Chair policy change suggested

Published 5:26 pm Thursday, December 27, 2018

Hampden District Supervisor Dr. Odessa Pride recently put forth a motion to amend board policy that dictates how the Prince Edward County Board of Supervisors’ chairperson is selected. Her motion came during the supervisor comments portion of the Prince Edward County Board of Supervisors’ regular December meeting.

Dr. Odessa Pride

“I move that the board member whose turn has arrived to be board chairman but chooses not to serve has the power to select another individual on the board to take his or her place,” Pride said. “This does not impact the board’s normal rotation in any way.”

Farmville 701 District Supervisor and Board Vice Chairman Jim Wilck quickly seconded the motion.

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Farmville 801 District Supervisor and Board Chair Pattie Cooper-Jones opened the floor for discussion, and then Wilck added, “I think it’s a good idea.”

Buffalo District Supervisor C.R. “Bob” Timmons Jr. alluded to the board’s existing policy on the matter when he said, “When we adopted that rotation, we discussed that process. The process is if you don’t want to take it, it moves to the next one. That’s very clear in our policy that we’ve established, and I don’t see a need to make a change to that.”

Jim Wilck

“Well, Bob, that can be changed by a motion,” Wilck said.

“I understand you,” Timmons replied. “I said, I don’t see any reason to change that policy to make that happen.”

Wilck said, “Well, personally, I don’t know, I’m assuming maybe that Odessa may fall into that category, and if she doesn’t want to serve and she wants to appoint somebody to take her place, I don’t have a problem with that.”

Timmons said the established policy “just makes it cleaner, it makes it where there’s no division.”

According to the minutes of the board’s Jan. 9, 2018, regular meeting, then-Chairman Robert M. “Bobby” Jones “stated that at the organizational meeting in 2016, it was determined the selection of chairman and vice chair would be by rotation.”

As listed in the board packet for the Jan. 9 meeting, the board’s bylaws state, “The position of chairman and vice chairman of the board shall be rotated annually among the board members. The rotation process will commence with the most senior member, that is being the member from District 101 serving as chairman and the member from District 201 serving as vice chairman. Seniority will be based on cumulative months/years of service on the board of supervisors, which need not be consecutive. In keeping with this policy, the selected vice chairman will be elevated the following year to serve as chairman. Upon completion of serving a term as chairman, that district’s board member would move to the end of the rotation list. A board member shall have a minimum of one year of service on the board prior to election as the vice chairman and two years of service prior to election as the chairman. Should a member of the board decline to seek the nomination as chairman or vice chairman, that district’s board member would move to the end of the rotation list of seniority and the rotation would proceed to the next higher district number. If a tie shall occur in the seniority of board members, the board member from the lower-numbered district shall succeed as vice chair/chair first.”

At the December meeting, Pride entered the discussion on her motion when she asked about about the existing policy.

“So my understanding is that if and when my time comes, and I prefer not to be the chairman, it would be passed to the next one in the rotational process?” she said.

C.R. “Bob” Timmons Jr.

In reference to Pride’s motion, Prince Edward County Administrator Wade Bartlett asked, “If you choose member A, and then member A is the next in line, would that member stay in line?”

Timmons said, “That would be different than what our policy is, and I think our policy, once we set it up and follow it, it eliminates any kind of division within the board, because every board (member) knows exactly who’s going to be the vice chair and chair for the upcoming year.”

He added that “we spent a lot of time developing this policy.”

Lockett District Supervisor Jones said, “It also gives each district an equal opportunity to have a person in charge.”

Wilck said, “If Odessa does not want to serve as chairman, for whatever reason and so forth, it doesn’t mean that she abdicates. In other words, she can select somebody else to do the job, and I see nothing wrong with that.”

Timmons again referred to the existing policy, prompting Wilck to say, “I understand, Bob, but you realize that we can change any policy by a vote. You keep going back to what happened before. Vote against it if you don’t like it, but I think it’s a good deal.”

He later said that the proposed new policy would allow someone who does not want to be chair to select somebody who would do a good job as opposed to just turning things over to the next person in the rotation.

“Are (you) saying that the next person in the rotation wouldn’t do a good job, Jim?” Timmons said. “That’s what you just said.”

Pattie Cooper-Jones

Wilck replied, “Well, I’m just saying, I think some people would do a better job than others, Bob.”

Cooper-Jones concluded the discussion by noting that “the rules of the board shall be reviewed and adopted in January of each year. These rules may subsequently be suspended or amended by two-thirds vote of the entire board. Upon a motion to suspend or amend, the mover shall be allowed two minutes to state the reasons for his or her motion, and one member opposed to the motion shall be allowed an equal time to object. So we can do this in our January meeting.”

In a Wednesday interview, Bartlett provided some insight into some of the key powers the board chair has.

Wade Bartlett

“The chair can set the tone of the board,” he said. “We talk with the chair on the agenda for each meeting during the year and get approval on that. Now, the chair can add anything to the agenda on his or her own volition, whereas it would take at least two other board members — any two can add something to agendas anyway.”

He later added, “Probably the biggest impact the chair has is on the appointment of the committees. The chair appoints members to the various committees. Now, if you read in the protocol, the rest of the board does have an ability to vote on that, but I’ve never seen where the rest of the board has ever denied the chair the appointments that he or she so desires. Theoretically they could, but I’ve never seen it happen.”

As stated in the Jan. 9, 2018, board packet, the chair appoints the chairs and members to each of the following standing and ad-hoc committees: finance, legislative, properties, strategic planning, personnel, library and bus.

“Now, the chair also then serves as the face, we’ll say, of the county at various events,” Bartlett said, noting that Cooper-Jones, the current chair, ran the press conference last week in which Gov. Ralph Northam announced the move to Prince Edward County of YakAttack, LLC.