By Jesse Scardina
December 01. 2014 2:01AM
Kittery seeking board, committee members
KITTERY – Several town officials are worried about a potential volunteer problem for its boards and committees if anyone were to abruptly resign.
At last Monday’s Town Council meeting, Town Manager Nancy Colbert Puff mentioned in her manager’s report a potential problem with a lack of volunteers for town boards and committees.
“When I first came on board, the council expressed concern about getting people to volunteer,” Colbert Puff said.
Nearly half a dozen town boards and committees currently have vacancies, according to Kittery’s town Web site, including the Board of Appeals, Comprehensive Plan Update Committee and the Port Authority, although Colbert Puff said the town is in the process of filling the Port Authority seats.
Having residents who may not have volunteered for a department or boards in their community decide to dive in is an important aspect of growing a town, according to Councilor Charles Denault.
“Volunteers that get on these boards can bring a new perspective,” Denault said.
Denault would know, too. Just over a year after being elected to the Town Council by one vote, Denault can often be seen at the meetings questioning various procedures and sometimes irritating the more seasoned council members.
“I think I bring some fresh ideas to the council and I love bouncing ideas off the senior guys,” Denault said, referring mostly to chairman Jeffrey Thomson and longtime Councilor Frank Dennett. “We have disagreements, but it’s political, not personal.”
Colbert Puff said the town has tried some ways to raise the awareness of the need for town volunteers, including a volunteer day where representatives from various boards spoke to interested residents, as well as keeping volunteer forms at the November election. There’s talk of setting up a table at next year’s Block Party to provide information for folks interested.
Colbert Puff said one of the town’s concerns isn’t necessarily with the one or two vacancies on the boards as they currently are, but more so if any current volunteers resigned.
“A recent example of this was when we had two people resign from the Planning Board and only had one person on the waiting list,” she said.
Another issue is the time commitment, which varies from board to board, Colbert Puff said.
“A few people have said they’d love to serve but it’s not a good time, with kids in school or something else,” Colber Puff said. “People are busy.”
Denault’s hope is that with the growth of a vibrant and happening Kittery, some of the town’s more youthful residents will donate their time to serve on the town’s boards and committees.
“It’d be awesome to see young people on boards with fresh ideas and to move away from archaic ideas,” Denault said. “When you have kids today that are 23 or 24 years old, those are the brains of the future, but a lot of young people don’t think their ideas will go anywhere.”
Denault envisions a scenario where a younger volunteer could lead to more active engagement from others of a similar ilk.
“All of a sudden, people who knew him or her start getting engaged in the process too,” he said. “Being new, it lets you try new ideas. Even if you’ve been there before, sometimes it makes sense to try it again.”