GENEVA – What would typically have been perfunctory approval of the mayor’s appointees to the Geneva Historic Preservation Commission on Monday turned into a debate on the process of how volunteers are chosen for advisory boards and commissions.
Aldermen voted unanimously to accept Mayor Kevin Burns’ appointment of Geri Schock-Soderberg, a nurse and 2002 graduate of Geneva High School. But when it came to the appointment of another Geneva grad, Zac Ploppert – Class of 2008 – the vote was split, 8-2.
The dissenting votes came from 1st Ward Alderman Mike Bruno – who defeated Ploppert for the aldermanic seat in April in a hotly contested race – and 4th Ward Alderman Dorothy Flanagan.
“It seemed like this candidate came in with an agenda to dilute the Historic Preservation Commission,” Bruno said of Ploppert. “There seems to be no shortage of other qualified candidates. I’m a little concerned with the stated public opinions that we have had from Mr. Ploppert to see him nominated here.”
Bruno referred to their differences on the campaign trail with regards to property owners’ rights.
Fifth Ward Alderman Craig Maladra said while Ploppert “did make some strong statements during the campaign,” his perspective was held by many.
Maladra said Ploppert’s opinions would not dilute the commission’s charge because it had to follow the guidelines of the U.S. Interior Department.
Burns said bringing in different opinions would only strengthen the advisory body, not dilute it.
Bruno and 3rd Ward Alderman Dean Kilburg suggested the council look at a more open way to choose appointments of volunteers to the city’s advisory boards. Kilburg suggested they come before the Committee of the Whole.
Burns said “advice and consent” refers to aldermen accepting or rejecting his appointment. Burns said he would not open up the process to hours of debate over each person considered.
“It’s about faith in the mayor’s appointment,” Burns said.
Fifth Ward Alderman Tom Simonian suggested that Bruno run for mayor himself. Bruno said he had no plans at the present time.
For his part, Ploppert took the divided vote and ensuing debate as a badge of honor.
“I have no hidden agenda,” Ploppert said. “I have no intent to try and dilute anything. My love for Geneva is my only agenda ... and to make sure there are differing opinions. Like Mayor Burns said, if we all have the same opinion on the board, we’re going to have ‘group think.’ ”