Cranbury has a challenge attracting members of the public willing to volunteer to serve on municipal boards, a township official said May 14.
Township Committeeman Jay Taylor used a presentation at the Township Committee meeting to demonstrate the “weak participation” the township faces. He showed that since 2012, the town averages less than one application to fill a board opening in the first three months an opening becomes available.
“It’s even worse when we start to look at some of the boards where we have long-term vacancies that are out there,” he said.
Taylor said that since 2012, the town has averaged 14.5 volunteer applications a year — a little less than 15 people in a community with a population of 3,000.
“We have an issue with people wanting to volunteer,” he said. “We don’t have an issue with turning down volunteers.”
The planning and zoning boards are the only boards for which officials have no trouble attracting volunteers, he said.
In part, Taylor said, the time of day some boards meet hinders participation, as well as outside demands people have that limit their ability to serve.
He suggested officials could do more to notify the public about vacancies. He said officials should focus on boards that always have vacancies and get monthly reports of openings and “potential openings.”
“We’re not getting residents engaged,” Taylor said.
He said this week that the fire department and the first aid squad also need volunteers.
Reacting to concerns some in the community have raised about not enough women or diversity on municipal boards, Taylor showed the opposite is true. He said 93 percent of boards have women in leadership roles, each of the 14 boards has at least one woman, and half of the boards have minority representation.
In speaking to the New Jersey State League of Municipalties, he said Cranbury, for its size, is “well ahead” in diversity compared to other communities in the state.
Taylor said the town complies with state and federal civil rights laws and that in April 2010 the town updated its employee manual to include a civil rights section.
Women and minorities, Taylor said, play a “key role” in Cranbury, “both as employees and as volunteers.”
Women hold leadership roles as administrator, clerk, deputy clerk, assistant tax assessor and assistant fire official, he said.
“So we are ahead of the curve,” Taylor said. “Diversity is a core element of every board, commission and employment consideration.”