By Jim Shilander
Thursday’s meeting of the Coastal Advisory Commission will be missing two familiar faces atop the dais.
After Chairman Bill Hart was not returned to the board as a result of a 3-2 vote at the City Council’s commission appointment meeting on June 18, Ken Nielsen, citing loyalty to his friend and co-founder of the board, resigned from the board despite having a year left in his term.
Both men had served on the board for 14 years. Hart had previously served on the board’s predecessor, the beach ad-hoc committee. The council did return another board member, Susan Ambrose, unanimously, and appointed two newcomers, John McMains and Alison Betts.
“I resigned in support of my friend,” Nielsen said. “I couldn’t let the council do that to Bill.”
Nielsen said a number of big issues coming before the board in the next several years, including the Army Corps of Engineers beach replenishment project and the formation of a local coastal plan, would have been aided by the guiding hand of veteran board members. This made the council decision to not return Hart a surprise, he said.
Hart said the result “was a little bit of a surprise” but said he knew the possibility of not being returned was there, having been returned a number of times to the board.
“Council members can take whatever action they want for any reason they want,” Hart said. Hart said he spoke to Nielsen afterward and encouraged him not to make a rash decision.
Councilman Bob Baker said he questioned statements made by Hart during a commission meeting regarding plastic bag bans. The commission had brought a proposal before the council in 2013.
Nielsen said he felt the decision may have partly been politically motivated.
Hart managed the campaign of an opponent of Councilmen Baker and Chris Hamm in the 2012 council election.
Hart will continue to serve on the Watershed Task Force, an organization independent of the city dedicated to the health of the city’s beaches and waterways.