Search the Archive:

Back to the Table of Contents Page

Back to The Almanac Home Page


Publication Date: Wednesday, November 27, 2002

Portola Valley town debate: setting term limits for committee chairs Portola Valley town debate: setting term limits for committee chairs (November 27, 2002)

** Council hears of discord between town committees and staff.

By Sharon Driscoll

Almanac Staff Writer

A proposal to limit the terms of committee and commission chairmanships in Portola Valley is shining a light on discord between the volunteer committees and staff, and the volunteers' frustration over a perceived lack of access to the Town Council.

The council on November 13 debated but took no action on the proposal, which would limit to two years the terms of committee and commission chairs.

Initially suggested as a tool to encourage committee members to gain leadership training and experience -- and as a way out of the job for chairs who sometimes reluctantly stay on for years when no one else steps up to the plate -- the term-limit proposal contributed to the resignation of one committee member, the council learned.

"This proposal was a factor in my resigning," said Bill Pickering, former chair of the Parks and Recreation Committee, who resigned in October.

Mr. Pickering explained that committee chairs need time to learn the ropes of the job, and limiting their terms would mean losing valuable experience. But, he added, this issue was the least of committee members' concerns.

"There are bigger problems than this," Mr. Pickering said. "Developing a team between the council, staff and committees, and having access to the council" are bigger issues of concern.

Mr. Pickering accused the town staff of taking months to get important committee items on the council agenda, thus slowing progress to a snail's pace. "We should have better access to the council," he said.

Trails Committee Chair Dr. Mary Hufty, during a discussion of another agenda item, expressed frustration over the lack of communication between town staff and her committee, and threatened to resign her position because of a disagreement on trail herbicide spraying in which the council overrode her committee's recommendations in favor of staff's.

Some council members worried that the term-limit proposal might discourage volunteers.

"I think this is unnecessary. Our committee chairs are adults who can assess for themselves if they are burnt out," said Councilman Richard Merk. Mr. Merk questioned whether the purpose of the term-limit proposal was to "get rid of" people council members don't agree with.

Mayor Davis, who first raised the issue, which is similar to one recently adopted by the town of Woodside, said that nothing could be further from the truth.

"We have a leadership vacuum," he said. "People who might blossom aren't given the chance to."

"It's leadership development," said Councilman Kirke Comstock.

In the end the council agreed to circulate the proposal to the committees and the commission for comment.

"I do not want a document that discourages volunteers," said Councilman Ted Driscoll.


Copyright © 2002 Embarcadero Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Reproduction or online links to anything other than the home page
without permission is strictly prohibited.