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Lions Club Says Mayor Did Not Help Determine Citizen of the Year Selection Committee

Tom Baird, of the Haddonfield Lions Club, clarifies mayor's role in controversy over selection committee.

Tom Baird of the Haddonfield Lions Club said this week Mayor Tish Colombi is not part of the club's board of directors and did not participate in a decision to drop the borough civic association from a selection committee to chose the annual Haddonfield Citizen of the Year.

In a Haddonfield Patch story published on Dec. 27, Baird said:"The decision was made by the board of directors of the Lions Club. The mayor sits on the board and has one vote."

Baird said this week he was referring to the mayor being part of the selection committee for the award and not the club's board of directors. Colombi said she had no input in the decision to drop a representative from the civic association from the selection committee. She said she did not speak with Baird or others from the Lions Club about the change until after it was announced.

The Haddonfield Civic Association, one of the borough's oldest and most well-regarded groups, was excluded from the selection committee this year after decades of participation. 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 at least one other civic leader had a problem with the change.

"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."

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, Baird said. The award is presented at the annual Mayor's Breakfast, which will be held this year on Saturday, Jan. 19 at First Presbyterian Church.

Last year, the committee only included four members and there was a heated discussion over the winner, two people familiar with the process said. Betsy Anderson was eventually chosen.

Baird said this year's selection committee is composed of the mayor, a representative from the council of churches and the PTA, and the two immediate past winners of the award.

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