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Selectmen? Select Board? Lunenburg Debate is On

January 11, 2019

LUNENBURG -- What’s in a name? It depends on whom you ask. At a public hearing Tuesday night, residents were asked to weigh in on some proposed revisions to the town’s charter -- including changing the name of the Board of Selectmen to the Select Board.

Clarence Ward was among those at the meeting at Lunenburg Middle High School wondering why the name needed to be changed at all.

“Who wants this, and why do they want it?” Ward asked.

Charter Review Committee Chair Steve Archambault said the proposal comes during a time of political change across the country.

“Several members of (this) board felt the term ‘selectmen’ might deter our younger, female residents from running for certain offices,” Archambault said. “So several members felt that changing (the name) to ‘select board’ would be more gender-neutral and encourage more people to participate in (town government).”

Archambault admitted, however, that a recent survey indicated that most residents remained ambivalent about the issue.

Katey Adams, a member of the Board of Selectmen, said she isn’t bothered by the current term, but wondered how long it would take officials and residents to get used to the proposed name change.

“I always say I have a ‘BoS’ meeting, and I write ‘Bos,’ (but) the new acronym would be ‘MotSB’ (Meeting of the Select Board), so that’s the only thing I think of -- we use a lot of acronyms in government,” Adams said.

Committee member Terri Burchfield noted that the residents who believe strongly about wanting to change the name said they wanted their daughters to see more inclusive language used in the town.

Committee member Jim LaVeck said he noticed that many people were already using both terms interchangeably.

“I don’t have a strong opinion one way or another, but I do believe there is enough sentiment (about the name) to let the citizens vote,” LaVeck said.

Another proposed revision to the charter would make the town clerk an appointed, rather than elected, position.

Ward said he felt most residents would prefer the town clerk remain an elected official.

“Sometimes the town clerk and the Board of Selectmen have crossed swords to a certain degree, and we like that we are able to elect someone who can do that,” Ward said. “Most of the people I talk to like the fact they can elect someone that maybe the board of selectmen doesn’t like.”

The committee is expected to have a finalized version of the proposed changes next month. Other revisions include providing for a second annual Town Meeting in the fall, and providing that persons appointed to town committees only be residents in town.

Follow Landry on Twitter @stephenlandry17.

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