The Board of Selectmen (BOS) met on Monday, June 17 at 7pm in the Juliani Room at Town Hall to discuss and vote on the School Building Committee‘s (SBC) recommendation that the Hunnewell Elementary School project go forward as new construction, and to discuss a change of name for the BOS itself, among other issues.
BOS Chairman Jack Morgan called for the vote on the Hunnewell construction project. Vice Chair Marjorie Freiman then moved “to affirm the vote of the SBC to recommend new construction for the Hunnewell School.”
The vote for new construction for Hunnewell passed unanimously.
The next SBC meeting will be June 25, 2019, 5:30pm, location to be determined.
What’s in a name?
Also on the agenda was an item to discuss changing the name of the Board of Selectmen (BOS) to Select Board. The idea behind such a move is to allow the Board to go by a more inclusive term.
BOS Chair Jack Morgan said, “We’re not exactly cutting edge here. As I recall, the numbers are something like 80 towns in Massachusetts have changed the name from Board of Selectmen to Select Board.” Massachusetts has 351 municipalities in all (39 cities, 312 towns in 14 counties). Many towns are governed by a Board, but not all. Over 25% of those towns governed by a Board have in recent years moved from the name “Board of Selectmen” to “Select Board” or something similarly gender-neutral.
Morgan noted that the term “Board of Selectmen” hearkened back to the 17th century when to vote in a town one had to be male, possibly also a property owner, and possibly also a member of the church. “We’ve come a long way since then as a society and as a Commonwealth,” Morgan said.
During discussion, BOS members chimed in.
Lise Olney said, “I’m strongly in favor of making this change. People recognize the name Select Board as being a more inclusive term.”
Marjorie Freiman said, “It’s timely and would bring Wellesley up with these 80 other towns. For me, it’s important to show our support to be inclusive.”
For Beth Sullivan Woods, it was not a must-do. “When I think of all the issues we have to deal with, for me it’s not up there on the high-priority list. I have trouble with the term Select Person because it sounds like One of The Chosen. I do believe we should be inclusive.”
Tom Ulfelder said that is was simply a matter of recognition and value.
There was no vote taken on the matter. That comes later.
Now that the BOS has discussed the matter in a public meeting, and it is clear that the BOS is inclined to change the name, the next step will be for Town of Wellesley Executive Director Meghan Jop to work with Tom Harrington of Miyares & Harrington (Wellesley’s Town Counsel) to advise the Board on the recommended pathway to make the name change.
There will be further discussion on the issue, and the pubic will be invited to comment at a meeting in the near future. Either at that meeting or at a subsequent meeting the BOS will formally vote, possibly over the summer and before Labor Day.
From there, the BOS would send the issue forward for Town Meeting action, most likely in 2020.
Don’t get whiplash watching all this unfold.