Article 27 at Northboro’s upcoming Annual Town Meeting seeks to authorize the Selectmen to petition the legislature for special legislation to rename Northboro’s Board of Selectmen to “Select Board.” Many other towns have made this change over the past several decades, usually intending to acknowledge that select members can be of any gender, not just men. However, based on some comments from the January 9 selectmen’s meeting, it seems conformity to the rest of the Commonwealth is also a priority.
I oppose this article, at least without amendments, not because I am against gender-neutral language (in fact I strongly support it) but rather for a very simple reason: it’s boring. Northboro is not making some statement about gender equality or inclusivity in government in this article. We’re not doing anything new or noteworthy, as so many towns have already done this before us. We’re also not holding out and making a statement in support of keeping our quaint, traditional New England town official titles. We’re just being boring and conforming to what everyone else is doing.
If we wanted to be quirky, which is way better than being boring, we would change the name of the Board of Selectmen to something different. I suggested “Board of Select,” which would be gender-neutral, it would keep some of the more quaint, traditional vibes of the old name, and it would be quirky and unique to Northboro. It would be a pioneering, radical statement that progress does not need to mean losing our unique character. Of course, other suggestions might be cool too.
While the Board of Selectmen might be bored of being “selectmen,” I’m bored of the selectmen choosing boring proposals instead of discussing the meaning and values behind our town’s actions. It is my hope that the article could be amended at town meeting, or at the very least there could be some debate, so our community can have a real discussion about the importance of gender-neutral, inclusive language, as well as our community’s quirks and traditions.
Carter C. Brannon