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Herr voted Select Board chair after public outcry supporting his leadership

by | May 21, 2024 | Featured: News, News

Select Board

Members of the newly constituted Select Board pose for a photo at Tuesday’s meeting. PHOTO/JOHN CARDILLO

Joe Clark and Brian Herr joined the Select Board Tuesday night after winning their seats in the previous day’s election. In an unprecedented move, the board elected Herr, a previous member of the board for 12 years, to be the chair after receiving strong public feedback from residents calling for a change in the board’s direction.

Herr’s first action as a Select Board member was to call for moving the public comment period to the top of the agenda over the board’s reorganization process of electing officers. This allowed several residents to speak in favor of Herr becoming the new chair before the election process began.

“In the past several months, many community members have been deeply upset with the way the Select Board handled not only the Tim Brennan matter but also other significant issues,” added Ashley Fogg, a former School Committee candidate. “We have felt unheard and unseen.”

Fogg stressed Herr’s “wealth of experience, wisdom and leadership” as reasons to elect him as chair.

Kelly Fitzgerald also advocated for Herr, She noted that the high voter turnout and the election of both Herr and Clark reflected “the will of the people.”

Select Board Amy Ritterbusch nominated Shahidul Mannan, the previous vice chair, for the chair role.

“Regardless of the vote, I think we will all come together as one board and work on the issues,” said Mannan. “I truly believe in one Hopkinton. That’s what I want everyone to remember.”

Ritterbusch pointed out that some of the issues that Herr suggested working on were already proposed months ago by Mannan, but they never advanced on the agenda.

Clark nominated Herr, leaving the deciding vote in a straw poll to member Mary Jo LaFreniere.

“In this case, I do believe that the town needs a quiet down period,” she explained as she voted for Herr.

The Select Board officially voted for Herr unanimously. Herr said he “appreciated the gravity of the situation” as well as the people’s confidence in him.

Herr immediately moved to the chair seat in the middle, where he said, “It’s time to move ahead.”

Said Mannan: “Too much drama, but that’s the norm of the day.”

Clark nominated LaFreniere to become vice chair. Ritterbusch nominated Mannan for the position, but the straw poll vote was split along the same lines. The board then unanimously elected LaFreniere.

Said LaFreniere: “I think that having a combination of people of different backgrounds here might help to bring around a consensus to the town.”

Open Space chair complains about lack of notification about property auction

Another controversial moment during the public comment period occurred when Open Space Preservation Commission chair Ed Harrow expressed his dismay that the OSPC was not made aware of a property that is slated for auction by the town.

He said that last year he had “emailed the four people in Town Hall” (whom he did not name) about the OSPC’s interest “in a particular parcel.” He then asked that the OSPC be notified of “any actions the town could be contemplating on this parcel.”

Last week, Harrow said, he learned that the town put the parcel up for auction “with no notice to or discussion with the commission.”

This resembled a previous situation the OSPC faced this year when the Planning Board accepted a donated parcel of land for open space without including the OSPC in the discussions or meetings. Harrow referred to the process as “siloed management.”

He beseeched the new Select Board to work with the OSPC and “reestablishing partnerships” among town entities.

Later in the meeting, Treasurer/Collector CJ Paquette said that the town would be auctioning a property in June, but he did not give the address. To facilitate the transaction, Paquette was appointed as the tax/title custodian upon the advice of town counsel.

Interim Town Manager Elaine Lazarus noted that the position may have been appointed previously, “but record of that vote could not be found.”

“It’s been a very long time since we’ve had to auction off a property,” Paquette said. “This specific property has been in tax lien for nine years. It’s good to get it off the books and onto the tax table.”

Lazarus confirmed to the Independent via email that the property to be auctioned on June 18 is located at 283 Wood Street.

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