So long selectmen? Bid to change name to Westport Select Board headed to voters

By Bruce Burdett
Posted 12/12/19

Ancient history will give way to gender neutrality if Town Meeting voters approve a move to change the name Westport Board of Selectmen to Westport Select Board.

Along with …

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So long selectmen? Bid to change name to Westport Select Board headed to voters

Posted

WESTPORT — Ancient history will give way to gender neutrality if Town Meeting voters approve a move to change the name Westport Board of Selectmen to Westport Select Board.

Along with that, members would be merely members, not selectmen; the chairman would be the chair.

Board member Steven Ouellette proposed the change at Monday’s meeting and it met with unanimous approval.

The town’s attorney was assigned to preparing the wording for a measure to be put on the May Town Meeting docket.

“Westport has never had a problem electing women to the board,” Mr. Ouellette said, but “we never clearly addressed the gender neutrality of it.”

Over the last four years, over 85 communities in Massachusetts (about a third) have made the change from selectmen to select board, he said.

“Some have changed to council but I think that would be way too big for us,” Mr. Ouellette said. “And one community was so aggravated that, Needham I think, (there was a proposal) to change it to selectwomen instead of selectmen. I don’t know what happened with that.”

Mr. Ouellette said he thinks the new names would be more gender neutral and, “I think it would show some respect to the women that are on the board.”

“The history of selectmen is from like 1633,” he added, when a select man from each town was chosen to represent it. “We’ve evolved a lot in the last 386 years.”

Making the change should be simple enough, one said, except that someone might have to go through the entire collection of town bylaws and sanitize what are probably many references to ‘selectmen’ and ‘chairmen.’

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