Town boards say their members should be elected, not appointed

As a committee of residents considers legislation that if approved by voters would move Southborough to a town manager form of government, one of the things they will make a recommendation on is which town boards should be elected and which should be appointed. Two boards that are currently elected – the Board of Health and the Library Board of Trustees – have both said they want to remain that way.

Under our current form of government, members of the Board of Health and Library Board of Trustees are elected to 3-year terms. Under a proposed new structure, members of the board could be appointed by the town manager instead.

While the committee working on the so-called “strong town manager” form of government hasn’t yet said which boards they would recommend be appointed, the Metrowest Daily News reports the Board of Health intends to follow the Library Trustee’s lead and draft a position paper saying they should remain elected.

At a public forum last month to discuss the proposed changes to Southborough’s government, Board of Health Chairman Louis Fazen III said the board is not just regulatory, but has an active role in public health planning. “It’s up to the public to decide what they want for their public health board,” he said.

Any changes to our structure of government would need to be approved by Town Meeting before they could be enacted.

What do you think? Do you consider your vote for Board of Health and Library Board of Trustees important? Should board members continue to appear on the ballot, or would you rather leave the choice to a town manager? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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12 years ago

I’m interested to hear the pros and cons here. Without thinking too deeply, I think I’d prefer a town manager appoint these members. It would be one less position I’d have to research for the ballot. And I think a lot of people just continue to vote for the incumbent for these lower level positions on the ballot. If we had someone else appointing them we’d probably get a new batch of people every time we change town manager because they’d pull in there friends. Whether that is a good or bad thing I don’t know.

John Butler
12 years ago

I tend to agree with leaving the elected boards as they are. Wrangling over these other elected positions is a distraction from the main point. The Board of Selectmen currently controls 96% of the non-school budget, based on last year’s numbers. All these other boards control only 4% of the non-school budget. (The management of schools is legally excluded from Town Manager scope by state law). The point is to bring the management of the 96% into a modern structure, under a Town Manager, with a Board of Selectmen that has time to function as a true board. Since it isn’t even clear on the merits whether any elected boards ought to be changed to appointed, some clearly should remain as is, and most of the elected boards say they want to stay that way, it is not worth having an argument over this 4% that jeopardizes progress on the 96%. Lastly, the mechanism that is being used, special legislation that must be passed at the State House, is only needed to make the changes under the Board of Selectmen. If, at any future time, the Town wants to change these other roles from elected to appointed it can be done with simpler local mechanisms that don’t require Beacon Hill’s involvement. Those simpler mechanisms have always been available to us and will remain available. It is time to focus this effort on the 96% that needs fixing and can only be changed in this way.

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