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Board to take holiday vacation until January

By Randy Bell

As is the tradition, the Clinton Board of Aldermen won’t hold a second meeting in December. It voted December 5 to cancel the meeting that would normally be held on the third Tuesday of the month, December 19.


“That’s the way we’ve always done it,” says Mayor Phil Fisher, “one Board meeting in December.” He points out that the third Tuesday falls less than a week before Christmas, “and it just became too crowded.” The City is on solid legal ground in canceling the meeting because, under State law, only one monthly meeting is required. The next meeting will be held January 2.
The Clinton Board also holds work sessions, typically on the Monday preceding a meeting, to hash out items on the Tuesday night agenda. But there’s talk of cutting back to only one work session per month, as was the practice before the new Board took office.


Ward 3 Alderman Robert Chapman brought up the idea at the December 4 work session. In his short time on the Board, Chapman says some of the work sessions have been productive.
“But [in some work sessions], we’ve talked about issues that weren’t necessarily pertinent to the next Board meeting.” And, as a young parent, [he’s 39] Chapman says he misses the time away from his family.


When he ran in a special election in August of 2022, “I knew what I was signing up for,” Chapman says. “But having to sacrifice a lot of time with my kids, a lot of my time with my family, it’s starting to weigh on me.” Recently, Chapman says he missed his son’s soccer game because of a work session and was able to attend only two of the boy’s flag football games this fall. He believes by becoming more efficient in its work sessions, the Board can get by with only one each month—although an emergency or some other unexpected issue might necessitate a second session.


“If there’s something pertinent and very important that we need to talk about, by all means,“ Chapman says.


He also thinks reducing the number of meetings Board members are expected to attend will also encourage other younger Clintonians to consider running for office.


“I think that there are 25-year-olds out there, 29-year-olds, 35-year-olds, that have a lot of really great ideas and an investment in this city,” said Chapman. “But, if the time commitment dissuades them from being participants, then that could be a detriment to the city.”


Ward 2 Alderman Jim Martin thinks cutting back on the Monday night meetings might be a mistake.


“Having two work sessions, I think we have more opportunity to review things coming down the pike, rather than doing last-minute decisions when we’ve got important things that need to be looked at,” cautions Martin.


Alderwoman-at-Large Ricki Garrett believes there’s a need for the Board to hold two discussions each month.


“Besides the numerous items that we have every month to work through, there’s [also] some long-range planning and long-range thinking we need to be spending some time on, and rarely do we have a spare minute,” Garrett says. “So, I think there’s some value in those extra meetings.”


Garrett has not been able to attend many of the Board meetings and work sessions in person this year, because of her job in Washington. Since April, she’s been serving as the interim president and CEO of Sister Cities International, a nonprofit citizen diplomacy network which works to create and strengthen relationships between communities in the U.S. and in other countries. That’s limited her time in Clinton, and she’s often relied on phone connections or Zoom calls to participate in her official City duties.


“I’d say I’ve probably been here in person a third of the time,” Garrett says, “but I have not missed any work sessions or Board meetings. So, I’ve been present, just in another way. I’d much rather be here in person; it just happens that my work has taken me away for the last six months.”


And, in the coming year, “I anticipate being away some, but, hopefully, not as much as I have been,” Garrett says.


Mayor Phil Fisher says he understands that a Board member might occasionally need to be out of town and have to attend a meeting virtually. But he says longer-term absences concern him.


“That means you’re not here during the week, either. People expect for their representatives to be in place. They expect them to be available,” Fisher says.


Garrett says, even though she might be almost a thousand miles away some of the time, she keeps in touch with her constituents.


“They call me on the phone or text me,” she said. “I am good about getting back to them.” She also points out that she writes a column for The Clinton Courier after every Board meeting.

1 Comment

  1. MyshaelNum on February 5, 2024 at 3:34 am


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