Running local government doesn’t just happen by electing City and County councilors. Citizens play an essential role by sharing their personal time, knowledge and experience by sitting on one of the many Board and Commissions (B&Cs) at the City or County level. In this article we’ll walk through the types, roles and value of people who advise elected officials and government employees on a wide range of issues.
Boards and Commissions are advisory groups that are topic specific, meet periodically, gather information, hold public hearings, and generate recommendations for local government employees and elected officials to assist them in making decisions.
How many Boards and Commissions (B&Cs) are there? According to to the Clark County website, there are 41 as of February 2016. That’s just for Clark County. Each city has their own B&Cs. Following are links to the cities in Clark County with their lists. (Note that some cities also show some County B&Cs, so there may be overlap):
- Vancouver: (22 listed of which ~ 6 may be duplicates with the County)
- Battle Ground: (4 listed)
- Ridgefield: (5 listed)
- La Center: (3 listed)
- Camas: (29 listed but most appear to be positions held by City Council members)
- Washougal: (12 listed)
Total listed (may include overlaps with the County): 116 B&Cs between Cities and County
Some B&Cs are required by the State and others are local choices. If the B&C is a local choice (not State-mandated), it may be disbanded at any time at the discretion of local decision makers (this would be either the County Manager, County Councilors, or City official).
How are appointments handled and who makes the choices? Clark County and the various cities typically use an application process. In the case of Clark County B&Cs, positions mandated by the State are appointed by and report to the County Councilors. The B&Cs created by the County are appointed by and report to the County Manager. B&Cs are usually created at the County level because departments and/or officials believe there is value in having citizen input on the designated topic.
Are there qualifications for B&Cs? The answer is a firm… maybe. There are some that are very specific about their educational or experience requirements. In some cases one must live within a certain geography or be a resident of the County or City for a minimum defined amount of time. If there are requirements they will be noted under the B&C position and/or on the application.
Are there appointment terms? Yes. Every position will have a defined period of time. Most require that, as the end of the term nears, the members must reapply if they wish to continue. Virtually all require that attendance at or above some percent of planned meetings must occur or the member can be removed. If someone resigns, the person filling that slot will complete the balance of the term. Terms are typically staggered so there’s always a mix of board-specific experience among the members.
Why are B&Cs important? Properly staffed, the B&Cs have the time and experience to develop useful recommendations for elected public servants and senior bureaucrats who may not have the background or time to properly understand the specific topic. Further, citizens involved in B&Cs can and should act as a magnifying lens into the processes of government operations.
How often do the B&Cs meet? That varies widely. Some meet several times a month and others only meet several times a year. Each position description will provide those details.
Participating in B&Cs – Summary:
- Getting involved means you are actively participating in your government and in so doing can have an influence.
- Your knowledge and experience bring significant value and help improve decision making for elected public servants and senior bureaucrats.
- Boards and Commissions are a great way to delve into how public planning and policy is conducted and developed, as well as a way to establish connections and alliances. This is the type of activity that will be useful for those considering running for an elected office.
ClarkCounty.info promotes wise and ethical local government. Toward this goal we encourage our readers to consider finding time in your busy life to become a member of a Board or Commission.