Cerino Calls for More Diversity on Town Commissions and Committees

Shortly after year-end reports from several Chestertown commissions on Monday, Mayor Chris Cerino said he needed more help diversifying the town’s commissions and committees.

“This is something that’s kind of just left to the mayor…I will tell you all it is not easy to fill these commissions with any volunteers of any race,” Cerino said at the Jan. 4 Town Council meeting.

He said the volunteer nature of the commissions and committees was the biggest barrier to recruiting.

“It’s all volunteer and in some cases you’re doing some pretty serious work that involves many many hours of your personal time on behalf of the town,” he said.

Cerino said citizens saw him and the council as “a barrier of entry for minority candidates to join these commissions.”

“I hope you all understand that certainly has never been my intention at all,” he said. “Whenever I think anybody could be decent on one of these commissions [and] volunteers to do the work, I’m thrilled regardless of race, color or creed because it’s hard to fill these spots.”

Cerino said there was a vacancy on the Historic District Commission and two openings on the Recreation Commission.

“If you guys know minority candidates that you think would be good for these positions, please let me know,” he told the council. “It would be nice to get some diversity. If we have good candidates let me know especially if they express interest.”

He said the Planning Commission had some diversity in the past and pointed to former members Sam Shoge and Pam Ortiz as examples.

 

2 comments

  1. Me thinks the Mayor doth protest too much

    In the 13 years I have lived in Chestertown, not once has any Mayor, any Council member, or any Town employee publicly solicited any candidate for any appointed Committee or Commission–let alone a candidate to represent the diversity of our Town’s population.

    When I was a member of the Historic District Commission, I suggested to its then chair and our Town-employee liaison that the chair write a Letter to the Editor to our local media seeking applicants for a Commission opening. I was told by both that “we” don’t do that.

    In 2020, as Rev. Tolliver strove to have the Council adopt a truly representative Human Rights Commission, he filed a draft Ordinance and supporting memo that specifically pointed out that the three dozen or so members of several Committees and Commissions appointed by the Mayor included less than a handful of Persons of Color.

    Rev. Tolliver’s proposed Human Rights Commission addressed this very apparent inequality by setting out a nomination process that took the nomination process away from the Mayor and empowered the Commission’s chair and vice chair to seek qualified candidates and present those to the Council for affirmation.

    This nomination process was one of the provisions Tom Herz targeted and which ultimately led to Rev. Tolliver withdrawing his proposed Commission.

    So kudos to the Mayor for coming to the party, albeit late.

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