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What’s In Your Job Description?

Clarifying the Role of Selectman
Clarifying the Role of Selectman
Cross-Posted from the "Growing Stoneham" blog: http://growingstoneham.wordpress.com/2014/03/11/whats-in-your-job-description/

What has really gotten me excited about the current Board of Selectmen race is the healthy dialogue it has inspired! With all of the enthusiasm and energy of the residents that are speaking out, I thought it might be a great opportunity to help voters gain a deeper understanding of the role of a Selectman. And in light of the great, impactful discussions surrounding our schools (as well as several letters I’ve received asking for this– thank you to all who have jumped right on leveraging my new channels to contact me!), I feel it’s worth directing people to where they can also obtain an understanding about the School Committee members’ roles and responsibilities.


What is a Selectman’s Role?

Our Town website has a brief blurb describing the role and responsibilities, as well as a menu of all the different areas the Selectmen address. The Board of Selectmen is:

“Receptive to citizen input, welcomes and encourages citizen input; Holds public hearings on matters important to citizens and businesses to allow input; Perform multiple and diverse functions as required by our town by-laws and MA state law; Overall, assist the town and it’s citizens.”

While the Board of Selectmen works hard to ensure clear dialogue and awareness between itself and other Town Boards/ Committees, it does NOT have any direct impact/ influence on school issues/ policies. This is something set forth by the State of Massachusetts. I highly encourage everyone to read this section because while there is much debate about the schools (and believe me, I personally feel very strongly about the importance of these discussions), it is important for voters to recognize what Selectmen are authorized and empowered to address.

I have been very clear about my position on all important issues from day one, as well as ACTION I have been taking/ planning on taking for each. More recently I’m seeing my position mirrored verbatim, but with heavy emphasis on schools, so I felt it was very much worth further clarifying exactly what a Selectman can and CANNOT do.

Just like with any job, it is important a candidate actually understands what their position allows for them to do. For example, you wouldn’t want a prospective Fire Chief promising to address concerns people might have with the Police Department. There is a tremendous difference between “taking an interest” in other departments, committees and boards for the purpose of staying informed and collaborating; and then working within a specific role that legally only allows you to take action on a set list of areas.

Again, using my “Fire / Police Dept." example, if I’m the Chief of Police that has a problem with the hydrant in my community, I’ll communicate with the Fire Chief who is empowered to address the concern. I might also stay in touch to see how it all turns out. However, I have to continue to mind my duties as Police Chief in the meantime- and actually have a firm understanding of what those duties are. That would make me a responsible Police Chief, which is what the community has me in place for.

Why am I stressing this issue? Because the crucial point is that Selectmen CANNOT vote on School Committee issues. It was brought to my attention that many residents were lead to believe that Selectmen can vote on both school and general town items, but that is FALSE. 

Collaborate, support and share ideas- yes. That is something I've been doing all along with other groups besides the Selectmen. But take ACTIONABLE steps such as voting on other Committee items? No.

For further reference, here is the link to the Stoneham School Committee’s website. There is a School Committee Policy book available for public viewing and download on the right side menu.


-Ann Marie O'Neill, Stoneham Selectman


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