Announcement by Jeff - 5/24/2024 at 3:25 PM
Employee Post
Hi all,

Just wanted to send a note to again welcome Gary and David to the board and to share some thoughts on meeting dynamics.

Despite having two new members, our May meeting lasted 2hrs, 57 minutes. Not bad! As a little perspective, for the remainder of the year following our last May election our meetings lasted an average of 3hrs, 35 minutes. Our consultants generally spend more time explaining routine annual items as they come up throughout the first year. By year two, new members no longer need that topic intro. So year one has a built in disadvantage time-wise.

I want to continue Kendall’s efforts to keep meetings productive and minimize the duration. 2 hours or less is my goal.

There are three variables contributing to meeting duration: our consultants, the public, and us.

*Us: I do not intend to throttle discussion nor gatekeep agenda items. If you send me something you wish to have on the agenda it will go on the agenda. And if you’re speaking during a meeting, unless we steer completely off-agenda, I won’t interrupt. I will try to preside over the meeting flow while treating all of you as the equals we are. I may overstep. Know that it will be unintentional, and call me on it so I can do better. But the board member variable to meeting duration, whether it’s quantity of items submitted to the agenda or speaking time, is one I’ll leave to each of us to police individually.

*Consultants: We had a 5 day commitment from our consultants to have the board packet distributed. That has slipped in recent months. Every day the board members lose for prep the more questions get saved until the board meeting. So I’ll be revisiting the 5 day commitment with our team in the spirit of meeting efficiency.
If our consultants set us up with ample prep time, then it’s on us to have read the materials and perhaps even get some questions answered one on one ahead of the meeting. This part also isn’t for me to police. We have lives. I’m not going to cut off anyone who wishes to get briefed on something they haven’t had time to fully read or digest. But also know you can choose to abstain rather than vote on something you aren’t fluent in and don’t care to be.

*Public: Some of our longest meetings were those with intense public interest. That this is a meeting of the board that is open to the public. Not a public hearing or a town hall. For a variety of reasons, all of them noble, our meetings with public interest have often turned into community meetings. Sometimes while we sit and listen to two residents talk to each other. You know me, I actively invite our neighbors to attend and advertise the topics on the agenda. I want to hear from them. But I feel we have to at least get to a point where residents first receive recognition from the presiding officer to speak. If you watch other municipal meetings like Northlake, Argyle or Justin, outside of “public comments”, interaction with the public is minimal and by invitation from the presiding officer. I want residents to come and share their opinions. But I don’t want residents feeling so welcome that they simply begin speaking up whenever they want. These meetings go long enough with a 5 member board discussion! I’ll work with Clay and Kelsey on that front and reinforce expectations with the public at the start of “public comments”. I will not limit your ability to hear from a member of the public on any item. If they wish to be heard outside of public comments, it’s at our discretion and invitation via the presiding officer. But I’ll recognize anyone you want to hear from.

All that said, I’ll preside how the board wants me to preside. If you give me a mandate I’ll make it happen. 

The other thing I’ll commit to is continued transparency. Virtually everything substantive I’ve done as an individual elected official (operating in that capacity) I’ve brought back to the board as an FYI. I have no interest in keeping anything from any of you. In my opinion we operate better when we each contribute to the collective institutional knowledge and our discussions and decisions are born out of that foundation. I also understand that it is difficult to share something with the board but not the public. And our rather full meetings over the last year may have contributed to some cards being held individually. We’ll have to figure that piece out.
I’m also aware that the President role tends to be the primary contact for consultants between meetings. In this regard I again will not keep you in the dark nor will I make decisions meant to be made by the board. You have my commitment that I will keep you fully informed and will defer to the authority of the board to provide direction and make decisions.

Any feedback you have please reach out individually and let me know. My biggest concern in presiding is doing anything that would make you feel that I’m stepping on your positions as equal, individual elected officials. So please talk to me if you ever feel anything is off balance.

Separately, I attended Northlake’s 5/23 Town Council meeting. I offered my congratulations to the new and reelected members, shared the results of our election and status of current board, and expressed a desire for a constructive and neighborly partnership. With big changes in Northlake’s officials as well as Belmont 1’s officials I thought it important to stop by in person and show some goodwill. You can watch my comments during the “Public Input” timestamp on the meeting recording.

Have a great weekend

Belmont FWSD

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