Select People, by Any Name…

With thanks to Emily Mitchell

With a unanimous voice vote, passage of Article 17 at Special Town Meeting changed the name of the town’s governing entity from Selectmen to “Select Board.”

The Charter Commission recommended the change and Selectman Emily Mitchell spoke of the support from the entire board. “… This board is the only one in Town—of about 60—with a gender-specific name. And by keeping the ‘select’ in ‘Select Board’, we are maintaining our links to our history and tradition.”

She continued, “… We have heard concerns that ‘Select Board Member’ is too much of a mouthful. It is no more onerous, however, than ‘Planning Board Member,’ or ‘Finance Committee Member,’ or ’School Committee Member,’ and we seem to do just fine with those.

“If you will indulge me for a personal comment: When I ran for office this past year, one of the most common questions I got was, ‘What would we call you?’ I never felt the question was asked with malice or disapproval—just an earnest desire to get it right.

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“Never mind that we already had two women on the board at the time—the question was still there, and pointed to an unconscious restrictiveness in the name ‘Selectman.’

“On the ballot, and now in office, my presence—and that of any ‘not-man’—was a problem to be solved or an exception to be made.

“Words matter.

“We are delighted that the Charter Committee has recommended this change, and we encourage your support. The Select Board unanimously recommends approval of this article.”

Editor’s note: Voters at the Special Town Meeting unanimously approved passage of Article 17 to change the name of the town’s governing body from Selectmen to Select Board.  This is the first step in the name change; the new term is not technically approved or disapproved until after the Town Election in March.

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