Supervisors have already indicated some committees that could get the axe—or even be reborn—at the first meeting of the Ad Hoc Committee on Advisory Boards, Commissions, and Committees.
Although the meeting was only organizational in nature, the three supervisors on the committee—Supervisors Kristen C. Umstattd (D-Leesburg) and Suzanne M. Volpe (R-Algonkian) and Chairwoman Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large)—came with ideas about the county’s 54 committees.
Some boards, which apparently have no meetings or mission, caused supervisors to wonder what their purpose is or if they even exist—such as the Trespass Towing Advisory Board, which is distinct from the Police Directed Towing Advisory Board. The Towing Advisory Board was created to develop an ordinance for non-consensual towing of trespassing vehicles, and according to materials prepared for the committee on committees, it has no bylaws, no annual report, no work plan, and no minutes. It is made up of representatives from the towing industry and law enforcement, as well as a citizen representative. Lacking a representative from the sheriff’s office, it has been put on hold.
“On paper, there’s no reason for this board,” Randall said. “And if there is a reason for this board, I’d like to know it.”
In other places, Randall looked at expanding committees’ roles, or even recreating defunct committees. The Art Advisory Commission, for example, could do more than simply select art for the walls outside the county boardroom. And the Commission on Women, which was previously retired, could be stood back up.
“I believe that a commission on women can have a much more powerful, much stronger place in our community,” Randall said.
The committee on committees has an uphill battle already.
“The reason you don’t see people here today, you don’t want to have a staff liaison sit in here and have to tell you on the public record that their committee or their advisory board that they work with really doesn’t need to be in existence,” Volpe said. “They’re not going to do it.”
She also said at their best these panels—like the Facilities Standards Manual Public Review Committee—save the county thousands of dollars per hour in subject matter expertise. The Facilities Standards Manual Public Review Committee reviews proposed revisions to the Facilities Standards Manual, which guides head-spinningly technical design and construction standards for subdivisions and site plans. Randall said she didn’t understand everything that was said at a recent meeting of that committee, but that its members are “incredibly dedicated, incredibly smart, incredibly nerdy, wonky people who are doing really good work.”
On the other hand, Volpe said, some have trouble even making quorum—either because they haven’t had enough appointments, or because members simply don’t show up.
“Everybody figures, hey, I can join this commission and have something to put on my résumé to show my day job I’m doing some community service or whatever, and they don’t show up to meetings,” Volpe said. “The worst offender we had was someone who literally did not go to their commission meeting—I believe it was for over three years.”
The committee on committees will take up the work of balancing other committees’ missions and work against the cost in both money and staff time. Supervisors asked for more information from the county’s various advisory boards, committees and commissions before it gets back to work in earnest.