Thursday November 06, 2014
After the sudden resignation of former City Council Chair Pam Mackenzie on October 15, the four remaining council members were left with a decision: fill the vacated seat on an interim basis until the March election or leave it empty. After several meetings to discuss the city charter and to determine the selection process, the council unanimously decided to appoint long time South Burlington resident John Simson to the temporary position. The council announced the appointment after emerging from a thirty-minute Executive Session October 30. Simson will serve on the council until the March 2015 election when voters will take to the polls and elect a new councilor to finish the remaining two years of Mackenzie’s term. Simson does not plan to run for the seat in March.
Simson has been an active resident of South Burlington for 33 years. He has served on the South Burlington Charter Review Committee, two City Manager search committees, and the Affordable Housing Committee. Simson has also been instrumental in spearheading an initiative to develop a South Burlington Affordable Housing Trust Fund.
Simson’s professional life has been equally as impressive. He has a Masters in Public Administration from George Washington University and from 1970 to 1977 he was Director of the Regional Commission in Bennington County. He served as Commissioner of Housing and Community Affairs and State Planning Director in the Snelling Administration until 1982. He was also part owner of a financial services business for 22 years until he retired in 2004.
“I am pleased to have the opportunity to serve on the City Council for the next four months. I like living in South Burlington and hope I can do a good job for the city,” Simson said.
Simson’s appointment to the council occurred two weeks after word of Mackenzie’s resignation . The council held a special meeting October 17 to discuss the city charter and how to best proceed. The charter states that councilors could either appoint someone to the position for four months or remain a body of four until March. The councilors agreed to generate a list of names of people who had previously served on the council or on another city committee to assure that they would be familiar with the current issues facing the council such as budget discussions and airport litigation.
Councilors also agreed that it would be prudent to appoint someone who had no intention of running for the open seat in March since serving on the council in advance would give that person an unfair advantage. They agreed upon interview questions in open session October 20 then discussed potential candidates in an executive session immediately following the meeting.
Early on in the process, Vice Chair Pat Nowak said that ideally, the council would find someone with, “skills, talent, integrity, fairness, and someone we all feel comfortable working with.”
The council has found these characteristics and more in John Simson.
Councilor Helen Riehle said, “We are fortunate to have someone of John’s caliber willing to volunteer his time.” Riehle added that his patience, calm and measured approach, as well as his knowledge of the financial sector would be an asset to the council.
Nowak said, “We are very happy to able to appoint John because of his experience and knowledge of South Burlington City government and the community and at a time when so much work needs to get done.”
Simson attended his first meeting as councilor Monday, November 4.
SOURCE: Corey Burdick, Correspondent