Controversy Heats Up Over Mayor's Citizen of the Year Award
The Haddonfield Civic Association was booted from the selection committee this year. Some say it's a big deal, others say it's not.
A growing flap is stirring in Haddonfield over the selection committee for the annual Lions Club Citizen of the Year Award.
The Haddonfield Civic Association, one of the borough's oldest and well-regarded groups, was excluded from the selection committee for the citizen of the year after decades of participation, and some are seeing red.
"The issue of the Haddonfield Civic Association and their removal from the Citizen of the Year committee shows the pressing need for better communication and support between Haddonfield's many nonprofit town organizations," said Lee Albright, the president of the Historical Society of Haddonfield. "It is a good example of what happens when the lines of communication and mutual concern break down. In this case, it is a loss for the town, the Lions Club and the HCA with no clear-cut winners."
Dave Siedell, the current president of the civic association, said the Lions Club decision is "not an issue."
"In speaking with the Lions they were looking for a way to better determine the (Citizen of the Year) winner by adding past recipients to the selection process.
There are so many people doing good things in this town and it gets hard to just pick one person to recognize. They have a hard task. The real tradition here is the citizen of the year award not the selection committee."
But privately, several prominent civic leaders say the move to exclude the civic association was hardball, borough politics.
The Lions Club selection committee is often made up of the mayor, representatives from the PTA and borough council of churches, the civic association and various other groups. Usually there is a five-member selection committee. The award is presented at the annual Mayor's Breakfast in January.
Last year the committee only included four members and there was a heated discussion over the winner, two people familiar with the process said. With the vote deadlocked, the selection process dragged on until Betsy Anderson was selected as the winner.
Tom Baird, the chair of the citizen of the year selection committee, said the decision to drop the civic association and add the two immediate past winners of the award, was made by the Lions Club's board of directors.
"We tried a different approach this year," Baird said. "This is something people should just relax and support. If someone takes it personally and tries to disrupt or demean the Lions Club, I think it would be very disruptive."
The Lions Club board includes Mayor Tish Colombi and four others. Colombi said the decision to drop the civic association was not hers. Baird said the mayor "weighed in" on the decision but could not make it on her own.
"The decision was made by the board of directors of the Lions Club," he said. "The mayor sits on the board and has one vote."
Siedell said the Lions Club has a right to make their own decisions. He said the civic association's Bradshaw student's award is selected entirely by the civic association without input from other community groups.
The 41st annual Mayor's Breakfast will be held on Saturday, Jan. 19 at 9 a.m. at the Presbyterian Church on Kings Highway.