By Sue Wambolt, Contributing Writer
Southborough – Southborough's town government has traditionally been a three-member elected Board of Selectmen with the voters ultimately approving policies and funding matters at open Town Meetings. But at the April 11, Annual Town Meeting (ATM) voters approved the creation of the Southborough Drafting Committee for Town Manager Legislation (SDCTML), to determine if the town should instead hire a town manager and have an elected five-member Board of Selectmen.
The SDCTML, chaired by Joseph Laning, has retained a consultant and is gathering information and implementing comparable searches with the goal of creating a recommendation that will be presented at the April 2012 ATM.
The group held a public forum Oct. 25 to hear viewpoints from two Shrewsbury officials where the town manager/five selectmen model is in place – Town Manager Daniel Morgado and Selectmen Chair Maurice DePalo. Approximately 50 Southborough residents attended the forum armed with pointed questions for the two men as they sought guidance as to the direction Southborough's town government should next take.
Morgado spoke about his position as town manager and how Shrewsbury functions under the Town Manager Act, which has been in place since 1957. While he said that this form of government works very well for Shrewsbury, he pointed out that each town has to figure out which form of government best suits their community; it is not a “one-size-fits-all situation.” Every community has a different “vibe” and government should never take over control because then the very essence of what it means to be a New England town is lost, he added.
From his perspective as a selectman, DePalo said, “The most important thing that makes it work is that the manager needs to be in sync with not just the selectmen, but also with the community.”
He stressed the need for the selectmen to give the town manager space to do his job. He added that he considers the relationship as being similar to a board of directors giving policy and general guidance to a manager, but then letting the manager execute the actual plans.
DePalo noted that a five-person board, as opposed to three, allowed for a greater representation of people with different backgrounds and areas of expertise.
“For this process to work you have to marry the administrator values which are brought by the professional management and the political values which are brought to the table by the Board of Selectmen as the elected representatives,” Morgado said.
Morgado said that he was a proponent of representative Town Meeting, which Shrewsbury uses. He acknowledged the open Town Meeting, which Southborough uses, as having a “New England democratic feeling to it,” but noted that during those types of meetings, people tend to stay for the things they are passionate about and then leave. At representative Town Meeting, he said, Town Meeting members are more inclined to stay for the duration.
For information on the SDCTML, go to http://southboroughdctml.weebly.com/index.html.