Town Meeting: Enfield to vote on expanding to Selectboard to 5 seats

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 4/21/2022 10:01:57 PM
Modified: 4/21/2022 10:00:40 PM

ENFIELD — Voters will consider increasing the number of seats on the town’s Selectboard from three to five at this year’s Town Meeting.

The petitioned article, which was proposed by Tracy Young, will go before voters during April 30’s floor portion of Town Meeting, which begins at 9 a.m. at Huse Park.

“As the management of municipal affairs have become increasingly complicated, it has become apparent there would be benefits to having additional members on the board to share the time commitment and responsibilities of individual members,” Young wrote in his petition. “It will bring enhanced perspectives to the discussions and represent our diverse community of single residents, couples, families with children, seniors and all groups of citizens.”

He cited the towns of Haverhill and Sunapee, which also increased their selectboards from three to five members.

“I see it also as an opportunity to have another line of communication,” Brown added during a recording of a public hearing on the article Monday night. “And that potentially helps to involve them so that if someone doesn’t happen to know any of the current Selectpersons, then with five they might have someone who knows someone.”

Current Selectboard member Kate Stewart signed the petition and supports increasing the size of the board. Incoming Selectboard member Erik Russell also supports the move. Russell was elected to the Selectboard in March’s Australian ballot and will take the place of Meredith Smith, who did not run for reelection this year.

“More diversity of opinion, of thought and diversity would be good,” Russell said during the public hearing.

There were questions that the town may struggle to recruit additional people to the board, when there are currently openings on committees that the town is working to fill.

“I have concerns that just getting somebody to commit to the amount of work necessary for doing that may be very difficult for many of the town committees,” Dave Beaufait said.

Selectboard chairman John Kluge, who is serving his fifth term on the board, said that of the five times he’s run for the Selectboard there was only a single time someone ran against him.

“I think there are people, but they don’t necessarily want to campaign against one another,” Stewart said during the hearing.

Kluge also pointed to easier discussions between board members outside of meetings.

On a three-person board, two people is a quorum, so any discussion comes with the legally mandated public notice and disclosure. Five members would grow the quorum to three, easing those requirements.

Kluge said that there could be drawbacks to a larger board, however. Some people have told him it doesn’t always work out, pointing to towns that have larger selectboards that do not get along.

“What happens sometimes is there is more cliquishness: You’ve got the group of three, the group of two, and it becomes more politicized,” Kluge said. “One thing about three people: We have to work together. I mean, there’s no way around it. We can’t get cliquish … or nothing will happen in the town.”

Stewart would welcome the opportunity to spread the work among more people. She acknowledged that while the workload is “definitely what we signed up for … it’s a lot of nights out.”

More opportunities for engagement can also lead residents to take more active role in town activities, Brown said.

“It’s more eyes on town properties and roads, and I think that’s a great thing in this day and age,” he said.

Liz Sauchelli can be reached at esauchelli@vnews.com or 603-727-3221.




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