BCL Trustees split on candidates for open library board seat

December 13, 2013
Santa Paula News

By Peggy Kelly 

Santa Paula Times   

After almost two-and-a-half hours of interviews and discussions, Blanchard Community Library Trustees remained evenly split on two candidates to replace late Trustee Suzi Skutley. 

If trustees don’t make a decision at a special meeting December 19 or before the January deadline, they have two options: call for a pricy special election or turn it over to the county Board of Supervisors to appoint a member to fill the one-year balance of Skutley’s term.

Skutley, 64, passed November 7; she had been a BCL Trustee and member of the five-person panel since January 2005. Skutley was initially appointed to the seat to replace a trustee who stepped down and later elected to the panel.

There were three candidates for the seat: Tim Hicks, Laura Phillips and Melissa Wodzinski.

Based largely on trustee comments, it seemed Hicks’ experience on elected boards and commissions-and knowledge of the Brown Act-and Phillips’ past experience in community project organization-she and Marisue Eastlake spearheaded the skate park-and library volunteerism were priorities in being selected as the final candidates.

The split seemed balanced on longevity: Hicks was supported by veteran Trustees Brenda DeJamear and Beverly Mueller while Phillips was favored by one-year incumbents Board President Linda Spinks and Maureen Coughlin. 

Coughlin initially favored Wodzinski, a library supporter and patron as well as a founder of a successful girls’ youth organization.

Candidates had submitted questionnaires asking for input on board service interest, personal experiences and skills that would benefit the library and identifying unmet needs of the community and BCL’s role in fulfilling them, among others.

Several of the questions were asked again for further clarification during the interview process as well as new ones such as duties of the board and goals.

Strategic planning was also emphasized as well as the upcoming recruitment and selection of a new library director to replace Dan Robles, the 30-plus year BCL library veteran who was terminated in April. 

One question centered on how the candidates’ would interpret intellectual freedom and the freedom to read was withdrawn and substituted with how the candidates would handle public complaints. 

When asked what they would place on the agenda for the January meeting, Hicks said he would like to see overall library plans presented and updated in six-month increments, learn how programs are funded and obtain more information on the endowment.

Phillips opted for requesting a status update on adult programming, what is needed and what could generate library visits by adults including those seeking second careers or now retired.   

DeJamear said Hicks would best serve the board, as “I appreciate the fact he’s had experience with boards and the Brown Act.”

Spink said she preferred Phillips because “She is a coordinator, planner and doer.... “ 

The first vote was 2-2 on the candidates; more discussion by trustees and pitching their candidates did not sway votes on either side the second time around.

Mueller said trustees could leave the decision to supervisors, a process that Interim Library Director Ned Branch said is not clearly defined in government code. 

“Maybe I’ll step down and they (Hicks, Phillips) can each serve six months,” joked DeJamear.

The matter was tabled until trustees meet again December 19 p.m. at the library, 119 N. 8th St. For the time of the special meeting, check the Blanchard Community Library website, www.rain.org/~stapaula/

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