The issue of whether the city should release the resumes of unsuccessful applicants to city boards has moved to the forefront of of local political discussions. As I type this, Bernie Lynch is discussing it on “City Life” with John McDonough and George Anthes and Mimi and Gerry Nutter have both written about it. Because I have personal experience with this issue, I decided to share the story of what happened to me.
Back on January 11, 2007, I received a letter from the then-new city manager Bernie Lynch which began:
The City of Lowell is seeking Lowell residents to serve as members of the Pollard Memorial Library Board of Trustees. Your name has been brought to my attention as a possible candidate to the Board. . .
The letter went on to invite me to submit my resume for the position. I had no idea who suggested my name. It was certainly not a position I had sought out. But given my background at the registry of deeds with digital records and my life-long status as a user of the Lowell library, I thought it might be a good fit. With that in mind, I decided to respond to this summons to service by sending my resume.
City Manager Lynch soon contacted me and invited me for an interview at his office. We spoke about the Pollard Library, the registry of deeds and many other things. Bernie said he had a number of resumes from people who had not previously served the city in any capacity and who would bring some new talent and diversity to city boards. I immediately stated that I didn’t have my heart set on serving as a library trustee, that if I could help the city by serving I was willing to do so but if there were others who were willing, able and capable of serving, then he should not hesitate to appoint one of them in lieu of me. The meeting ended with the Manager saying he’d make a decision soon.
That was the last I heard about my possible service as a Library Trustee until a few weeks later at a city council meeting when the City Manager did put forth one of the other applicants for the Trustee position for council approval. Back then, the city councilors were provided not only with the resume of the recommended candidate but also with the resumes of the unsuccessful applicants including mine. Suddenly there was widespread speculation in political circles and on a morning radio talk show about what was Bernie Lynch’s problem with Dick Howe? Others, not friends of mine, spread stories about me wanting to take control of the library. I repeatedly found myself asked why I was interested in serving on the library board or why Bernie had not selected me.
Overall, this application process was a very negative experience. I was invited to apply. I responded to that invitation with a caveat that I was not anxious to serve but would be willing to do so if it would be helpful. The next thing I knew, my application was being used as a political club by people who were not fans of me or the city manager.
I already hold elected office as Register of Deeds, so it was (and is) unlikely that I would be applying to serve on any city of Lowell boards (absent some special circumstances like being invited to do so by the city manager). Even so, this experience would make me very hesitant to apply for anything again. If someone applies and is selected, they become a public figure and should expect all of the attention, fair and unfair, that accompanies that status. But someone who applies but is not selected should not be subject to that scrutiny. If my experience is any indication, I do think that this new policy of releasing all resumes to the public will have a chilling effect on applications for city boards and that it will be used primarily by those searching for reasons to criticize the city manager.