New Canaan’s highest elected official said Thursday that he favors a system whereby those presented for appointment to town boards and commissions would come through a standing committee, rather than local political parties.
As it stands, candidates for those volunteer positions typically come through local party organizations—the Democratic Town Committee or Republican Town Committee—or else directly to the first selectman.
The system has worked well insofar as New Canaan has a talented group of committed and experienced volunteers to serve in appointed positions on influential town bodies such as the Board of Finance, Planning & Zoning Commission, Parks & Recreation Commission, Zoning Board of Appeals, Police Commission and Parking Commission.
Yet First Selectman Kevin Moynihan said he “would adopt the Greenwich model” of what that town calls the Selectmen’s Nominations Advisory Committee.
Among other responsibilities, that group—see the last page of this document—“identifies residents who have the skill sets requested by [board and commission] chairs and the Selectmen and encourages them to submit their nomination forms to the Board of Selectmen for consideration.” (Greenwich also has a committee of its Representative Town Meeting, the powerful Appointments Committee, which interviews and otherwise vets the appointees.)
“I am very open to that process,” Moynihan said of switching over to the Greenwich model.
The comments came in response to questions from NewCanaanite.com at a press briefing with the first selectman that also was attended by reporters from New Canaan News and the Advertiser. Selectman Kit Devereaux also attended.
When NewCanaanite.com noted that the town has seen a rise in recent years of unaffiliated voters (they now account for about 30 percent of the electorate), meaning many residents are not involved in party committees—Moynihan noted that Greenwich’s model “is probably a process that allows unaffiliated voters to come forward.”
Moynihan also said the thinking currently is that town parties are putting forward strong candidates.
“It’s a political process with the town committees,” he said at the meeting, held in his office at Town Hall. “That’s the history of this. Because we expect the town committees to recruit good people for town boards and commissions. So historically the town committees have recruited people. I have also had people walk in the door with their resumes.”
This week at a Board of Selectmen meeting, a town resident challenged the current system whereby those who put in for important volunteer positions with the town are appointed to influential boards and commissions. Specifically, Andrea Sandor called for the application of more rigorous and objective criteria.
Moynihan said that while he would change the system now if possible (“If I could, I would do it tomorrow”), the change likely would have to wait until later in the year, since many of those whose terms recently have expired still are awaiting reappointment.