Moving the Select Board Forward

Since early December of 2006, I have attended and written copious recaps of every Select Board meeting – with the exception of a public hearing called by the Select Board to appeal a decision by the Tree Warden.  I publish these recaps on my web site,, in order to provide better access to and extensive detail about meetings the community might not otherwise have the opportunity to watch and understand.

At the end of 2007, these recaps totaled more than 250,000 words written in 56 meeting recaps of more than 140 meeting hours.  “War and Peace,” by way of comparison, has just over twice that many words.

So I have some familiarity with the Select Board.

Having become both increasingly knowledgeable about and increasingly critical of the Select Board, I feel that I should run for one of the seats that will be up for election in the spring.  I could just continue to offer my critiques from the peanut gallery, or I could step up and work to create the kind of clear focus and collaborative productivity that I would like to see on the Select Board. 

And so I will.

Through this immersion, I have developed a strong sense of how I believe that body could and should function more effectively.  If I am elected, I will work to promote the following goals:

  I want the Select Board to work as one cohesive body. I strongly believe that its authority is as a group, working together, in public. 

  I want the Select Board to use the time it spends on the Town’s behalf as efficiently as it expects the Town Manager to use the money spent on the Town’s behalf.  Time is a valuable resource, and it is imperative that our top elected officials demonstrate restraint and good judgment in its expenditure – at meetings, as well as in dealings with Town staff.

  I want the Select Board to make better use of its best asset – the Town Manager.  I want his expertise and wisdom to be tapped, I want his opinions to be sought, and I want the Select Board to work together with him as a team.  I want the Select Board to provide its knowledge of our community to complement and assist his expertise in municipal management.  Better collaboration between the two would result in more success for all.

  I want the Select Board to advance and champion the recommendations of other boards and committees.  While exercising appropriate prudence, the Select Board should be a powerful facilitator for making things happen and getting work done. 

  I want the Select Board to regard Town staff as the authorities in matters of their professional domain.  I want staff opinions, input and recommendations to be given deference worthy of their expertise, and for their time to be respected.  I believe the Select Board members must be vigilant in not exploiting their influence over staff, and must recognize how easily this can unintentionally occur. 

  I want the Select Board to prioritize and focus on the issues of most importance to the Town.  Right now, the most pressing issue is the Town’s financial condition.  I want that to be a primary topic, with updates, consideration of its current and future implications, and with discussion focused on what the Select Board can do to assist and improve the situation.

  I want the Select Board to embrace the schools and the School Committee as the partners that they are, with a shared mission of supporting top-quality public education in Amherst.  I want there to be collaboration in identifying how the Select Board can help, respecting the autonomy of the schools while leveraging the power of working together.

  I want the Select Board to seek the counsel and expertise of the Town Commercial Relations Committee and the Chamber of Commerce, and to ask those bodies:  how can the Town serve the business community better?  I want the Select Board to celebrate this sector as an ally and a partner, with mutual interest in Amherst’s continued vitality.

  I want the Select Board to set and pursue goals.  I want it to work collaboratively in determining policies and identifying how it can help to advance and implement them.  I want policy discussions to be action-focused, because it is through policy and action that the Select Board must lead. 

  I want the Select Board to reject the popular notion of our local higher education institutions “owing the Town more,” or having a “responsibility to give the Town money.”  I want the Select Board to instead follow the Town Manager’s lead in appreciating the colleges and university as key partners with shared interests and valuable opportunities for collaboration.  And I want those opportunities to be vigorously pursued.   

  I want the Select Board to share its most important information and engage in its most important discussions at its public meetings, and to seek the same from the Town Manager.  Select Board meetings are the primary forum for informing, engaging and assuring the community that its needs are being addressed.  That which happens “behind the scenes” misses that opportunity and avoids that responsibility.

  I want the Select Board to seek balance in all things.  I want it to balance talk with action, listening with deciding, and caution with optimism.   I want the Select Board to be an agent of progress, and I want it to show concrete results. 

If you share these goals for the Select Board, please vote for me on April 1st.