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Wrentham Selectmen Debate: Elected or Appointed Town Boards?

The Wrentham Selectmen discussed changing the Board of Health and Board of Assessors from elected to appointed boards.

The Wrentham Board of Selectmen will ask the town if it wants to change two town boards from elected to appointed.

The possibility was raised at the board's meeting last week. Town Administrator William Ketcham said two boards — the Board of Health and the Board of Assessors — could be changed.

"The town has operated, since its founding, with elected boards," he said. "The concept in Massachusetts has been having elected boards — it guarantees diffuse authority, and ensures decisions are made independently."

Ketcham said, although this approach may have made sense at the time, it is not the most efficient way to face the town's current challenges.

"Life in towns has become more complicated," he said. "Citizens are more concerned with the town having a central direction."

"I think, when Massachusetts was founded, people were especially worried about central control," he added.

According to Ketcham, the change would not give the selectmen more power over the other boards.

"What it does do is create a greater central control over the town's direction," he said.

Selectman Michael Carroll said he was in favor of reforming the way the town does business.

"Personally, I'm in favor of creating a charter for the town with a strong town manager," he said. "If we want to improve the management of the town, we should look it over."

Board member Stephen Langley said putting together a charter commission is a long and drawn-out process. He added that changing the boards from elected to appointed could move forward more quickly, and could gauge the town's willingness to change.

"We can ask the town what it wants at town meeting," he said. "If, at town meeting, it's overwhelmingly rejected, there's no reason to go to a charter commission."

"There will be a lot of discussion on this one," he added.

Board Chairman Joseph Botaish said he was in favor of the change.

"I think it's another step to doing smart business, personally," he said.

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