Today’s newspapers focus on the November 8 elections. Please consider it equally newsworthy and important that other municipality seats, normally filled by election but under unique circumstances, are filled by Board of Selectmen appointment without voter consensus.
For example, in Weston, critical decisions the Board of Selectmen will make to fill vacancies on the Board of Education and Board of Finance occur next week, and I’d like to offer my opinion on candidate selection.
Earlier, when a Weston Board of Finance seat, an elected position, became vacant this September, it was to have been filled with a replacement dictated by the party town committee that the official represented. Upon reviewing the town charter, I identified the opportunity that any member of the same political party (even for one day) could serve her or himself up and not have to be the officially endorsed person of the town committee for the Board of Selectman to choose to fill the role for the remainder of the term.
This presented an opportunity to Weston residents not particularly aligned with the center core of either party or even unaffiliated (that person would have to affiliate with the party whose seat was vacant) so that they could step forward and possibly serve without Democratic or Republican town committee approval.
I did that. And in addition to the endorsed DTC candidate and me, a third person came forward, Max Rosenthal. The Board of Selectmen made an excellent decision in choosing Max to fill that vacant seat through the previously unseen window of opportunity in the town charter. Democracy was broadened.
The reasons I successfully pushed to widen the selection process to fill vacancies for elected offices here in Weston are significant as Weston faces critical planning and budget decisions both short and long-term, as well as in our educational direction on School Road. We are retiring an $80 million bond. We need to take a deep breath, address our important short-term needs over the next few years in our current schools, and, in my opinion, wait a few years before we move to take on a proposed even larger debt. And if we do decide to take on debt, leave it to the many new families of Weston to plan what to do and how to do it when we are more secure in where our enrollment will be in 2026-28 and beyond.
These decisions should not be dictated by political or even perceived political agendas. Importantly, we should give our elected officials and our administrators on School Road some breathing room to act on and reach the goals they present to us or plans that involve investments they ask us to vote on.
This period of decision-making leading up to 2023 is critical. It will set the foundations for what we do. The new additions to our boards of education and finance must add new, fresh thinking, unencumbered by political bias to the equation, and be able to communicate to the community at large the rationale for the decisions that they contribute to.
The people the Board of Selectmen choose don’t have to be new to our community, but rather they have to be outside of the current political cohort, be able to grow to understand small-town reality, entrepreneurism, financial boundaries, and responsible financial planning, needs-based investing in maintaining existing infrastructure, ability to study town history rather than listen to dubious historical lore, examine existing data, where necessary, call for additional data (without additional expense), make really hard decisions and be able to explain those decisions in meaningful ways to residents.
Opening the process to new people has already given Weston the benefit of new faces outside of endorsed DTC/RTC candidates — which I believe benefits our community. I am proud to have contributed to making this happen in town governance. It may pave a new way in other Connecticut towns as well.
As Weston’s Board of Selectmen weighs the next two selections for our Boards of Education and Finance, I’ve listened to the interviews, read the CVs, and completed internet and LinkedIn searches to understand each candidate better. I urge every resident to do the same, as should be done for every candidate in every municipality in our state.
Harry Falber lives in Weston.