Resident Brings Idea of a 5-Person Select Board to 3-Person Select Board

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At the November 9 Select Board meeting (available for replay on Weston Media Center), resident Susan Zacharias brought up the idea of moving to a five-person Select Board, rather than the current three-person Select Board (Chair Harvey Boshart, Member Laurie Bent and Member Chris Houston). Reasoning by Ms. Zacharias was based on both workload, and the fact that the Select Board members could not talk with each other one-to-one about town matters without constituting a quorum. Ms. Zacharias mentioned she was trying to avoid a Citizen’s Petition at Town Meeting and wanted to come to the Select Board first.

Mr. Boshart commented that he believed that this limitation on conversations between Board members was actually a benefit to the citizens of Weston–all conversations are in front of a camera, and there is therefore no way to “conspire behind the scenes.” Going to five would make things less transparent as side conversations with one other Select Board member would be possible.

Ms. Zacharias then mentioned that surrounding towns of the same or similar size have five members, and maybe having more opinions represented is a good thing. She also asked where in town documents is it writtten that the Board needs to be three members. Town counsel can be asked for that information.

Mr. Houston mentioned that regardless of workload, he has served as a Select Board Member for six and a half years and he has hardly missed any meetings. And then he might have lost his temper a little bit, but that’s just editorial comment.

Mr. Boshart suggested that it is not correct that nearby towns with similar populations have five-member Select Boards–a study he did a number of years ago seemed to say it was only about 50%. He suggested that it would be worth taking a look at how other towns manage with five or three members.

Mr. Boshart then stated that if we take a look at the Select Board, perhaps the Town should look at town governance in general, across all boards. What changes in oversight should be made? Should Finance Committee be elected or even appointed by the Town Manager? What about Planning Board? Should it be 7 or 9 instead of 5?

And then things went a bit downhill between Ms. Zacharias and Mr. Houston, to be editorial again. The Owl is going to skip it. Catch the videotape. Or don’t.

Mr. Houston then said the right way to do this is to look at overall governance. Ms. Zacharias: so how do add this as a “to-do” for the town? Mr. Boshart said that it seemed unlikely that this overall governance look-see be done this fiscal year due to other set priorities.

Upon request, Pam Fox also confirmed (on the spot) that historically the town has always been run by a group of 3 Selectmen [now Select Board members].

Ms Bent stated that the town should be looking at a long-term strategic plan, and looking outward rather than inward in the next year plus. How will we meet the climate resiliency plan goals? And the Housing Production Plan? This internal work is not how she wants to spend time. She feels this work would take away from time spent on making Westonians’ lives better and more equitable.

Ms. Zacharias plans to move ahead with the Citizens Petition–she feels like she has now come to the Select Board and was not given the answer she needed.

Mr. Boshart said the only way is to take a look at overall town government and committees, and this would take time. Town Manager Leon Gaumond said that a financial appropriation would have to be made for this study, because there are no funds. That would mean May Town Meeting.

Resident Keith Johnson also spoke in favor of moving to five Select Board members so we can have more people involved.

And that, Weston, is the Owl’s-eye view of last week’s Select Board agenda item on a five-person Select Board. All errors and implied or explicit tone are mine. The videotape (as noted above) is available for viewing.

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