MIDDLETOWN — Town Council voted 4-3 Tuesday night to appoint David Gustafson to the town's Planning Commission.
Gustafson, a Middletown resident, will fill a vacancy created when Kimberly Begnaud resigned from the panel for health and personal reasons on Sept. 29.
Half of the council members questioned if Gustafson was qualified to serve on the Planning Commission.
Gustafson has 31 years of experience as a school psychologist, senior specialty counselor, education assessment coordinator and adjunct professor. His resumé includes working as a hospital-school liaison in a research-based treatment program at Western Psychiatric Hospital and Clinic in Pittsburgh and troubleshooting school-parent disagreements at a cooperative agency affiliated with 27 school districts. He holds bachelor's degrees in biology and psychology from Thiel College and a master's degree in education and school psychology from Duquesne University.
His application stated his "applicable work has been in ways systems and groups make decisions and how those involved justify their decisions. I’ve uncovered inefficiencies saving my employer my annual salary simply by having lunch with an agency representative and exploring funding streams.”
“I think the application is great. It’s one heck of a resumé," council member George Smith said. "But I did not see anything on there about planning or zoning or anything about what he’s done. I have to say no. His resumé is great, but it has nothing to do with planning and zoning."
Council member Shayla Rickard concurred with Smith’s hesitation.
“He has psychology and biology on his application," Rickard said. “I mean, I don’t even see, don’t get me wrong, I think it’s great he wants to be on the commission, but I just don’t see anything that is remotely about construction, planning, building, management. Anything like that. That’s my concern.”
Councilman Scott Fink agreed.
“He has a great resumé, but there doesn’t seem to be any qualifying skill sets for this position,” Fink said. “And also, with me as well, I’d like to see the person. I have yet to meet this person.”
Mayor Charles Harbaugh IV said he was “a little perturbed” that none of the objections to Gustafson were raised during last week’s Town Council work session.
Vice Mayor Jeff Pennington spoke in support of appointing Gustafson, noting that very few people council appoints to the Planning Commission have extensive planning and zoning backgrounds.
“We have so few citizens willing to step up and do things in this town,” Pennington said. “If you turn one away, it does not bode well for filling those spots.”
Smith, Rickard and Fink voted against Gustafson’s appointment, while Pennington and council members Carole Snyder Jones and Carolyn Aliff — both of whom participated remotely — voted in favor of it. Harbaugh broke the tie vote to appoint Gustafson to the five-member Planning Commission. The position is unpaid.
“Being that I have no other applications before me, and I’ve heard no other issues before tonight’s meeting, then I have to move to accept his application to the Planning Commission,” Harbaugh said. “In the future, I’d like to have discussions at the work session and not the council meeting.”