Darien is lucky to have a thriving pool of volunteers.
Whether it be for philanthropic organizations, parent teacher organizations, the town’s three fire departments, or town boards and commissions — the supply of those ready and willing to sacrifice their time seems to be endless.
Town boards and commissions are different than other types of volunteer work, in that they are either elected by the people, are appointed by those who are elected by the people.
Either way, those who do the town’s business are vetted by the community which they serve, directly or indirectly.
In a small town like Darien, when we know so many of our neighbors, that vetting process can become automatic, or feel automatic.
Those who serve in official town capacities can find themselves doing so for years, even decades.
This week a discussion over the re-appointment of a Darien Housing Authority Commissioner led to some explosive dialogue at Monday’s Board of Selectmen meeting.
The process for appointing candidates for commissions has included the tradition of offering the courtesy to the current candidate’s town committee to either reappoint or offer another candidate after that committee’s own internal vetting process.
Those candidates are then presented to the Board of Selectmen for a further vetting process.
Candidates also have the option to go directly to the Board of Selectmen for consideration. Either path requires candidates to be interviewed.
This week, First Selectman Jayme Stevenson explained that the candidate had not been re-appointed because neither of those venues had been used for re-appointment.
Stevenson said she was adhering to a protocol for appointments to commissions that had been set in place for a reason.
In a town like Darien, when everyone knows everyone, sometimes those protocols might seem unnecessary, or overkill.
But it is exactly those reasons that protocols are in place. It is all too easy to begin to take one’s position for granted, or make promises to friends for appointments, or the secret handshakes to seal the next step in one’s political career. Even if that isn’t happening, there’s always the possibility for the appearance of impropriety.
It is in the best interest of those serving on the town’s boards and commissions that the full vetting process be upheld.
It is not considered to be a sign of an ungrateful constituency that town officials submit themselves to an election at the end of every term.
By the same token, it should not be considered a sign of disrespect for appointees to submit to the same scrutiny to serve the same constituency — especially if all are in agreement that the best candidate be chosen.