WINCHESTER — City officials are evaluating Winchester’s government committees to determine their effectiveness and ensure the membership of each includes representatives from all four of the city’s wards.
The process began in September when City Manager Dan Hoffman told City Council’s Boards and Commissions Committee that some council-appointed bodies “are not representative geographically of the city.”
“Many community members in parts of the city do not have a voice on these boards and commissions,” Hoffman said in September.
For example, six of the seven current members of the Planning Commission live in Ward 1. The seventh member lives in Ward 4, leaving wards 3 and 4 without representation on the panel.
“Similar situation with the Parks and Rec Advisory Board, where of the current nine members, seven live in Ward 1, one is from Ward 2 and one is Ward 4,” Hoffman said in September. “Board of Architectural Review, all five [members] are from Ward 1. ... Many of our other committees also have a similar issue with them.”
To address the membership discrepancies, Hoffman and City Council members Judy McKiernan and Evan Clark are reviewing the existing membership of nearly three dozen council-appointed committees, commissions and authorities to ensure that each is geographically balanced.
“To make this transition is going to take a little time,” Hoffman said, in part because no current members of the boards and committees in question would be asked to step down before their terms expire. Instead, when their seats become open, council will appoint or re-appoint members in a manner that ensures all four wards are represented.
The Planning Commission has two seats coming open in December.
“We have some interest from [the two commission members] that are eligible to reapply,” Hoffman said this week. “However, if the committee wants to start to implement this [proposed update to City Code] immediately by appointing planning commissioners from wards 2 and 3 to the Planning Commission, we then would be in line with our proposed goals.”
Planning Commission members are eligible to serve two back-to-back four-year terms.
As part of the effort to ensure all four wards are equally represented in city government, Hoffman and City Council are also reviewing the effectiveness of the nearly two dozen council-appointed committees, commissions and boards. So far, the only panel proposed for elimination as part of the efficiency review is the Old Town Advancement Commission, which, if approved by City Council, would have its duties assumed by the Winchester Economic Development Authority.
A panel’s effectiveness could be helped or hindered by the number of people who serve on the body. For example, Hoffman said this week that the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board is comprised of 11 members but he is recommending that City Council reduce that size to seven.
“Eleven is a pretty unwieldy board and we often do struggle to find folks to volunteer their time,” he said. “Currently that board has nine members and two vacancies.”
Additionally, officials are reviewing City Code passages regarding board appointments because some sections are out of date or no longer relevant. For example, Winchester switched from an appointed to an elected School Board in 2020, so the portion of City Code regarding how council should make appointments to that board is no longer relative.
Hoffman told the Board and Commissions Committee this week that he’ll deliver an update on board memberships and proposed City Code changes at its next meeting on Dec. 20.
Attending Monday’s Winchester Boards and Commissions Committee meeting in Rouss City Hall were Chairman John Hill and member Phillip Milstead. Member Corey Sullivan was absent.