Section 4:
Advisory Boards and Committees

For more information about Advisory Bodies, see the City’s website Also, see Appendix A for the Board and Commission Membership & Qualification Matrix.

Boards, commissions and citizen committees provide a great deal of assistance to the Olympia City Council when formulating public policy and transforming policy decisions into action. The City has the following standing boards and commissions which are appointed by Council:

•    Arts Commission

•    Bicycle & Pedestrian Advisory Committee

•    Design Review Board

•    Heritage Commission

•    Lodging Tax Advisory Committee

•    Parks & Recreation Advisory Committee

•    Planning Commission

•    Utility Advisory Committee

In addition, special purpose committees and task forces are appointed from time-to-time by the City Council to address issues of interest or to conduct background work on technical or politically sensitive issues. Special or ad hoc committees will be dissolved upon completion of the intended task.

While membership on most committees is by Council appointment, the following exceptions apply:

•    Civil Service Commission (appointed by the City Manager)

•    LEOFF Disability Board (elected and member appointed)

•    Parking and Business Improvement Area Board/PBIA (elected by ratepayers)

The City Council appoints one (1) citizen member to each of this community boards:

•    Thurston Community Television Board (TCTV)

4.1 Establishment of Advisory Committees/Commissions/ Boards Appointed by the City Council

Council appointed Committees/Commissions/Boards are established by action of the entire Council, usually by ordinance. Short term or Ad Hoc Committees may not necessitate an ordinance and may be established by majority Council approval of the scope for the committee and the term of its appointment.

Most of the positions are citizen-at-large, without specific affiliations, and a majority of each committee’s members must reside in the City of Olympia or Olympia’s Urban Growth Area. Most Olympia advisory committees have eleven (11) members, with terms for about 1/3rd of the members ending on March 31 each year.

The General Government Committee has adopted Rules of Procedure and conduct expectations for City Advisory Committees and its members. The Rules of Procedure outline such things as number of members, term of office, etc. See Appendix A for the City Advisory Committee Rules of Procedure.

4.2 Appointment to Advisory Bodies

The General Government Committee, on behalf of the entire Council, accepts applications annually at a time specified by the committee, and makes appointment recommendations to the full City Council following review of applications and personal interviews with qualified candidates.

The General Government Committee will establish the procedures for public notification of advisory committee openings and the method for individuals to apply for appointment consideration.

Partial-term vacancies will be filled when appropriate, as determined by the Council’s General Government Committee.

4.3 Committee/Commission Resignations

In the interest of timely noticing of vacancies and to minimize the impact of vacancies on boards and commissions, the City Council delegates to the Mayor or the chair of the General Government Committee the authority to accept resignations.

4.4 Staff Relationship to Advisory Bodies

The City’s Communications Manager serves as a liaison from the City Manager’s office to all advisory committees and provides professional staff support to the General Government Committee. Other staff support and assistance may be provided to advisory boards, commissions, and task forces; however, advisory bodies do not have supervisory authority over City employees. While staff may work closely with advisory bodies, staff members remain responsible to their immediate supervisors and, ultimately, the City Manager.

The members of the commissions, boards, or committees are responsible for the functions of the advisory body. The chairperson is responsible for committee compliance with the municipal code and/or committee bylaws.

Staff members are to assist the advisory body chair to ensure appropriate compliance with state and local laws and regulations. Staff support includes: 1) preparation of a summary agenda after approval by the chairperson; 2) preparation of reports providing a brief background of the issues, a list of alternatives, recommendations, and appropriate backup materials, if necessary; and 3) preparation of minutes of advisory body meetings. Advisory body members should have sufficient information to reach decisions based upon a clear explanation of the issues.

4.5 Councilmember’s Role and Relationship with Advisory Bodies

The City Council annually reviews and approves work plans for each advisory committee, except for the Design Review Board (primarily a quasi-judicial group).

The General Government Committee is the Council’s liaison with advisory committees for membership, procedural and general oversight purposes.

For communication and policy development purposes, the City Council’s Land Use and Environment Committee is liaison with the Design Review Board and the Olympia Planning Commission. A Councilmember serves as the Chair of the Lodging Tax Advisory Committee as required by State law. By City ordinance, the Council may appoint a liaison with the Parking and Business Improvement Area Advisory Board. The General Government Committee is liaison with the other Council-appointed committees.

Each year, the General Government Committee shall facilitate the identification of a Councilmember to serve as liaisons to the Arts Commission, Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee, Heritage Commission, Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee, and the Utility Advisory Committee. The purpose of the liaison role is to serve as a communication contact with the committee(s) on behalf of the City Council. The liaison shall not attempt to influence the committee(s) to endorse or validate their personal point of view on an issue. The liaisons shall briefly report their contacts with committees at City Council meetings, as appropriate.

Unless required by State law (such as with the Lodging Tax Advisory Committee) Olympia Councilmembers do not serve on Council-appointed committees. It is expected that any newly elected Councilmember who is serving on a City advisory board or committee at the time of election will resign from their committee appointment at the time of assuming Council office.

In general, individual Councilmembers may attend advisory committee meetings to observe the committee’s discussion and action, and should refrain from any comments or actions intended to influence the committee.

If an advisory committee chair requests the presence of a Councilmember at a committee meeting, the Councilmember shall inform the full Council of the request. If requested by the committee or committee chair to express an opinion on a policy topic being discussed by the committee, the Councilmember shall make it clear that the opinion they express is their own and should not be construed as reflecting the opinions of other Councilmembers or of the full Council.

4.6 Work Plans and Referrals to Advisory Bodies

Each year, advisory boards and committees form a work plan for the year. If an item is referred during the year, the staff liaison will notify the Committee Chair of the referral. The Committee Chair will usually report back to the Council regarding their ability to absorb the referral into their current work plan.

It is expected the chair of the advisory committee or their designee, rather than a staff person, report the findings of the committee to the Council. Accordingly, committee chairs should attend the Council meeting when the recommendation is presented and be available for questions or clarifications on the committee recommendation.

Typically, items of a policy nature are presented to Council in written form. Accordingly, committee chairs should review staff materials representing the committee recommendation to assure they accurately convey the committee’s intent prior to completion of the council packet.