By Laura Hayes, Contributing Writer
Hudson — When he was a kid, Joe Durant often went to Richard Beauregard’s barbershop with his father.
Durant called it the “little town hall.”
Beauregard was on the Select Board, and Durant would listen as they talked about what was going on in Hudson.
“I was fascinated,” Durant said.
After 40 years on the Select Board, Durant, who is now Chair, has decided not to run for re-election.
The decision, he recently told the Community Advocate, was not easy.
“There’s never going to be a good time to walk away,” he said. “I spent a lot of my life doing this. I loved doing it. I love the town. I hope I’ve done a good job.”
He elaborated, saying, “I like to think that I’ve done a good job. I always try to do what’s in the best interest of Hudson. It’s not something you want to stop. But, there comes a time, and I guess this is my time.”
A childhood in Hudson
Durant grew up in Hudson, and public service runs in his family. His father, mother and sister all, at one point, won seats on the School Committee.
Durant, himself, had his sights on a political career, studying political science and history in college before attending law school. He then won his first Selectman election in 1981.
Originally having higher political aspirations, Durant never thought he would have stayed on the board as long as he has, making him the longest-serving board member.
“Doing that for 40 years is a big chunk of my life, and I really enjoyed it,” Durant said.
A difficult choice to step away
After decades, Durant said a number of factors led to his choice not to pull papers for a new term.
His wife is retiring. The two have been spending more time on Cape Cod. And they want to travel more, which will be challenging if in-person Select Board meetings resume.
Watching Durant close this chapter of his career, though, Executive Assistant Tom Moses recently said that he was disappointed, calling Durant a “great selectman” with an “incredible” knowledge of Hudson and its government.
“More importantly, he’s always been a very settling voice on the board,” Moses added. “When there’s a difference of opinion, he can be acted on bridging the gap with some real common sense.”
A perspective on Hudson’s evolution
Before his tenure with the Select Board, Durant served on Hudson’s Proposition 2 1/2 override subcommittee. Then he ran for a seat on the Planning Board in 1979.
“I wanted to have a say in the community,” he said of his political thinking. “I loved it. I wanted to be able to help. I thought, maybe I could help people make good decisions for the growth and development of the town.”
When Durant started making those decisions, Hudson was still a small town.
He watched the construction of Interstate 495, which gave the community new opportunity for growth.
He helped dedicate the Cellucci highway extension in honor of well-known Hudson political giant Paul Cellucci.
And he saw the town’s population and industrial base grow alongside new developments like the Shops at Highland Commons.
Downtown also underwent an evolution that continues to this day.
“It went through a period where there were so many deserted and empty storefronts back to a downtown that’s thriving in a slightly different fashion, and I think in a better fashion,” Durant said.
A juncture for Durant and the Select Board
Durant has no plans to retire from his day job as an attorney or stop being involved on a committee if asked.
With both Durant and Vice-Chair John Parent not seeking re-election, however, there will be new faces on the Select Board.
Durant’s advice for those new members is clear, “Keep an open mind, no surprises, talk to the Executive Assistant and the board and learn.”
“Always do what you think is in the best interest of the town,” Durant said. “Always put that first. If you put that first, you will never go wrong.”