Members of City Council met with the city’s civil commissioners and board chairs on Thursday, Jan. 14 at the U.S. Cellular Center Banquet Hall for an introductory luncheon to kick off 2016.
Mayor Esther Manheimer welcomed the group and introduced council members Vice Mayor Gwen Wisler, Cecil Bothwell, Julie Mayfield and Gordon Smith. The mayor thanked those in attendance for their time and participation. The City of Asheville has 34 active boards and commissions with over 250 members who generally serve as unpaid volunteers and provide input on city policies. These citizen leaders advise the mayor and City Council on a variety of issues.
After the mayor’s introductory remarks, Wisler directed the remainder of the meeting. She outlined the functions of board chairs and commissioners, as well as how those roles fit into the overall workings of city government. Wisler urged all board chairs and commissioners to submit their prospective agendas by January 18 so that Council will be able to take them into consideration during the upcoming City Council retreat.
Each attendee introduced him or herself and his or her board or city department. Then Wisler led the group in defining the specific roles for board chairs and members, staff liaison supports and Council liaisons. She also outlined City Council’s expectations for those positions.
Wisler introduced Marsha Stickford, neighborhood coordinator for the city, who is heading up an effort to restart Asheville’s Citizen Academy. The Citizen’s Academy (which has been defunct since 2008) aims to create more transparency in city government and to explain the workings of local government to interested citizens. Stickford reported that a pilot Citizen’s Academy is projected for May 2016. She invited attendees to participate in the pilot program and to provide feedback regarding additional areas to include in the training.
Wisler asked each table group to discuss its suggestions for better collaboration between the boards and commissions, city staff and City Council. Notes from each table’s discussion were collected to share with Council.