By Jerome Tharaud/Havre Daily Newsemail@example.com
Havre Mayor Bob Rice's decision to delay filling one of two open seats on the Havre Historic Preservation Commission has the commission's top supporter on the City Council worried about its future.
City Council member Emily Mayer, who is also Havre's historic preservation officer, said Rice has told her he's considering not appointing her candidate for the commission and wants to appoint a person she considers less qualified.
"The preservation commission is constantly on my mind," she said. "I wake up at 3 in the morning and worry that it will not survive this term."
On Monday at the Havre City Council meeting, Rice appointed commission member Keith Doll to another two-year term on the five-member board. He stopped short of naming the second appointment, left vacant when Debi Rhines stepped down.
"You're only going to appoint one?" Mayer asked.
"Yes," Rice responded.
Mayer asked if Rice would name the second appointee at the Aug. 11 meeting because she will be gone on July 21, and Rice agreed.
In February Mayer recommended Vince Woodwick for the commission in a letter to the City Council.
Rice said Thursday he will not comment on who he will appoint to the commission.
"I'm not at liberty to discuss that right now," Rice said.
Mayer said Woodwick has attended and participated in Havre Historic Preservation Commission meetings since arriving in Havre last year.
"I think he should be on the preservation commission because he has shown that interest," she said, adding that Woodwick served on a preservation commission in Nebraska before returning to Havre.
Woodwick is a Havre native and the brother of City Council member Allen "Woody" Woodwick. Vince Woodwick could not be reached for comment today.
Mayer said Rice told her who he is considering for the commission but she would not name the person.
"The person Mr. Rice wants to put on (the commission) has not expressed interest to me" in being on the commission, she said, and does not have a basic understanding of historic preservation.
The person has also come out against the city giving financial support to the Heritage Center, she said. Preserving the building is one of the stated goals of the commission.
"Who would you appoint? Someone who is already doing good things for the commission or someone that hasn't?" Mayer said.
The City Council will vote on whether to approve the mayor's appointment.
"I'm not sure about what will happen if the City Council can't agree," Mayer said, adding that she is determined to fight for her nominee.
"I'm not going to back down," she said. "I want Vince Woodwick on this commission."
Rice also would not say whether he plans to reappoint Mayer as Havre historic preservation officer next March.
"I'm not willing to discuss that either," Rice said. "I've got some decisions to make and it's not something I'm willing to talk about."
The Republican mayor said his decision was not political.
Mayer, a Democrat, said she hopes the decision is not political.
"It saddens me to think that politics is behind this, and I would certainly hope that is not the case, either for the preservation commission or myself as preservation officer," she said.
Mayer worked for two years to reactivate the commission after it was first established by the City Council in 1989 and then allowed to sunset four years later. The City Council approved the formation of the commission on Dec. 20, 1999, which Mayer calls "probably the best Christmas present I've ever received from anyone."
Then-Mayor Phyllis Leonard appointed Mayer as Havre historic preservation officer.
The commission was formed to educate the public on historic preservation and act as a resource. It puts out various brochures regarding historic preservation and has a historic preservation library available to the public. It also works on projects like the light pole banners being put up to advertise Havre's historic district.
Members of the commission are not paid, and work fewer than five hours a month, Mayer said. The Havre historic preservation officer is a paid position, but Mayer said she does not receive a salary because it would be a conflict of interest with her position as a City Council member.
"I love being the Havre preservation commission officer. I love every aspect of the job," Mayer said. "There is no one that loves historic preservation in Hill County as much as I do and there are few that know as much (about it) as I do."
"I have worked and put my heart and soul into this preservation commission," she said, adding that the Montana State Historic Preservation Office, which administers the grant that supports the commission, is "very pleased with my work."