Moe DePalo finishes 30 years with Select Board


Moe DePalo finishes 30 years with Select Board
Moe DePalo, left, was honored for his 30 years of service to the town of Shrewsbury.
Courtesy Photo

SHREWSBURY – Maurice “Moe” DePalo has been a steady force on the Shrewsbury Select Board for decades.

Over his 10-term, 30-year tenure, DePalo has served with 17 different Select Board members and three town managers. 

However, the Select Board meeting on April 25 was DePalo’s last, as he announced in November that he would not be seeking re-election in May. DePalo finishes his career as the longest-tenured Select Board member in Shrewsbury’s history. 

From Spag’s to Select Board

DePalo – a lifelong resident of Shrewsbury and graduate of Shrewsbury High School – first became interested in local government while working for Spag’s. The retailer was looking to purchase land adjacent to its property, and DePalo took the lead on the project. 

“It became my project to get that through,” DePalo said. “I had to go before all the boards in town, some of them multiple times, and it was really my first exposure to town government. I found out I liked being involved.”

DePalo, self-conscious and averse to public speaking at the time, first set his sights on joining the Finance Committee. Ultimately, a friend persuaded him to run for the Select Board, and DePalo was elected to his first term at 38. 

The feeling of being elected for the first time was among the most memorable moments of his life, DePalo said. 

“It was more than satisfying. It was exciting. It was exhilarating. The next day, when the feeling settled down, it was, ‘Oh my God, how do you do this job? You don’t get any training to do this job,’” he said.

Legacy of Moe DePalo

DePalo was able to figure it out. Over the next three decades, Shrewsbury’s development was shaped by the actions of DePalo and the other members.

“There isn’t much that happens that the Select Board doesn’t have their hands in,” DePalo said. 

In the mid-1990s, Shrewsbury was preparing for an increase in the town’s student population. After several failed efforts to build a new school, the funding for the construction of Floral Street School was passed in 1995. 

“That was really exciting because there were several years when we could not get a school built,” DePalo explained. “Finally, the town said yes, and that was the beginning of several schools being built, almost in a row.”

Moe DePalo finishes 30 years with Select Board
Moe DePalo is leaving the Select Board after serving for several decades. (Photo/Evan Walsh)

DePalo said he was also proud of the recent construction of the new police station, and he expressed relief that the police would have a suitable home for the distant future. He called the station his “last big project,” and he was grateful the station was built before the end of his term. 

There were some tough decisions as well. DePalo recalled that votes to move an override vote forward were particularly difficult. After the Great Recession, DePalo voted to halt badly-needed overrides. 

“There were one, maybe two, instances when we had to tell the people who wanted an override – when we really needed an override – that it wasn’t the time and we weren’t going to do it… people were still hurting,” he said.

Even the most difficult votes were made easier by his simple deciding principles, he said. DePalo explained that every vote boiled down to two considerations: whether it was in the best interest of the town, and whether it was the right thing to do. 

“It might not be popular. Sometimes you make those types of votes when it’s close to re-election and you say ‘It’s possible this is going to cost me my re-election, but this is the right thing to do,’” DePalo said.

Reflecting on his tenure

DePalo says his honesty, transparency, and conscientiousness made it easy for Shrewsbury voters to trust him for 30 years.

“From some of the feedback I’ve gotten, people see that I care, and that I try to do the right thing, and that I try to help people. I think that’s the biggest thing. You can do things, and people might not agree with what you’re doing, but I think if you’re trying to do the right thing, I think [people] respect that. They see you’re trying to help people. I don’t think you can ask anything more than that from somebody,” he said. 

Although he’s been on the board for numerous terms, DePalo was as invested in his final term as he was on his first day, continually introducing new ideas, being inquisitive, and never resting on his laurels.

There’s a dichotomy in Shrewsbury, he said.

He said the town has always been forward thinking but fiscally responsible – attributes that allowed the town to have such efficient and sustainable growth.

“Even though the town has grown population-wise, I still think it has a lot of the same feel it did when it was a smaller town,” DePalo said. “Obviously, we don’t have the open space we had, but it still has a small-town feel. People still know each other.”

People may have had different opinions about the Select Board over the years, but DePalo asserted that at the most fundamental level, all residents are alike.

“No matter what people’s opinions seem to be, I think everybody wants the same thing: they want a nice place to live, an affordable place to live. They want to feel safe. They want their water to run when they need it… if you want to get anything done, you have to work with people, and you have to meet people where they are,” he said.

Moe DePalo finishes 30 years with Select Board
Rep. Hannah Kane and Selectmen Moe DePalo, Beth Casavant and Michelle Conlin walk in the Shrewsbury Memorial Day parade on Monday. (Photo/Laura Hayes)

DePalo’s next chapter

DePalo will be retiring from the Select Board to give somebody else the opportunity to “carry the load.” Though he still enjoys the Select Board’s work, he decided it was time to try something different. DePalo plans to head to Arizona during the winter and hopes to spend more time with his five grandchildren.

Although DePalo will be leaving, the Select Board will move forward. Despite the challenges the Select Board faces, DePalo will miss the work and the people of Shrewsbury. 

“It’s been a great experience – I’ve met so many people. I’ve got to be involved in so many things I never would’ve been involved in… I’ll miss meeting people,” he said. “I made a lot of friends. I can honestly say between the people I met in town government and the residents I met in town, I learned something from almost everybody I met, and I found that really exciting and rewarding.”

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