By Stuart Foster, Contributing Writer
UPDATE: The deadline to submit letters of interest to serve on the Town Seal Review Committee has been extended for a second time. The deadline is now July 23.
WESTBOROUGH – The Town of Westborough is seeking members to join a committee for the purpose of reviewing the Westborough town seal and recommending whether or not the town should adopt a new one.
Letters of interest are now due on Friday, July 23 after Town Administrator John Arnold announced a second deadline extension, June 16. Letters had originally been due on June 30 before that deadline was first extended to July 16.
“With the original announcement coming right as the school year was ending and people were getting into summer mode – along with a deadline right before the July 4 weekend – the response has been much less than I expected, given the discussions at the Select Board’s meetings last year that led to the article,” Arnold wrote in an email to the Community Advocate explaining the decision.
As of June 29, the day before his original deadline, Arnold said he had just three letters of intent.
Town seal debate prompts committee formation
A number of individuals in town raised the issue of the town seal due to its depiction of the cotton gin, which was a major factor in the expansion of American slavery.
“My understanding is that a number of people approached the selectmen to mention that the depiction of the cotton gin on the town seal could be controversial or offensive to some,” Arnold said in a recent interview.
As some have opposed the town seal, a portion of other Westborough residents have rallied to keep it unchanged.
Selectmen added an article to the May 15 annual town meeting asking voters to determine whether the town should establish a committee to review the town seal. The committee would then decide if it should be replaced and, in that case, recommend a procedure to create a new one. Town meeting approved the article.
The approved article named Arnold as the appointing authority for the committee, responsible for seeking letters of interest and appointing people with “interest and familiarity with history, design, and civic participation.”
“Right now, I am in the process of doing community outreach to essentially find people who are interested in serving on the committee, and then I will speak with them, and then I will choose somewhere between the best seven and nine people to be on the committee,” Arnold said.
The current town seal originated as a result of a competition between Westborough High School students in 1967 to create a new seal for the town’s 250th anniversary. The town seal was then created by compiling the designs of four student drawings, including the Town Hall tower, an outline of Westborough, a “pie crust” edge around the seal and the cotton gin.
The cotton gin is relevant to Westborough because its inventor Eli Whitney was born in the town, although Arnold said that Whitney’s work on it was actually done in New Haven, Connecticut.
“It is always good, I think, to step back and reflect on the town’s history, but also where the town is now and where the town is going,” Arnold said. “The town’s seal should be something that reflects the past while also projecting to the future.”
The town seal is used by Westborough Town Clerk Wendy Mickel to certify all town meeting actions and all official business of the town of Westborough.
“The town clerk is the keeper of the town seal and is the only person authorized to use it,” said Mickel.
Letters of interest due July 23
People interested in serving on the committee should write a letter of interest to Arnold describing why they are interested in serving on it, a brief description of how a group should gather public input, how a committee can best arrive at a recommendation despite different opinions, as well as their background and familiarity with history, design and civic participation. They can send the letters to the Westborough Town Hall, email them to [email protected] or fax them to 508-366-3099 by Friday, July 23.