In the past we’ve had a minimal number of applications on file, subsequently now we’ve received multiple applicants for individually counsel appointed positions,” said Gulfport City Manager Jim O’Reilly at the regular city council meeting held via Zoom on June 2. “It’s a new experience for us, understanding that the staff’s position was to prevent counsel from comparing their neighbors or their friends.”
O’Reilly explained that up to this point, vacancies have been filled on a first-come, first-served basis and asked the council if they had any ideas on how to handle appointments in the future.
“It would be my recommendation to make sure that the boards are whole. We should go with the applications that were turned in first,” commented Councilmember Christine Brown.
“I’m accepting of that. I don’t want to go through this process of pitting people against each other,” said Mayor Sam Henderson.
“Frankly, whoever is willing to serve their city, and they were the first ones at the draw,” continued Henderson. “I would certainly be in favor of those who applied also getting consideration for the next round, but I certainly don’t want to turn this into a formal process where we have people competing against each other for these jobs. In the end it’s going to make people feel unwanted and all they want to do is be civically engaged.”
“I definitely understand the problem of people being pitted against each other,” agreed Councilmember April Thanos. “But I would also like to see who would be the most qualified for these positions. Also, the people who were applying may not have known there was a race to get their application in.”
“Anyone who serves on the board is going to have to learn the position,” responded Henderson. “They may be familiar with the position, but they’ve never served on this board and in this position.”
“I know all of these people very well and to ask me to choose between them feels inappropriate,” chimed in Councilmenber Paul Ray.
Council agreed that appointments will be granted based on who submits their applications first. If a current board member decides to leave before their term is up, the city clerk will reach out to the next person whose application is on file. If that person is still interested in the position they will be appointed. Otherwise applications will be accepted for the position again.
As of Tuesday, June 2 the following applicants have been recommended for appointment:
John McEwen – General Employees Pension Board, three-year term
Josefa “Jo” Gonzalez-Hastings – (Alternate) Planning and Zoning Board/Local Planning Agency, two-year term
David Kanter – Firefighters Pension Board, four-year term
Staff is looking to schedule official appointments for the Tuesday, June 16 council meeting.