1st District Supervisor Roger Gitlin’s debut as a sitting board member Jan. 8 was a study in group dynamics from my perspective.

I was disappointed in his delayed welcome to the board as a new member in several aspects; the first being that he was not acknowledged as welcome by Chairman Mike Sullivan until after introduction of new employees and committee reports 10 minutes after the opening of the meeting. One would expect that a new board member would be be acknowledged as welcome to the board and to the public in his/her official capacity as the first order of business.

His eventual welcome came in a somewhat incidental manner, as if to say “oh! by the way, glad to have you aboard” or something similar 10 minutes after the opening.

The disappointment was furthered by Supervisor Gerry Hemmingsen with his remark of hoping Mr. Gitlin would do as well as departing Supervisor McNamer had.Not exactly a vote of confidence nor a note of welcome.

Although subtle, there was a noticeable seating distance between the positioning of Supervisor Gitlin’s chair/microphone setup from that of the other members’. I wondered if this was a sort of rite for incoming members.

Supervisor McClure’s placing of a bottle of water at Supervisor Gitlin’s space as she entered was a nice touch and might be considered a non-verbal welcome.

As the meeting went forward and people were invited to speak per the agenda, the most notable aspect was Supervisor Gitlin’s engagement with the presenters, largely consisting of questions.

Of course it’s expected that an incoming member would be less knowledgeable at that point, but his questions turned largely on the focal point of “is this really needed?” or “can the state/county really afford this now?” What I saw exhibited was not a “buck stops here” attitude but rather “the buck has already stopped and there will be no blank checks issued here” attitude.

Perhaps the most dramatic moment of the entire meeting was after the testimony of Supervisor McClure’s nephew, Zack Larson who was seeking county approval of a contract to count fish in the Smith River. Supervisor Gitlin inquired of counselor Gretchen Stuhr whether that situation presented a conflict of interest.

The ensuing sound of silence was almost breathtaking. When she replied that the safe course must be followed, Supervisor McClure abstained in the vote.

The meeting is available on the Del Norte website.

Dale Bohling, Crescent City

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