Tucker appointed to Silt board | PostIndependent.com

Tucker appointed to Silt board

Ryan Hoffman
Silt Clerk Sheila McIntyre, left, swears in T.J. Tucker as the newest Silt trustee Monday, Sept. 28.
Ryan Hoffman / Citizen Telegram |

SILT — Trustees faced a difficult decision Monday, a decision so difficult that it required three attempted motions to gain support from a majority of the board.

Ultimately the board approved the appointment of T.J. Tucker to a seat on the board vacated by Jeff LaValla in August, who cited an inability to quickly find affordable housing after the house we was renting was sold as his reason for resigning. Prior to hearing from Tucker and three other applicants, the board took time to thank LaValla, who was not in attendance Monday, for his approximately 3½ years of service on the board.

Tucker, who works for Exxon, is not an unfamiliar face or name in Silt. He finished in fourth place in the 2014 election, where voters elected three trustees.

Tucker said he first engaged the board to complain about a zoning matter when he was building a fence — an experience that sparked a sense of civic duty.

During the questioning Monday, Tucker raised some issues he said were part of his 2014 effort, including the need to establish a trail or alternative route for students to travel from town to Coal Ridge High School. While he conceded such an effort would be a challenge — one involving a multitude of government agencies — those hurdles should not serve as an excuse when talking about children’s safety, said Tucker, a father of two.

He was not the only familiar face to apply for the open seat, which is up for election in April 2016 along with two other seats currently held by trustees Sonny Fernandez and Keith Richel.

Former trustee Paul Taylor, who lost his election bid in 2014, also applied for the vacant position, as did Joyce Gornick, a commissioner on the town’s planning and zoning commission.

The only applicant who could be viewed as a potential outsider was Dina Prieto — although her resume also included several stints in municipal government outside of Silt, including 14 years with the Carbondale Police Department.

The impressive crop of applicants made the decision especially difficult, said Mayor Pro Tem Bryan Fleming.

“I think this is a more difficult decision than anyone anticipated,” he said, adding that it was a good problem for the board to have.

While each applicant presented qualities that would be valuable to the board and each would make a wonderful trustee, there is something to be said for actually running for office, rather than simply being appointed, said Mayor Rick Aluise. Running for office requires one to put their “neck out there” and answer tough questions — a more grueling process that better prepares a person for serving on a board that regularly makes important and sometimes controversial decisions.

“There isn’t anyone up here doing it for the money or for their health,” Aluise said.

Using a past stab at running for office as a prerequisite, Aluise said the field, in his mind, should be narrowed to Tucker and Taylor, with Tucker being the most logical choice since he finished fourth in the last election, Aluise stated.

Both Tucker and Taylor confirmed they were going to run for a seat in April, regardless of whether or not they were appointed to the position Monday evening. While Gornick and Prieto said they were considering running, they stopped shy of answering with an definite “yes.”

That, along with Aluise’s point about running for office, convinced Fleming to back Tucker, the mayor pro tem said.

However, Taylor’s and Tucker’s commitment to running in April, along with their past experiences, presented the board an opportunity to strengthen the field of candidates in the spring by bringing on Gornick or Prieto now and giving either one of them some experience, argued Trustee Aron Diaz.

Diaz also noted remarks by both Gornick and Prieto that the board currently consists of all male members. Trustee Dylan Lewis offered his support for Gornick, whose history in the valley and volunteer work affirmed Lewis’ belief that she had the energy and motivation to do the job.

Aluise noted that Silt is one of the few towns in the region to have had a female mayor in the past, and that there has been a lack of female candidates in recent years. He stood by his belief that Tucker was the right decision since he ran and received votes from the electorate.

The disagreement led to a 3-3 vote on a motion appointing Tucker to the position, followed by a failed motion appointing Gornick to the seat.

After some discussion on the lawful procedure if the board declined to appoint an applicant Monday night, Diaz voted to support a third motion appointing Tucker to the seat, saying that having a seventh and potentially tie-breaking voting member on the board was more important than remaining a six-member board due to the stalemate.

Repeating earlier comments, Aluise encouraged all the applicants to run for election in April and thanked them.

It could be a packed field for the three seats in the spring if they choose to take Aluise’s advice. Along with Tucker and Taylor, incumbents Fernandez and Richel both confirmed Monday that they intend on running for re-election. There are no term limits for trustees or the mayor, per the town’s charter.

As Monday’s meeting concluded, Tucker thanked his fellow trustees for the opportunity and said he looked forward to serving the town.

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