With the election on Tuesday night, Nov. 6, everyone got to see a large number of candidates who were eager to participate in government.
However, there are a host of other far less glamorous government positions – seats on Guilford County’s many boards and commissions – that aren’t seeing the same demand. A lack of interest among citizens is making it harder and harder for the county commissioners to fill those positions.
That was evident at a Thursday, Nov. 1 Guilford County Board of Commissioners meeting when the board filled seats for some county boards and had to make several exceptions to a rule that limits members of boards and commissions to two-terms because there weren’t any new takers.
On Nov. 1, the commissioners appointed or reappointed members to the Board of Adjustment, the High Point Metropolitan Planning Organization, the High Point Convention and Visitors Board, the Guilford County Agricultural Commission, the Board of Equalization and Review and the Guilford/Randolph Fire District Commission. In some cases, reappointed members had served five terms – but, again, no one else wanted the job.
Chairman of the Guilford County Board of Commissioners Alan Branson said that the county has more than 20 volunteer fire departments and it’s getting difficult to find people to serve on those boards.
“A lot of times what you’ll see, with a drop off in volunteerism in fire departments, is that it’s harder and harder to recruit these individuals to work through the budget process for each department to submit to the county,” Branson said at the Nov. 1 commissioners meeting.
The chairman said he was very familiar with the Guilford County Agricultural Commission because he has served on it since 2012 when he became a county commissioner.
“There’s less and less active farm folks out there in Guilford County now that are willing to serve on the board and meet, because a lot of them work seven days a week from sun up to sun down,” Branson said, “and they are not very apt to pull off the job at 6 or 6:30, especially during crop season.”
Guilford County Commissioner Alan Perdue said that, in some cases, such as fire department boards, members must reside in a particular area and that can severely limit the base of applicants. In the case of the Guilford/ Randolph District there’s an especially small sliver of land to pull applicants from since part of that district is in Randolph County.
Some large boards and commissions that oversee relatively obscure aspects of county government are constantly forced to operate with less than a full slate of members.
The Board of Commissioners tries to offer geographical and racial diversity on boards and commissions, but, as it becomes harder to fill positions at all, that’s becoming more of a problem. At the Nov. 1 meeting, Commissioner Carolyn Coleman said that there weren’t enough African Americans serving on the boards under discussion.
“I’m just wondering how inclusive these are because I just don’t know any African Americans on those boards,” she said.
Branson and other commissioners pointed out to Coleman that, as long as the county isn’t getting new applications for the boards and commissions from citizens, the board has few choices.
The commissioners are encouraging citizens who wish to apply for Guilford County’s boards and commissions to submit an application with the Guilford County clerk to the board’s office.
Some high profile boards that the commissioners make appointments to – such as the Guilford County Planning Board and the Piedmont Triad Airport Authority – do remain highly competitive and see a good number of applicants.