Herald-Whig View

Picking new member Park Board's first challenge

Posted: Apr. 16, 2017 12:30 am

THE Quincy Park Board will take on a decidedly different look next month when four new commissioners are seated. Two incumbents chose not to seek another term, and two others lost re-election bids April 4, leaving John Frankenhoff, Tom Ernst and Jeff Steinkamp as the only holdovers.

Now Ernst has stepped aside with two years remaining on his term to represent the 3rd Ward as an alderman on the Quincy City Council. So, one of the first actions by the new board will be to select his replacement to serve until the 2019 election.

First, the board must decide how it will choose a seventh commissioner.

Some have suggested the board consider following recent precedent and solicit candidates from the community before conducting interviews and selecting a new board member.

This process was used when Steinkamp was originally appointed to the board in 2015. Former commissioner Jerrod Welch and outgoing commissioner Jon Hoover also were selected in this manner.

However, none of those appointments was made immediately after an election that featured additional candidates. An unprecedented 13 people sought a combination of six four- and two-year terms earlier this month.

That stood in stark contrast from two years earlier when only two people filed for three available seats, necessitating an interim appointment. In fact, only three of the previous seven Park Board elections dating to 2003 were contested.

So, given the timing and the large candidate field, it makes sense to choose Ernst's replacement from among the seven who sought but did not earn a seat in the April 4 election.

They already have demonstrated their interest in serving by placing their names on the ballot and campaigning for the job, and voters have been given a chance to weigh in.

That leaves the question of which one of those seven to select, given the ballot was split into two separate races and sets of candidates.

The strongest case could be made for Sara Reuschel, director of patient experience at Quincy Medical Group. She had the highest vote total among those seeking one of the four four-year terms and not earning a seat with 3,515. She was just 132 votes shy of the fourth-place finisher.

Moreover, she has been a member of the board of directors of Friends of the Trails, which has been assisting the Park District with funding for the continued extension of the Bill Klingner Trail.

A case also could be made for Andy Edgar, manager of facilities and environmental sustainability at Manchester Tank, who received 2,217 votes to finish a distant third behind Steinkamp and Kelly Stupasky in the separate race for the two-year seats.

He believes the board needs to address the decline in the number of rounds played at Westview Golf Course, the drop in the number of slip rentals at the marina and the overall decline in softball participation.

Clearly, renewed interest in the Quincy Park District, its more than 1,000 acres of parks, and the various programs and services it provides has put the Park Board in an enviable position in making this choice.

Most important, the new Park Board should make its selection of a commissioner with the realization that the decision will help chart its course for the next two years.