Exeter Cemetery Board expands roster

Exeter Public District Cemetery plaque in April 2022 - Photo by Rigo Moran

Tulare County Board of Supervisors approves the Exeter Cemetery District’s resolution to expand its governing board from a three-person to five-person body

EXETER – In an attempt to bolster oversight and diversify perspectives within its management structure, the Exeter Cemetery District recently secured approval from the Tulare County Board of Supervisors to expand its governing body.

The Board of Supervisors approved the Exeter Cemetery District’s resolution to expand their board from a three-person board to a five-person board meeting on March 19. The expansion was approved with a 5-0 vote. According to the board, the changes to the board could help enact greater change in the cemetery district.

“I’m in support of this. I think anytime that you can have more eyes on the situation, I think it will give (the board) better opportunities to meet a quorum,” Supervisor Amy Shuklian said.

At the meeting, it was reported that the cemetery district wants to expand the board because it would “increase the amount of oversight of district affairs, increase innovation for the members of diverse backgrounds, and increase public participation at district meetings.”

Chairman Larry Micari expressed similar sentiments to Supervisor Shuklian in a previous interview with The Sun-Gazette on the issue. One issue he touched on with the cemetery board’s previous setup was that all three members had to be present to hold a quorum and have a meeting, so in the case that one member was unavailable to attend, it made holding a meeting difficult.

On top of that, Micari also explained that having only three people on the board slows down the amount of progress that can be made. In the case that any two of the board members spoke outside of a meeting to discuss issues, they would already have a majority vote, which would be considered a violation of the Brown Act, a state law designed to ensure governmental meetings and decisions are transparent and open to the public.

Unlike a five-person board, where two of the members can discuss issues to make progress, the Exeter Cemetery District with its three-person board had to hold an agendized meeting anytime two members needed to talk about an issue.

“If they have five, then two of them could talk and get an idea of how to start moving forward,” Micari said.

Now with approval from the county board, this expansion is just one of the ways the cemetery district is hoping to make change. The approval of the expansion of the board comes on the heels of the appointment Lori Rhinebeck as the new president of the Cemetery District Board, and Stefanie Nelson as the new secretary recorder, on March 13.

“I’ll accept it, what a great challenge,” Rhinebeck said while accepting her nomination at the March 13 cemetery district meeting.

One of the first tasks the cemetery district will accomplish under Rhinebeck’s presidency will be the addition of two new board members. At the March 13 meeting, the Cemetery District Board discussed their next steps for appointing more board members once the Board of Supervisors approved their resolution.

The cemetery district’s lawyer explained that all the applicants are appointed through the county. Once the county posts the application, the cemetery district plans to share the link to the application on their website as well in hopes of increasing the number of applicants.

The Exeter Cemetery District explained in their last meeting on Feb. 14 that they are hoping to diversify the board to better represent the areas within the district.

“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,” former president Andrea Sousa said at the Feb. 14 meeting. “We already have two people from Farmersville, so now we need to get one from Exeter and one from Lemon Cove.”

However, as of right now, it is still unknown if the board will be able to better represent those areas, what the pool of applicants will look like, or if they will have enough applicants to fill the new positions at all. It was also noted at this meeting that the board had difficulty finding people from other areas to apply in order to fill the existing positions on the three-person board.

“Honestly, we ran the ad in Farmersville and nobody applied until now,” Sousa said. “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.”

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