Exeter Cemetery District unearths board expansion

Exeter District Cemetery sign facing Kaweah Avenue in April 2022 - Photo by Rigo Moran

Board agrees to expand from three-person to five-person board to better represent district, appoints more members

EXETER – The Exeter Cemetery District might be getting some additional representation now that the board is intending to expand and bring on two more members.

At the Exeter Cemetery District Board meeting on Feb. 14, the board approved a resolution to go from a three-person board to a five-person board. They also discussed possibly getting a new consultant to help them navigate the cemetery issues in the area. With the resolution passed, the request will now be sent to the Tulare County Board of Supervisors for further review.

“Increasing the number of members of the board of trustees to five members would be beneficial in that it would increase the amount of oversight of district affairs, provide for an increase of innovation from members of diverse backgrounds and increase public participation in district meetings,” Andrea Sousa, cemetery district board president, said.

After the issue was brought up, a community member noted that up until recently, the board was only made of Exeter residents. Sousa expressed it is the board’s intent to diversify the board by expanding it to five people.

“We already have two people from Farmersville so now we need to get one from Exeter and one from Lemon Cove,” Sousa said. “I understand what they (the board) have done in the past, but we’re hoping to make a change, that way everybody is represented.”

If the resolution is given the green light from the Tulare County Board of Supervisors, an advertisement for more members will be issued and then the cemetery district will be accepting applications.

However, another thing that was noted at the meeting was that people from other areas in the district were not always interested in joining the board.

“Honestly, we ran the ad in Farmersville and nobody applied until now,” Sousa said. “Right now there’s some things going on that nobody wants to get involved in. … This is all volunteer (work), and nobody wants to put their neck out there…we do it because we’re passionate about what we’re doing.”

Sousa noted serving on the board is an unpaid position and many of the people they mentioned the positions to in the past said they would not want to join the board because it is “troubled.”

As it is now, the cemetery district board has already undergone some recent changes. It was noted by the cemetery district’s lawyer that a new board member, Stefani Nelson, was recently appointed by County Supervisor Larry Micari (District 1) to replace former board member Jim Treadway. Micari also reappointed Lori Rhinebeck, who was re-sworn in on Feb. 14.

During the meeting’s public comment portion, one of the community members, Dwight Miller, brought up grant money that was offered to the Exeter Cemetery District from Supervisor Micari to pay an experienced cemetery manager to act as a consultant in assisting the district.

Miller explained he heard of the consultant before the last board meeting. When the consultant was not put on the prior meeting’s agenda, Miller expected that it would be added to the Feb. 14 agenda and was concerned to see that it had not been added to that agenda either.

“I am stunned that we would miss an opportunity to have paid for by someone else,” Miller said.

Sousa, however, explained the district did reach out to the consultant multiple times but has not heard back yet.

“When he gets back to me, and we have more information, we will proceed on that,” Sousa said.

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