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Choosing the Next Select Board Chair

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Monday’s election will see Hopkinton seat more than just two new Select Board members. It will also prompt a restructuring of the board and the appointment of a new chairperson.

While the chair of the Select Board has just one vote, the amount of work the chair does is estimated to be double the amount of a typical member. In addition to conducting the meeting following Robert’s Rules of Order, the chair collaborates with the Town Manager to set the meeting’s agenda. And while Select Board members are free to make public comments on their own, it is often the role of the chair to speak for the Select Board on important matters.

The chair is elected by majority vote of its members, typically at the first meeting following the election. True to form, there is a Select Board meeting scheduled for Tuesday, May 21, and the first agenda item following public forum is “SELECT BOARD REORGANIZATION”, where a new Chair and Vice Chair will be elected. The term lasts for one year.

This election presents interesting possibilities for this role. 

It’s no secret that current Vice Chair Shahidul Mannan wants to be the chair. According to current Select Board members, he has privately signaled his desire several times this past year, and notably, he has elevated his public profile in the past six weeks, first with his public comment about discrimination on April 16 and culminating with his public endorsement of candidate Peter Mimmo. 

Member Amy Ritterbusch was the chair from 2022-2023, so it’s unlikely she would want to take another turn, particularly considering her unpopularity with many Hopkinton residents. Similarly, I doubt that Mary Jo Lafreniere would want to sign up for the work.

So who will be the next chair? It depends on the election results.

I predict that if either Peter Mimmo or Kyla McSweeney win, Shahidul Mannan will be elected chair. Mimmo and McSweeney are Democratic party loyalists, and as junior members, would be disinclined to vote in any other way. Mannan, Ritterbusch, and Mimmo/McSweeney would almost certainly vote for Mannan.

The scenario is more interesting if Brian Herr and Joe Clark win. While neither represent a party, multiple public statements confirm that their thinking diverges from the rest of the board on many pressing issues before the town. It’s possible that Herr will be nominated by Clark, and having served as a past chair of the board, Herr has experience in the role. Clark would vote for Herr, Herr would vote for Herr, and I assume Ritterbusch and Mannan would vote for Mannan. 

Which leaves Lafreniere with the deciding vote, and this begs the question: Will Mary Jo be more loyal to the Democratic party or to the clock? Because if Mannan is elected chair it is certain that any meeting he conducts will be longer and more tedious, given his propensity to monologue.

It is my opinion that whoever is elected should have the credibility to speak for a broad cross-section of Hopkinton voters, and this would exclude Mannan, Ritterbusch, and Lafreniere, whose recall petitions have garnered more than 1,000 signatures each. The chair should represent the best interests of Hopkinton, and it should be person-first, not party-first.

Sunnyside Gardens

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