NORTHBOROUGH – Not running for re-election to the Board of Selectmen has been on the back of Jason Perreault’s mind.
Over the last two years, one of his sons relocated to the West Coast. Another son is engaged, and a third gave him his first grandchild.
Plus, his wife, Maggie, who was a teacher at Algonquin Regional High School, retired last summer, and Perreault planned to step away from his day job in software development soon.
“Circumstances have aligned for me to do that even sooner than I have expected,” Perreault said. “If I look forward to the next three years, what I’m seeing is really a lot more focus on personal events and family travel, recharge. Take some time off and think about what I want to do for the next phase.”
Over his three terms on the board, Perreault said it’s become “progressively difficult” with the various circumstances that have arose.
“I think there are other things that I want to do and need to do in my personal life that would not allow me to make the commitment that is necessary,” Perreault said.
After having their eye on Northborough for its school system, the Perreaults moved to town in 1996.
Early on, he was involved with a committee that examined the schools in town.
Around 2004 or 2005, Perreault was told that there was an opening on the Financial Planning Committee. He ended up serving for 10 years.
It was good and important experience, he said. Perreault noted that the committee went through the nuts and bolts of municipal finance, town budgets, financial policies and the tradeoffs to provide town services while also being mindful of the potential tax burden.
While serving, he frequently attended Board of Selectmen meetings, and even before serving on committees, he participated in Town Meeting. He said he felt he should be in the room to voice any concerns, and, if he didn’t have a concern, he should be there to vote.
People have reasons to explain why they can’t attend Town Meeting, he said, such as having children, a job or to travel for work that conflicted.
“I understand that might apply to some people,” Perreault said. “I think in a lot of cases, it’s more disinterest. There is, frankly, a lot of business at Town Meeting that isn’t riveting prime time television. You have to wade through it.”
Perreault, his wife and their family had conflicts or obligations to work around for at least one of them or both of them to be able to attend.
“We felt it was important. We made the tradeoffs we needed to do to participate,” Perreault said.
Board of Selectmen
After serving on Financial Planning for 10 years, Perreault began looking for something different, and he decided to run for the Board of Selectmen after then-Selectmen Aaron Hutchins announced he wouldn’t run for reelection.
During his time on the board, the selectmen tackled numerous issues, including S.A. Farms, the COVID-19 pandemic and the recreational marijuana prohibition.
While he felt reasonably well-prepared, Perreault said there was still information he had to learn. Over his first term, he said he sat in “seat five” at the selectmen’s table to learn from his peers.
In the first year of his second term, Perreault stepped in as chair. That was the year the issue of recreational marijuana arose.
“The problem was some communities acted very quickly. This is while the state regulations were still being written, and we really didn’t have a very clear idea about exactly what the regulations would be and exactly how we would want to craft our bylaws, knowing what the regulations are to achieve the effect we wanted,” he said.
The selectmen decided to wait until the state completed its draft regulations. Then, the selectmen would have a better basis of what that would be and what they wanted to present to Town Meeting.
Ultimately, Town Meeting approved a prohibition, though that wasn’t without a call for the vote to be reconsidered which led to efforts to get every voter who had left Town Meeting to return and vote against the reconsideration.
“It’s an example of … some number of people opportunistically participating in Town Meeting and not really understanding the process and putting the very thing they were looking to achieve at risk because they didn’t understand the process,” Perreault said.
‘Hardest working public official’
His advice for potential selectmen?
“It’s a serious job. There’s a lot of things you have to learn and understand. There probably isn’t much substitute to doing that except to participate in every way you can, even if that at times is simply going to Town Meeting, tuning into the committee and board meetings, following the issues and information as it develops,” he said.
Town Administrator John Coderre said that Perreault was one of the best board members he has worked with.
“He’s smart. He’s thoughtful. He’s respectful,” said Coderre. “Unlike some folks you see coming into local government, Jason never had an agenda other than he wanted to serve the town. He doesn’t like the limelight. He doesn’t self-promote, but behind the scenes, he’s one of the hardest working public officials you’ll ever meet.”