before a decision was made. Instead of voting against King, who was nominated by Bill Brigham, Brooks and Smith abstained from the vote. With John Holliman not at the meeting, King's selection passed on a 2-0 vote. In essence, King was put into the position without the support of a majority of the supervisors.
Board president Harry Sanders rightly pointed out that applicants for the board position were presented to the board Jan. 15 and that supervisors should take it upon themselves to get their questions answered.
Regardless, this is a lousy way to choose a person who represents the county on a board that handles our tax dollars.
There were four other candidates for the position on the CVB board. King may certainly be the best selection, but county residents heard from none of the others. And none of the five candidates were ever afforded the common courtesy of making their cases publicly before the supervisors.
Unfortunately, this process has proven to be the rule rather than the exception.
Later this month, the Columbus City Council will select two members for the CVB as well as one member to serve on the city's school board. Previously, the city council has used the same process as the one employed by the supervisors in making those selections: A motion to appoint a candidate is made, and, if seconded, the council votes. If that candidate receives a majority of the votes, the process ends and none of the other candidates are considered.
There appears to be no enthusiasm among council members and supervisors for allowing the public to hear from the candidates. In fact, they don't even seem to have any desire to hear from the candidates themselves in a forum where every council member or supervisor can hear the same message. As it stands, candidates make their cases privately to the individual board members, allowing those candidates to make personal appeals they think the official will embrace. When the candidate is compelled to make his case to all of those officials at the same time in a public audience, a more accurate understanding of the candidate's views is likely.
And by providing that same public forum to all candidates, the result is a fair, thorough and open process.
We understand that supervisors and council members are elected to serve the public interest and make decisions for their constituents. To suggest that all appointments come down to a popularity contest among residents is to render the council's role meaningless. So yes, we do expect our elected officials to make these kinds of decisions on our behalf.
But we do not feel that those decisions should be made without citizen input and without officials considering every candidate.
Good policy is not always determined by public opinion, but it should always be informed by it.
Our supervisors and council members do us a disservice when they refuse to acknowledge that.