Westborough’s town seal, board name change may go on warrant

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By Susan Gonsalves, Contributing Writer

Westborough – A future Town Meeting will decide whether or not to form a committee to create a design for a new Westborough town seal.

During its Dec. 8 meeting, the Westborough Board of Selectmen noted there had been a lot of previous discussion about replacing the current seal that features Eli Whitney, inventor of the cotton gin.

Some residents regard the cotton gin as representation of oppression because it was a factor in the expansion and continuation of slavery. Others feel that Whitney, a Westborough resident, played a role in American technology history and should be acknowledged.

The financial impact of a change was also raised.

Selectmen Chair Shelby Marshall said that Natick has been going through a similar process and its representative Town Meeting created a seven-person review committee to come up with a recommendation for a future session.

Marshall said that if Westborough developed a similar warrant article, people with interest and experience in design and history could get together to create alternative seals for consideration.

She said that although the town seal issue is an important one, selectmen have other priorities to work on. The task will be time-consuming, so “putting it in the hands of a vetted committee” seems like a good solution, she said.

Selectman Ian Johnson said it’s a good idea to learn from what other communities have done rather than “re-invent the wheel.”

The board also discussed having a public forum or discussion groups to get input prior to the spring Town Meeting. The moderator would guide the process, Marshall said.

“The charge of the committee would be, `should we change it and if so, to what and (provide) a recommendation,” Marshall said.

“There’s a lot of energy around this,” she added, noting that in Natick, 20 people applied for the seven slots. Westborough is likely to have a lot of interest as well, board members agreed.

In other business, the board decided to put the question of a name change to select board to a Town Meeting vote.

Johnson said that it is the right time to bring the matter forward and let the town determine what it wants to do.

He said that if COVID is still rampant and it impacts how the meeting needs to be run, the name change issue can be pushed off to a later date.

Vice Chair Allen Edinberg talked about how the name change is not the same thing as a town charter change and would not require a review committee.

Marshall said she wasn’t sure what objections to the change would be.

“It’s changing men to board…To me, it’s kind of a no-brainer,” she said.