Marblehead Select Board solicits feedback for policy

Marblehead Select Board has created a comprehensive draft policy aimed at making uniform procedures for their appointments and reappointments to the town’s local boards and committees.

The board members recently looked over the initial results of a survey filled out by roughly 50 volunteers and discussed the need for additional community engagement before settling on the new rules.

Board Chair Erin Noonan emphasized, “We want representation from every board, at least a couple of people from each.”

The board has put forth this draft policy as part of an effort to foster wider civic involvement in town governance. While largely affirming current procedures, the policy introduces some notable amendments, such as setting term limits for a number of appointees.

The draft suggests a typical term limit of two consecutive three-year terms. Exceptions can be made for roles necessitating specific expertise, like the Zoning Board of Appeals, where terms could be extended based on the Select Board’s discretion.

Board member Jim Nye brought up uncertainties about how term limits would impact long-serving incumbents. Questions remain unanswered as to whether their service length would reset or if they would receive an additional three years prior to any reappointment procedures. The draft doesn’t provide clarity on this.

In addition to term limits, the draft policy indicates a drive toward greater appointee diversity. However, the board suggested revising language relating to factors like race, gender identity and sexual orientation.

As Nye pointed out, the town currently does not solicit such personal information from applicants. Therefore, the board agreed that the diversity language should be softened to circumvent any potential discrimination.

The proposed policy also includes rules about advertising vacancies, interviewing potential appointees and voting on appointments to ensure transparency and consistency.

For those reaching six years of service and seeking reappointment, the draft policy requires them to reapply instead of receiving passive approval. The board would then open up the process to other candidates and conduct interviews before considering any second terms.

Board member Alexa Singer highlighted that the detailed responses from the survey have led to further questions that need to be addressed before casting her vote. A follow-up meeting has been scheduled for Aug. 16 to reassess the policy after gathering more feedback from the community.

This interim period provides members with the opportunity to properly process the feedback received so far. The ultimate goal is to secure input from all local committees and boards prior to policy implementation.

Board member Moses Grader voiced his satisfaction, saying, “I’m really impressed with the feedback we’ve received from some of the volunteers.”

Noonan shared that they have already received thoughtful feedback on improving the appointment process. The board aims to incorporate such constructive ideas into the final rules.

Alongside term limits, the draft policy mentions the board’s duty to “ensure” that both new and experienced members are appointed to all bodies. The language was suggested to be softened to “seek” or “encourage” such diversity instead.

The draft policy also outlines procedures for handling resignations, vacancies, oaths of office and, if required, the removal of appointees. Any approvals would necessitate a majority vote from the board.

Noonan stressed the overarching objective is to ensure fairness in all aspects of appointments so as to leverage the full potential of Marblehead’s talent pool.

“We have really, actually very thoughtful responses from 48, 49,  I guess almost 50 of our volunteers have responded to the survey,” said Noonan. “I think it makes sense to do a second push-out and improve on that.”

The surveys completed by the volunteers are anonymous. However, the board plans to cross-check with the names of boards that have not yet provided feedback and make efforts to reach out in the forthcoming weeks.

The officials have stated that they continue to welcome and encourage further input.

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