Friday, Apr 20, 2018
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Council foils mayor's picks for positions in Waterville

Most of Waterville's committees and commissions remain without new members after Village Council members voted down many of the mayor's appointments last week.

Derek Merrin, the 22-year-old mayor who took office last month, was accused of trying to fill the positions with political supporters.

Mr. Merrin, for his part, conceded nothing. He defended his choices, insisting they were well qualified.

"Of the 21 people I wanted to appoint, five donated to my campaign," Mr. Merrin said. "We have 17 people on committees who donated to the last mayor, or their spouses did. Where were you during the last administration?"

Waterville's charter assigns these appointments to the mayor, subject to approval by a majority of council. The committees generally are composed of two council members and citizen volunteers, many of whom bring professional expertise in a committee's particular area of responsibility.

Mr. Merrin wanted his appointments approved at the meeting, but lost the council vote 4-3, with a few exceptions.

Voting against him were Ann Cherry, John Gouttiere, Tim Guzman, and Jim Valtin. Voting with him were Lori Brodie and Jeff Marty. The mayor participates in council votes in Waterville's system.

Ms. Cherry was the first to express unease with Mr. Merrin's proposed appointments. She noted that some of the committees, as composed by the mayor, would be left with no experienced council members.

"Public works has no council rep who has experience with public works. Public safety has two council members without experience in public safety," Ms. Cherry said.

Mr. Merrin replied that no council member had told him that he or she had public works experience.

Mr. Guzman said he had unsuccessfully sought appointment to the public safety committee and asserted the proposed appointees were political supporters of Mr. Merrin.

Mr. Merrin responded: "All of the people I have put on the safety committee are as qualified as the people who currently sit on the committee. I cannot satisfy every single council member's request to be on every committee."

He added that Donald Clark, a former Toledo police detective and a proposed appointee, was not a political supporter.

"Mr. Clark is more qualified to sit on the committee than anyone," the mayor said, "including you, Mr. Guzman."

The mayor defended his nomination to the committee of Mr. Marty, who had supported Mr. Merrin's mayoral candidacy.

"Mr. Marty has been in safety management for 15 years at UPS," Mr. Merrin said.

Mr. Marty, with Mr. Merrin's backing, was appointed last month to fill the council seat vacated when Mr. Merrin became mayor.

Mr. Valtin said he wasn't concerned about the appointment of political contributors, but "a lot of people who were not selected to serve on committees are a Who's Who of Waterville ... I guess I have a real issue that so many of them were left out ... I'm not comfortable going forward tonight with any of them."

When Mr. Gouttiere questioned the qualifications of a proposed appointee, Mr. Merrin shot back that he should be respectful of village residents.

"I am," Mr. Gouttiere replied, "and I don't need to be lectured to by a 21-year-old [sic]."

In the end, only four of Mr. Merrin's 36 listed nominees were approved: Sonja Delaney to the finance committee, Nancy Bucher and Laura Nilsson to the tree commission, and Waterville Administrator Jim Bagdonas to the Lucas County Improvement Corp. board of directors.

"They could not beat me at the ballot box, and now they're trying to harpoon my ability to function as mayor," Mr. Merrin said after the vote. "They rejected retired police officers, military veterans, educators, real estate professionals, business owners, and multiple senior citizens. They refused to let any new people serve."

The mayor said he would hold fast to his list of nominees.

"I will not remove any names," he said.

Mr. Merrin also found himself on the losing end of a council vote expressing support for the Anthony Wayne Local Schools' 6.5-mill operating levy on the March 4 ballot.

After hearing from Les Disher and Eileen Sullivan, who are leading the levy campaign, and Anthony Wayne Superintendent John Granger, council adopted a resolution by a vote of 6-1 supporting the levy. Mr. Merrin's was the lone dissenting vote.

"It's a tax increase and there's no possible way council had time to study the issue," the fiscally conservative mayor said afterward. "If we asked for a tax increase, the village wouldn't seek approval from the school board. It's not my job as mayor to tell citizens how to vote on school levies."

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