ENFIELD, N.Y. — Enfield Town Board will consider resolutions during a special board meeting Wednesday that, if approved by the town board, and then voters, would make the highway superintendent and town clerk positions appointed instead of elected and extend the town supervisor’s elected term to four years.
With public hearings a requirement before the board can vote on the resolutions, McGee said that discussions of the proposed resolutions would begin in earnest.
“This is just being introduced and of course (certain town officials) are collectively losing their mind for it. There is lots of support on the board for this kind of action to give the town the ability to choose (whether or not to make the positions appointed and extend the supervisors term),” said McGee, adding, “The board could look at it and say we aren’t interested. If I don’t get a second (to bring it to the floor for a vote) I don’t get a second on this. To be clear, this is not something I came up with by myself, other board members have been interested, this is just the first time it has been rolled out.”
As it stands, the town clerk holds a two-year position and is paid $20,000 annually and the highway supervisor position is also a two-year position paid roughly $61,000 with health care benefits, while the town supervisor also holds a two-year term. If the board ends up passing any of the resolutions after discussion and a public hearing, the question will then be put to local voters in a referendum during November’s general election. McGee said that the board will discuss two possibilities; one that would allow affected elected officials to finish their terms and one that would cut their terms in half.
“The highway superintendent position and the clerk position need to be inherently apolitical. That they aren’t governing positions, they have no governing authority means that they have tasks at hand and those should not be political positions,” McGee said.
McGee specifically mentioned current highway superintendent Buddy Rollins as someone who has politicized the position.
“Based on all the actions and temperament and volatile expressions and overreach of the current highway superintendent and some of the challenges that we have had dealing with him over the last several years, several boards before my time even. It just is an opportunity. It was my intention to do this all along but we are approaching the deadline. Just because a crisis is going on doesn’t mean town business stops,” McGee said.
McGee was adamant that the process she was undertaking was legal and in accordance with legal advice. Boardmember Bob Lynch has already announced his opposition to the proposals.
“I will vote no on them for several reasons, the most important of which is timing. We are in the middle of a pandemic right now and I think the people of Enfield want stability more than change. And to change any nature of an office to make it appointed rather than elected is better to do after a state of emergency,” Lynch said.
Asked if he would have supported the proposals after the pandemic, Lynch said no.
“Though I would be open to a discussion on a longer-term for the clerk and superintendent,” Lynch said.
McGee said that extending the terms of the clerk and superintendent was under discussion last year, but that it was never followed up on it.
“We discussed it and basically, I didn’t have the time to follow through with it for it to be on the ballot by the deadline, so we moved on,” said McGee. “Also, there were board members who did not seem happy with the idea.”
Lynch, who has been a staunch supporter of Rollins, said that he believes keeping the position elected maintains an important separation of powers within the Enfield Town government.
“We have a five-member board, that means that three people could control the operations of the clerk and the superintendent if those positions were appointed. If they remain elected the entire local electorate gets to decide,” Lynch said.
Lynch added that while he has not talked to Rollins since the April 22 meeting where Rollins screamed at McGee to “shut up,” he said he has emailed Rollins to make him aware of McGee’s proposals.
For her part, McGee said she expects the resolutions to generate local political blowback.
“Of course the people in these positions will be reactive, but my policy has been that we don’t make policy based on personality but position and need of the town. These are big issues that have positives and negatives either way we choose… But there are plenty other issues that elicit that kind of a response, this is just one more, and I hope that regardless of how residents choose, that the town government works for more positive outcomes, regardless of how this comes down,” McGee said.
The agenda for Wednesday’s special board meeting can be found, here.
A link to the Zoom meeting can be found on the Enfield Town Board website, here.