Letter to editor: Others should have been vetted for commission
By: Linda Lehrke, South Washington County Bulletin
Here we are again as city officials move ahead with their plan. Do citizens who want to be involved have a fair chance?
One councilman thought so at the Jan. 19 Cottage Grove City Council meeting.
It reminded me of a talk I had earlier that day with a co-worker about issues facing us. He made the comment that once in office, they all become the same and then we need to vote again to get rid of the reformer we last voted in. He quoted from hundreds of years ago, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” So, is this true? I told him I believe we can find people who are not totally changed when they become a politician.
At the council meeting, Karla Bigham’s was appointed to the Environmental Commission, recommended by council member Justin Olsen with no interviews of the other applicants for the position. Besides not inviting the others for an interview, Olsen also asked Bigham if she wanted to be the chairman.
Mayor Myron Bailey inserted they don’t always have people applying for some of the positions and sometimes are not ‘quality’ applicants so some seats have remained vacant. Council member Derrick Lehrke pointed to a large number of applicants for this position and said when he previously applied for a commission seat, he did not even receive a reply – “not even a thank you but no thank you.”
Sounds like the “good ol’ boys.” It’s who you know, not who might bring a new face to the city, with new and different ideas. Our government is based on discourse – not everyone agrees, but all ideas are considered. Lehrke questioned how they appoint to commissions saying, “With all due respect councilman (Olsen), you only interviewed one person … we’ve been encouraging people for the last few months to send their applications in … to interview at least more than one person you could say Karla is better … right now you are saying Karla is the only one … and I can’t buy that.”
Olsen was obviously unnerved when Lehrke was trying to understand why he was the only council member wondering why others were not included. Olsen replied, “In all due respect to the new council member, we all take this very seriously and we take what we do with a great deal of importance. So to try to separate yourself in that way, is about as egotistical as it gets…”
Egotistical is having inflated ideas of your own importance, conceited, an exaggerated sense of self-importance, a disregard of others. The other applicants were disregarded by Olsen and he tried to cover this fact by saying, “Karla Bigham is an exceptional applicant for the commission … and anybody who disputes that is a fool.”
It’s not about Karla; it’s about the process, the fact that there was no effort put into the other candidates.
Lehrke is the mother of Cottage Grove City Council member Derrick Lehrke