Washburn's alderman seat remains empty

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Clerk believes preconceived ideas about position scare away potential aldermen

The city of Washburn has had an empty alderman chair at its city council meetings for a while now, which Julie Grillone, city clerk, finance director, and court clerk, said has not been filled most likely because of preconceived ideas about what the position would entail.

"We've had an open position for a long time," Grillone said. "We had someone who had been in office but moved out of town, which left a vacancy there, until last year when Cheryl Floyd stepped up and approached the city. She accepted and was appointed to the position. Then, right after, one of the incumbents that had been here for years and years stepped down and left another vacancy. We're still waiting to hear interest on who wants to step up."

Grillone said having the vacancy has not been burdensome to the city, but officials would like to see the seat filled.

"It's always good to have a well-rounded and full council," she said. "That's always in the best interests of the city, but no one has had extra duties [because of the vacancy]."

Grillone said residents have sent in anonymous nominations for someone whom they think would be a good candidate to serve on the council, but when she contacts them, they are not interested.

"Usually their name is written in without their awareness of it," she said. "Someone says, 'I think this person would be a great person for this, and [the person nominated] has no idea until I call and tell them. Most of the time, however, they don't have any interest whatsoever."

Grillone said she believes the lack of interest is due to people having the preconceived notion that the position will require too much of their time, be fraught with drama or they just will not be qualified. None of which are realistic, she said.

"Most people have the idea it would take time they don't have, and a lot of people feel they don't know enough to sit on a council," she said. "They have no idea what it entails, and most are too reluctant to go as far as to ask. I think most people are just trying to avoid what's perceived as a drama-filled situation."

The council meets once per month, on the third Thursday, to go over city business.

"Our meetings typically last anywhere from 20 minutes to one hour," she said. "I always provide the council books beforehand. It's always wise to review them before they come. It gives the state of affairs of the city, and any upcoming ideas [from residents], such as 'Hey, what are you doing about the streets?'"

The time investment really depends on the council member, she said.

"Some [council members] get very involved, but it can involve as much time as they want," she said.

Grillone, who has served as city clerk for more than five years, said if there's a concern with anything, residents usually come to her, but she and the council are hoping the right person will step up to fill the vacant seat.

"I have felt a great deal of responsibility for this city for a long time, which I have been happy to carry through," she said. "If people have a concern, they usually voice it to me."

For more details about serving on Washburn's city council, people can call Grillone at 417-826-5242.

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