Volunteer to Serve on a Committee in West St. Paul

Thanks to Amore Coffee for their support.

Before many issues come to West St. Paul’s City Council, they go through various committees and commissions. These boards are made up of volunteers from within the community, and they get stuff done. You can join them!

The City Council will be considering several appointments (and re-appointments) of various committees at the January 27 meeting. If you’d like to be considered, you need to get your application in by Wednesday, January 22.

Current Openings

A number of terms are up for incumbent members, which presents an opportunity to appoint new members (or reappoint the incumbent):

  • Environmental Committee: One term is expiring, Carol Hall, and the latest we heard she has not yet reapplied.
  • Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee: Three terms are expiring—Mike Petrasek, Jay DeLaRosby, and Brad Erickson. All three have reapplied.
  • Planning Commission: Two terms are expiring—Morgan Kavanaugh and Dan McPhillips. Both have reapplied.
  • Charter Commission: Four terms are expiring—Wendy DeVore, Tim Haubrich, Mark Tessmer, and Tim Valento. You can apply now and the Charter Commission will consider applications on February 26. (Why is this one different? See below.)

So if you want to be considered for a city committee, either for this current round of openings or any future openings, apply now.

What Do Committees Do?

The city has a number of committees where residents can serve. They include:

  • Environmental Committee: Started in 2008, this is the newest committee and focuses on sustainability and beautification issues in the city. It’s also the first committee to be comprised of more women than men. The Environmental Committee became majority female in 2014 and has been ever since. See our interview with Chair Kristy Otte to learn more about the Environmental Committee.
  • Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee: This committee is focused on—you guessed it—parks and recreation in the city, including events like the Halloween Extravaganza. A sub-committee is exploring options for the art park at Butler and Oakdale. Look for our future interview with longtime Chair Mike Petrasek for more.
  • Planning Commission: New businesses and zoning issues often go through the Planning Commission as they evaluate plans and proposals, not for what they like best but for whether or not plans adhere to the city zoning code. With the December appointment of Tori Elsmore, the Planning Commission became majority female for the first time ever. Check out our interview with Chair Morgan Kavanaugh for more on the Planning Commission.
  • Charter Commission: As a charter city, the Charter Commission is how we change how our city runs. Appointments to this commission are actually made by a judge based on a joint recommendation between the Charter Commission itself and City Council. So recommendations for appointments will be discussed at the next Charter Commission meeting on February 26. See our interview with former Chair Mark Tessmer to learn more about the Charter Commission.

Those are the major committees comprised primarily of resident members. But there are also a couple other committees, the Lower Mississippi River Watershed Management Organization and the NDC4 Cable Commission that are made up of representatives from multiple cities. One City Council member and one resident from West St. Paul serve on each of those committees.

Here’s a breakdown of ward and gender representation on major committees from November.

How Does Appointment Work?

In recent years the appointment process has become somewhat controversial. The most glaring example is the 2018 sexism incident, when former Mayor Jenny Halverson’s appointment of Samantha Green to the Planning Commission was rejected by the City Council.

But that wasn’t the only controversy. In 2017 the City Council approved an appointment process for committees, and then proceeded not to follow it. In 2018 they also approved a committee expectations document, which was revised in 2019 on advice of the city attorney so that members signed to acknowledge receiving it (not that they agree to adhere to it).

In addition to the controversy, there’s also plenty of confusion. Who gets to make appointments? That varies:

  • Charter Commission: As noted above, appointments are ultimately made by a judge.
  • Planning Commission: The mayor has sole power to make appointments to the Planning Commission, but the City Council has to approve those appointments.
  • Environmental Committee and Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee: City Council makes appointments.

It can also be confusing because incumbent members are not automatically reappointed; however, they frequently are. So while openings come up every year with terms expiring, there aren’t always new members.

If you’re interested in serving your community on a committee or commission, apply now.

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