Berkeley City Council appoints John Selawsky to Board of Library Trustees

Jamin Kim-Sanders/Staff

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Berkeley City Council appointed John Selawsky, chair of the Rent Stabilization Board, to the Board of Library Trustees, or BOLT, on Tuesday despite the board’s support for rival candidate, Elizabeth Hadzima Perkins.

The entire BOLT, except Councilmember Sophie Hahn, who abstained, appointed Perkins to the candidacy.

“I supported Libby. She had excellent credentials, was adept at budgets and finance and is an attorney,” Councilmember Linda Maio said in an email. “She is a woman and also has not been in the political fray which I felt was important as the library has become, unfortunately, highly politicized.”

Some council members said they believed Selawsky was a better fit for the position because of his experience in public organizations.

Selawsky served as a member and president of the Berkeley Unified School District School Board, has been a Rent Board Commissioner and is currently the chair of the elected Rent Stabilization Board.

Councilmember Kriss Worthington said he believed Selawsky would be a greater fit for the position because of his extensive experience and ideas on how to bring people together.

Worthington also said he believed Selawsky was the best person to address the problems that whistleblowers have identified, which have yet to be resolved.

On the other hand, BOLT was looking for someone new to “pull the libraries out from the very difficult situation in which they (found) themselves,” according to Hahn. The board removed two trustees from BOLT to make room for two new members last year.

Maio said in an email that while Selawsky held many positions, she believed a new and younger candidate would be better suited to serve.

“The Llibraries have been in crisis for several years, and the sitting Trustees were in leadership throughout the decline of the Libraries,” Hahn said in an email.

Under law, the council has the complete authority to appoint and remove members to BOLT as they wish, according to Hahn. She added that both groups did not follow the traditional practices in the process leading to the appointment.

“BOLT did not follow its practice of doing a call-out for each opening as it arises, and allowing all members of the community to come forward with their candidacy,” Hahn said in an email. “This diverged from traditional practice. The claim that BOLT went through a ‘normal’ process while the mayor did not is untrue.”

Selawsky said his passion for the position came from the fact that he has been in Berkeley for more than 30 years and comes from a family that has valued libraries. He is a regular user of Berkeley’s libraries, specifically the libraries Downtown.

“I have actively participated and helped in past library bond measure campaigns,” Selawsky said in his application for the position. “I would love to be part of something that I both cherish and use.”

While in office, Selawsky said he hopes to address ongoing issues on communication and dialogue. In addition, he hopes to open up more dialogue between the libraries.

Contact Jamari Snipes at [email protected]