By Beth David, Editor
The Fairhaven Selectboard, at its meeting on 1/29/20, approved stop signs for West Island unanimously, but was not as supportive of a suggestion that the board officially change its name from “Board of Selectmen,” to “Select Board.”*
Ann Richard sent a letter to the board asking that members consider the name change.
Town Administrator Mark Rees noted that the Mass. Selectmen’s Association just changed its name to the Mass. Select Board Association.
Selectboard member Bob Espindola immediately voiced unequivocal support.
“I think it’s a great idea,” said Mr. Espindola. “I definitely support the idea.”
“I’m not,” said board member Dan Freitas. “I’m a traditionalist. I think we have selectwomen, we have selectmen.”
He said if a woman is ever on the board, then they should consider it.
“I don’t want us to get too proper so that we’re eventually not even saying ‘yes ma’am, no ma’am, and yes sir, no sir,’” said Mr. Freitas. “Right now, we’re all men, we’re selectmen. If there was a woman sitting here, we could be the selectboard, with a woman sitting here.”
He also said he has daughters and would love to see them sitting in that seat.
Selectboard chairperson Charles Murphy Sr., asked town counsel Tom Crotty about the procedure involved.
Mr. Crotty said the board can declare itself the Selectboard immediately for all internal and public communications with just a simple majority vote. He said to change the bylaws, though, Town Meeting would have to approve a name change wherever the name appears. The town also some special legislation that would require legislative approval.
Ms. Richard, in her letter, noted that the MMA has stated that 85 towns have made the change in the past 10 years. She also noted that she can draft an article for Town Meeting without the board’s support, but that she had hoped to get that support.
Mr. Freitas said he was not trying to be “a jerk about this,” but he wanted to know what they would be called.
“So we would no longer be a man or a woman,” said Mr. Freitas.
Ms. Richard answered that it would be just like Planning Board or Conservation Commission. They would be members of the board.
“I’m just asking,” said Mr. Freitas, accusing Ms. Richard of “getting angry.”
“I want to clarify this so I’m not out there like a bigot or something, like a crazy person,” said Mr. Freitas. “But I just think that we’re selectmen. There could be a selectwoman.”
At that point it would be “appropriate” to suggest the name change, he said.
“I just don’t think that we need not to be selectmen or selectwomen,” said Mr. Freitas. “We need to be what we are. We’re selectmen.”
Mr. Espindola reiterated his support.
“I do stick with my orignal sentiments on this. I feel like we should be proactive,” said Mr. Espindola, adding that if so many other towns made the change, it cannot be overly burdensome. “And I just feel like it’s a more welcoming name.”
The board did not vote on the measure, as it was on the agenda under “correspondence,” and not “action.”
Mr. Crotty will also check with other towns to see how they handled the change.
Editor’s note: Our style policy has always called for referring to the board with the gender-neutral “Selectboard.”
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