By Dakota Antelman, Managing Editor
HUDSON – Town Meeting voters struck an Executive Assistant residency requirement from the town charter and, among other things, approved an article to let the Police Department change its hiring and promotion processes, May 1.
Held in the Hudson High School parking lot due to COVID-19, this year’s Annual Town Meeting moved through 32 articles addressing police, town water infrastructure and the town charter among other things.
Voters remove police from civil service designation
Early in the meeting, Hudson Police Chief Rick DiPersio called on voters to vote “yes” on an effort to remove his department from the state’s civil service distinction.
Created in the late 1800s to fight political corruption, the civil service sets out strict hiring and promotion guidelines for agencies under its umbrella.
In recent years, a growing wave of Massachusetts police departments have raised concerns about those guidelines, arguing they leave little wiggle room especially in the face of national calls to reform hiring practices and to improve diversity.
“The civil service process has proven to be an outdated hiring and promotion process,” DiPersio told voters. “…We can do better.”
Independence from civil service restrictions means Hudson can now offer officers education incentives. It can also take additional factors like college education and military experience into account in personnel decisions it makes, according to DiPersio.
“We need to become competitive with other agencies,” he said, alluding to a past pattern of losing officers to neighboring communities. “…This is a historic moment in our town’s history.”
Article erases Executive Assistant residency requirement
Outside of a number of other police articles on the warrant, voters agreed to remove a stipulation in the town charter that requires the Executive Assistant to live in town.
As this vote took place six days before sitting Executive Assistant Tom Moses is set to formally retire, this was good news for his successor, Thomas Gregory.
Discussed at Select Board meetings throughout the Executive Assistant search process, this amendment had its opponents.
“The idea of an Executive Assistant just living anywhere is problematic,” Hudson resident Dandrick Gelin said.
He was joined by at least one other voter who vocalized his opposition. In total, 15 out of 108 residents who voted on the article opposed its passage.
As some worried an Executive Assistant living out of town might not sufficiently “know” the community, Select Board Member Joe Durant took the microphone and offered reassurance.
“We will give direction, we will make sure that it works,” he said, speaking on behalf of the board. “This needs to pass.”
That comment, capping a longer speech, drew a moment of applause from members of the public, the Select Board and the Finance Committee.
The charter change now heads to the Boston for approval by the state legislature.
Thomas Gregory currently lives in Worcester. State finalization of this residency requirement removal will, as a result, now nullify a $10,000 reimbursement that the town would have paid out if Gregory had to move to town according to his recently finalized contract.
See additional reporting and photography from Town Meeting posted throughout this week…