Update (3/21/22): The Select Board finished the process of interviewing and voting on members of the Town Governance Study Committee at its March 16 meeting (discussion starts at about 1-hour, 24-minutes of recording). The committee members are:
- Michael Avitzur
- Matt Brand
- Carol Gloff
- Tony Lista
- Joshua Ostroff
- Daniel M Sullivan
- Lisa Tabenkin
- Hillary Truslow
- Linda Wollschlager
The Natick Select Board on Wednesday, following interviews at their meeting with Town Governance Study Committee candidates, decided to hold off on making their selections because a couple of the dozen candidates weren’t available.
The Committee will examine possible ways to improve the way the town operates and share findings with the Board as soon as the end of the year. It could recommend everything from doing away with Town Meeting to hiring a town manager. It could morph into a more formal charter commission down the road.
The Board heard from a variety of candidates, including a Natick High School senior whose interest in municipal government was stoked during his Eagle Scout process, familiar faces from current town government posts, and those whose experiences stem from both the public and private sectors.
Familiar themes from the candidates are that they love the town and want to help it thrive going forward. One candidate, Town Moderator Frank Foss, said “It’s not that the Town of Natick’s government is broken. It’s that it could be better…”
Candidate Lisa Tabenkin said during her statement and interview that it will be important to find out what does work as well as what doesn’t. From her time on the School Committee, she said, she saw well different boards can collaborate.
Former Board of Selectmen member Carol Gloff termed the effort a challenging research project, and asked by the Board whether she comes in with any preconceived notions of possible outcomes, she replied “I don’t…I really want to look at this with an open mind.”
Candidate Daniel Sullivan pointed out that Natick’s Finance Committee and Town Meeting really pile up the time and meetings that members commit to, making it clear to him that “participation in municipal government in Natick was really more akin to an endurance sport.” For this and other reasons, he said there is a need to assess how Natick is run, in part to find ways to make civic participation possible for more people.
DE&I talent hard to find
When Natick called for the creation of an 11-member Equity Task Force in 2020 charged with recommending how the town might go about ensuring diversity, equity & inclusion in all it does, there was no shortage of candidates. However, finding candidates for the standing committee that the task force recommended has been a tougher task.
While a few quality candidates have stepped forward, not enough of them have to fill out a committee roster. So the Select Board is going to hold off pursuing new candidates and reassess in a few months. It might be easier to find candidates once the town gets a chief diversity officer in place. The fact that the town at that point has a chief diversity officer could be a draw for potential committee members.
Hiring a chief diversity officer has been a challenge of its own, as such professionals are in high demand by governments, schools, and business. When asked about the status of Natick’s hiring efforts, Town Administrator Jamie Erickson said during the Select Board meeting that a hiring is “not right around the corner.”
“With all our job positions, we’re finding that the applicant pool is pretty slim, it’s not unique to the chief diversity officer,” he said.
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