After nine hours of interviews and deliberations, Cambria services district directors had been unable, as of Monday, to agree on a candidate to fill the vacancy left by the departure of Greg Sanders.
Part of the process involved of interviewing applicants involved asking four questions to each candidate for the position. In this spirit, The Cambrian posed four questions to each of the board members about the process, which were sent to the directors’ CCSD email addresses Wednesday, Dec. 13. Each director received the same four questions, chosen by Cambrian Managing Editor Stephen Provost, with a request that responses be returned by Sunday, Dec. 17.
The email from The Cambrian stated the goal as follows: “provide members of the public with insights into each director's thought process, and allow all board members the opportunity to present their thoughts in written form, in their own words, outside of the pressures a public meeting.”
The intent was to provide members of the public with these insights prior to a special meeting scheduled for Tuesday, Dec. 19, at which directors are scheduled to continue the process by either appointing an applicant or considering a special election to fill the seat.
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The Cambrian received responses from one director, board President Amanda Rice. Following are the questions and her responses, presented in a Q&A format.
Q. If you were hired as a consultant to another district with a divided board, what steps would you recommend that board take to improve the working relationship among its members?
A. I would begin with candid self-evaluation and finding areas where they can agree. The Board, and each of its members, must show through their actions that they share the same understanding of their roles and responsibilities as well as the limitations of the position. Each director must feel they are being heard and respected by their colleagues. They must support the decisions of the body, regardless of their own vote, rather than undermining decisions made by a majority of which they are not a part.
Q. Would you support a compromise candidate and, if so, what would an ideal compromise candidate look like?
A. Every applicant represents some kind of compromise. I attempted to lead a discussion and create a list of the qualities with which to measure each candidate. Rather than discussing leadership qualities of an ideal applicant, the discussion devolved into a focus on an applicant’s perceived opinions on decisions already made (which, like current directors, they would have to support) and decisions still undiscussed (which all directors must keep an open mind about until public board discussion).
Q. In assessing potential candidates, how would you rank the following issues in terms of importance and how quickly they must be addressed, from 1 to 5, with 1 being the most important: environmental issues, EWS/SWF/Advanced Water Treatment Plant, fire protection, fiscal issues, infrastructure?
A. I am assessing applicants in terms of how they will contribute to building confidence and trust. There are impacts to our environment and fiscal health inherent in every decision and policy we make. Our annual budget represents evenly split priorities (in round numbers, $2.5 million each) for fire protection, water and wastewater services (open space & facilities ~$600,000). It would be irresponsible to focus on one small, but expensive part (the AWTP). Significant time and energy are needed to responsibly permit and integrate this major project into our system, but not at the expense of all else. To appoint someone whose focus is so narrow would be irresponsible. So would appointing someone whose energy would be spent creating obstacles to permitting and responsible use.
Q. Members of the board have commented on the quality of the applicants for this position and the depth of the field, yet have been unable to agree on one of these applicants so far. How would you, personally, explain this apparent inconsistency?
A. Filling the seat by appointment is an opportunity to create a more well-rounded board, and should not be seen as a chance to seize (or hold) power. The appointment should reflect the needs of the current board and not be tied to any particular views of the community. That’s what elections are meant to do. Focusing on our differences does not lead to a positive outcome. Of course, counting supporters is far easier than assessing a person’s ability to reason with clarity, analyze the facts, solve problems effectively, recognize fiscal challenges and work as part of a team. The interview process does allow assessment of how well someone communicates and their grace under pressure. In this respect, the choice seems clear.