Local governments rely on groups of citizen volunteers to oversee many of their functions. Larger governments have too much going on for elected officials to oversee everything in their purview, while smaller governments don’t have the staff available to be experts on everything needed. If you want to get involved and make your community better, these boards and commissions are great. They don’t require huge time commitments, many don’t require specialized skills and they often have demonstrable accomplishments – park improvements, sidewalks and trees. Mostly they only require interest and some effort. If you’re interested, contact your commissioner.
Nether Providence Township
Nether Providence lists its board and commissions here. The appointed boards listed are mostly appointed at the turn of the year, so we’re coming up on appointment time.
The Civil Service Commission’s remit is bounded by state law. They oversee the examination, hiring, promotion and supposedly discipline of the township’s police. However, since the police union negotiated for binding arbitration, their oversight of police discipline is effectively moot. There are 3 members that serve 6 year terms, with none up any time soon. But there are 3 positions for alternates open to learn about the commission for anyone interested in serving in the future.
I’m on the Environmental Advisory Committee, which advises on the township’s natural resources. This usually involves waste, pollution, water runoff and sustainability. The EAC is always open to anyone interested. Anyone can join as an adhoc member to pitch in at any time. The EAC rarely votes on anything, so formal membership is less important than participation.
The Historical Commission I’m less familiar with. They help with the township’s historical resources. It also lists adhoc members, so I suspect it operates as informally as the EAC most of the time.
The Parks Commission helps with improvements to the township parks. They’ve been active recently with improvements to Furness, Sapovitts and Gouley Parks. They’re another committee that anyone can join as an adhoc member at any point.
The Planning Commission is more formal as they review development plans in the township and make recommendations to the township board. They also review ordinances and plans developed for the township. This board generally needs people with some experience with these issues to be able to contribute.
The Sidewalk Committee hasn’t been as active, but they advise on issues of traffic and pedestrian safety. There seems to currently be a vacancy as well as two members coming up for renewal this year. As my recent survey suggested, there’s some work to be done in making the township more pedestrian friendly so this committee could use more members.
My wife chairs the three member Shade Tree Commission, which oversees tree plantings twice a year as well as reviewing developments for tree loss according to township ordinances. If you like planting trees, the Shade Tree Commission could always use more hands.
The Zoning Hearing Board is another of the more formal boards with five members, it hears requests for variances and exceptions from township ordinances from homeowners and developers. This one does require some expertise.
The school district tends to operate differently than the other governments. Their boards are mostly populated by staff and board members, not volunteers. There are DEI and Wellness Committees listed, but the district picked who serves on those boards and I’ve never been clear on when they meet. There’s also an upcoming review that I mentioned in recent WSSD board notes, but its again unclear how its members will be appointed. Volunteer contributions seem to largely come through the individual building PTO’s or Home & School Association rather than at the district level.
Given how exhausted most of our school board members seem, I wonder if they need to figure out a way to outsource some of their responsibility like the township and county do.
The county has become more transparent about its board appointments since the Democrats won control of the county council. You can find a good listing of the many boards and commissions on the county website. Many of these board positions can be competitive and require more specialized knowledge – which in some cases can be acquired from serving on township boards. Most of these boards meet infrequently, so again, not major time commitments.
The funded organizations like the fire companies and libraries (and I’m assuming sports groups like NPAA) also have their own boards overseeing their functions – the library generally posts a call for board members once a year with the kinds of skills they currently need. The fire companies seem to recruit from within their volunteer ranks.