Insider's Guide to the Board of Selectmen

The Board of Selectmen (BOS) is the executive branch of Acton’s government. The BOS consists of five members, elected for three year terms. The BOS is the chief goal setting and policy making agency of the town. The BOS hires and supervises the Town Manager who is responsible for the management of town agencies and departments and the management of town employees. In addition, the BOS is responsible for issuing licenses and enforcing all laws relating to the issuance of licenses. The BOS directly hires the Town Accountant, Town Counsel, and the Town Clerk in addition to the Town Manager. The BOS also appoints all members to all town boards, commissions and committees (except the Finance Committee which is appointed by the Town Moderator).

In addition, the Board of Selectmen serve as Acton’s Sewer Commissioners. In this capacity they set operation and maintenance fees, grant or deny requests for fee and assessment waivers, consider expansion requests and generally oversee the administration of the sewer district.

Selected subjects of interest discussed throughout the year by the Board include (in no particular order) site plan reviews for all commercial development (the Planning Board reviews residential development); tax classification (usually in November) when tax rates for the current fiscal year are determined; the municipal budget preparation (discussions taking place generally from November up to Town Meeting in April). Finally, the BOS sets all municipal service fees, negotiates municipal union contracts as well as cable service licenses.

Meetings are generally held on every other Monday evening throughout the year beginning at 7:00PM in Town Hall room 204. Meetings are televised on the local cable channel (channel 8).

1. The Town Charter is the source of information contained in the first paragraph.

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(3/28/07)

Recent elections have seen a major turnover on the BOS. Two long-time members have not run for re-election and have been replaced by some new faces. With one notable exception, all BOS members have served for two years or less.

While turnover can be good, it can also have negative consequences. Part of the problem is the workload expected of BOS members. Besides long meetings twice a month, most members also serve on other boards or committees, or perform other duties outside of meetings (not the least of which is preparing for meetings, which requires an enormous amount of reading.) This leads to burnout and to the skewing of candidates for the BOS who are retired, unemployed, under-employed, or self-employed. Anyone with a 9-5 job would find it difficult to keep up with the workload. So one of the things that the BOS should tackle as a project is to find a way to have its members act more like an oversight board than a working board, and try to delegate more activities to appointed boards (and trust them to do their job.)

The Town Manager, who has been in his position for over 20 years, runs the day-to-day operations of the town, and he does so very efficiently. With the Assistant Town Manager (another dedicated and competent employee), the town is very well run. Union negotiations are done professionally and while the public sector continues to enjoy benefits unseen in the private sector for years, there is no reason to believe that Acton is faring any worse than any of our neighboring towns in the salaries and benefits paid to our town employees.