The quality of selectmen's meetings in Shirley has been strained.
That's both bad and good news. Nobody wants a bobble-headed board nodding in sync, but two-to-one votes on nearly every major issue shouldn't be business as usual, either.
Take the flap over the chief executive officer. Long-standing imbalance in the board's collective view may have caused the problem, but a majority decision didn't solve it.
With two of the three selectmen set on ousting him, CAO David Berry is on paid administrative leave. The corner office is empty while the town continues to cover a $90,000 annual salary, plus benefits, until the matter is settled.
Maybe the model needs a makeover. Or a more task-centric, less open-to-interpretation job description for the next CAO.
Now, with two selectman slots on the May election ballot, citizens have a chance to step up and make a difference.
Whether in terms of the current board's handling of a situation or in a general sense, folks who dislike the way the political wind is blowing might want to help change its direction.
Nomination papers are available at the Town Clerk's office. The two open positions are a three-year post held by David Swain and a one-year vacancy created by the recent resignation of Andy Deveau.
Swain has taken out nomination papers for reelection to the three-year term. For the one-year seat Deveau will vacate on or before May 10, there's one hopeful so far: former selectman Enrico
With two potential candidates, why urge others to step forward? To achieve diversity and spark growth, for starters.
There are decisions to be made. Plans for the town's future. From sorting out controversies to budget-building to keeping communication lines open with the Ayer-Shirley Regional School District and the other member town. The best chance of success could be with new voices on the board.
The Board of Selectmen is accountable to the public. It should take a forward track after the election, setting goals and priorities and assessing performance periodically.
The public should be kept informed via regular reports from all government entities. Plans can go awry if follow-up is inconsistent.
Take recouping back taxes, for example. The Tax Collection Committee has disbanded, but selectmen should keep their eyes on the ball, lest it gets dropped ... again. To that end, the treasurer and tax collector should provide quarterly updates to augment Annual Town Meeting reports.
And whatever happened to Government Study Committee recommendations? The Personnel Board hired a human resources consultant to review management salaries compared to other towns. How's that going?
Three years ago, a campaign slogan touted candidate David Swain as "the voice of reason."
This time, a more fitting mantra could be "a voice for change."
The more voices, the better.
And an injection of professionalism couldn't hurt.