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EDITORIAL: Maple board should fill vacant seat

Holding public office is a two-sided coin. On one side, politicians deserve public respect for their service. On the other, they have a responsibility to serve the public. A Monday decision suggests Maple School Board members don't embrace the "r...

Holding public office is a two-sided coin.

On one side, politicians deserve public respect for their service. On the other, they have a responsibility to serve the public.

A Monday decision suggests Maple School Board members don't embrace the "responsibility" side on the coin.

The board should have seven members, but in February, member Rick Forsythe resigned to avoid a possible conflict of interest. It was possible his employer would bid on the district's $6.3 million school construction project, so Forsythe correctly stepped down. But the board's decision to leave the seat unoccupied until next April's election deserves reconsideration.

Cited as justification were two factors. Superintendent Gregg Lundberg suggests it's bad policy to fill the seat through appointment rather than popular vote. And some board members say they'd just rather avoid controversy that might accompany an appointment.

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Lundberg obviously recognizes the importance of elections. But there is ample precedent for appointments. On every level of government, people are appointed to fill unexpectedly vacant seats. The policy reflects the need to adequately represent all constituents, which also is a valid concern. Such appointments are temporary, with voters deciding the matter at the next election.

The desire to avoid controversy reflects human nature, but it doesn't justify inaction by a public body. Like it or not, controversy typically accompanies the decision-making process, particularly by elected officials. It's understandable that some people feel uncomfortable taking tough stands in front of their friends and neighbors. In such cases, they shouldn't place themselves in that position.

While Maple School District will survive another 12 months with a six-member board, it was designed to have seven representatives. Members should honor that intent by filling the vacant seat.

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