10/10/06 — Calypso is facing officials shortage

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Calypso is facing officials shortage

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on October 10, 2006 1:50 PM

Forget poison pen campaigns and bitter debates between mudslinging politicians. The town of Calypso has a different problem.

There is a shortage of people who are able to serve in town offices.

All those who are currently serving were draftees -- of sorts. They were all write-in candidates last November. Now, two of them have resigned -- including the mayor.

"We have not been in this situation before," said Rubylene Lambert, who has been on and off the town board for several decades.

Mayor Greg Day resigned in January. Commissioner Alan Story took over as mayor pro tem. Now, the five-member Calypso Board of Commissioners has lost commissioner Jason Stevens, who resigned Oct. 1, and commissioner Richard Gerber, who will have to limit his attendance at monthly board meetings because he has a class on Monday nights. Gerber is pursuing a degree in agriculture.

The board meets the first Monday of every month.

"I do my best to schedule my classes around everything else on my calendar. When I realized my current class schedule would involve Monday nights, I spoke to my fellow board members and Mayor Pro Tem Story, and they all encouraged me to continue to further my education," Gerber said. "The scheduling conflict for the board would be the September through December meetings. I had planned to divide my Mondays between attending class in September and November and the monthly board meetings of October and December."

This month, though, since only three board members were able to attend, that meeting had to be postponed for reasons other than Gerber's classes.

It's been rescheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday.

First-term commissioner Story said the personnel problem is just a situation the leadership will have to work through.

"This is a small town. Stuff happens. It happens in business. It happens everywhere," he said.

Commissioner Tom Reaves agreed. Reaves also has been on and off the board, most recently serving since 2000.

"What you're seeing is typical for a small town. People have so many other interests in today's world, everybody's not willing to serve and give up their time," he said. "It's not the most challenging job in the world, but at the same time people don't want to give up their time. I look at other towns down in Duplin County, and they're having the same problem."

A benefit of being a small town, though, is that things often are relatively quiet.

"Right now we're fortunate in that there's not a whole lot going on. We don't really have many pressing issues going on at the moment," Story said.

"The day-to-day business of the town is really handled by the town employees."

Calypso employs five people -- one town clerk, two in public works and two for the water system.

"It's not changed my day-to-day stuff any," Town Clerk Loretta Lanier said.

Each commissioner also has a particular area of responsibility.

Story oversees the streets and ditches. He also took on the sanitation responsibilities after Stevens' resignation.

Reaves oversees the water and sewer.

Lambert oversees public safety, fire and beautification.

Gerber oversees recreation and cemeteries.

Ms. Lanier said it is a slightly antiquated system, but that it still works in Calypso.

"You don't hear tell too much of that anymore," she said. "But that's how we still do it."

And though there are still some questions about how many members are needed to make quorum -- whether it's four or three -- board members aren't letting the difficulties bother them.

"It would make things run smoother (if everybody was available), but if that's the only time you can take a class, why would you stop somebody from doing that?" Story said.

Especially, he added, if they're willing to serve.

"I guess it's just a civic service thing," he said, explaining why he decided to serve after being tapped as a write-in. "Everybody does what they can, and I figured I'd give it a try."

Of course, now everybody just has to work a little harder.

"I think anytime you're short-staffed it causes some conflicts and problems, but you cope with it and go on. Somebody has to pick up the slack," Lambert said.

There does, however, appear to be a light at the end of the tunnel. On the agenda for the board's Thursday meeting is the selection of a new commissioner and a new mayor. Of course, Lanier said, there's no guarantee anybody will be tapped, but names are being discussed.

"We are looking for somebody to fill the positions. I feel like it'll be fairly shortly," Reaves said.

In the meantime, Gerber added, they will also be discussing "any needs to our current schedules both politically and personally that may need to be adjusted to help in our efforts to serve the citizens of Calypso."