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Nasrullah proudly reflects on Select Board tenure

by | May 13, 2024 | Featured: News, News

Irfan Nasullah

Irfan Nasrullah speaks at one of his final Select Board meetings last month. PHOTO/JOHN CARDILLO

Outgoing two-term Select Board member and former chair Irfan Nasrullah reflected on the victories and challenges he experienced during his tenure as he sought to add more diversity to local government.

Nasrullah said he was moved to run for office because of the national wave of Muslim backlash experienced in 2016.

“I decided to get involved in town politics when [President Donald] Trump was elected,” he explained. “It was just a feeling that I needed to do something. At the time he was elected, Muslims were being demonized.”

He ran for a one-year term on the Planning Board in 2017 before setting his sights on the Select Board.

Nasrullah noted that he “felt alone” during his youth in Holliston and after moving to Hopkinton in 1981 because there were few Pakastani Muslims like himself in Massachusetts at that time. Growing up in a Jewish neighborhood that embraced him allowed Nasrullah to gain a perspective that would help him build cross-cultural bridges later in life.

“I was welcomed wholeheartedly in my neighborhood,” he explained. “There were never any issues. And I couldn’t understand why there was all this animosity nationally. These are good people.

“Part of the problem is people don’t know who we are,” Nasrullah continued. “We live an insular life. There hadn’t been a lot of civic engagement from the Muslim community, and I thought that was a mistake.”

Added Nasrullah: “Then I said, ‘Well, gee, who am I to talk if I am not getting involved?’ I had to step up.”

Through the election process, he received support from the Hopkinton Democratic Town Committee and his colleagues, and he gained a deepening love for Hopkinton.

“Reflecting on my time on the Select Board, I was welcomed with open arms,” he said. “Brendan [Tedstone], Brian [Herr], Claire [Wright] and John [Coutinho] were so helpful as I was trying to get my feet wet.”

The development of Legacy Farms has attracted more residents from diverse populations to the town, a trend Nasrullah said he hopes will continue.

“The influx of people to Legacy Farms has changed the whole look of the town,” he said. “It’s helped to create and attract a lot of diversity to the town. I’m thrilled with the level of engagement that we’re getting from the Indian, Chinese and Hispanic populations. Everyone seems to want to be a part of this town.”

While he noted that he is “not the most devout Muslim,” Nasrullah found embracing his culture “to be critical with my kids, to have other people who look like them and practice the same religion and have the same nomenclature, things they can identify with so they don’t feel like they’re alone.”

The xenophobia Nasrullah has seen expressed recently toward migrants concerns him. His hope is that Hopkinton can be a model for welcoming people from various cultural backgrounds.

Brennan termination ‘really difficult decision’

The most challenging issue that faced Nasrullah during his two Select Board terms has been the decision to terminate former Hopkinton Police Department Sgt. Tim Brennan. Brennan was found to have broken department policies by failing to report the alleged sexual misconduct by his colleague, former Deputy Chief John “Jay” Porter, with a Hopkinton High School student two decades ago. Porter pleaded not guilty to three counts of child rape in May 2023.

“It was a really, really difficult decision,” he said of the 4-1 vote to terminate Brennan. “The decision was based on the failure to report and the policy violations. There is a hierarchy in the Police Department, and we can’t have a sergeant usurping the authority of the chief.”

Nasrullah called Brennan “a good police officer who has really been an integral part of the community.” However, he added, “The violation was just so egregious.”

Nasrullah also called out the conduct of Brennan’s supporters, who have been seeking a recall election for all five Select Board members. Nasrullah and chair Muriel Kramer, the lone voter in support of Brennan, already announced they are not seeking reelection.

“Unfortunately, I think the advocates for him were just trying to bully us,” he said. “It felt really unfair, from my perspective. I think if they really were trying to advocate for a decision, badgering decision-makers certainly is not the best method of advocacy.”

Nasrullah said he respected Brennan for trying to protect the alleged survivor and considered all the evidence before making a decision.

“At the same time, he knew there was an alleged sexual predator and let him be free and gain further positions of power,” he added.

Accomplishments celebrated

“The breakthrough that we’ve had with Eversource is one of the accomplishments I’m really proud of,” observed Nasrullah. “I really credit Town Manager Norman Khumalo and the former fire chiefs for encouraging more collaboration.”

He added that he became more keenly aware of the potential hazards the LNG plant could pose to residents after becoming Select Board chair.

Said Nasrullah: “It’s scary to know that this is the biggest LNG plant east of the Mississippi.”

Other goals he has worked toward include the approval of the Marathon School project early in his tenure, the near completion of the Main Street Corridor Project, and his focus on environmental justice.

Another challenge he recognized was the public outcry for a change to the structure of the Upper Charles Trail Committee after last May’s Annual Town Meeting and subsequent community survey.

“I really hate that we’re in this position, but we are,” he explained, noting that the Select Board charged him with coming up with a potential solution. “The town has spoken, and I don’t want to go against the will of the people.”

The Select Board will determine the composition of the new iteration of the committee.

Ready to pass torch

Nasrullah said his decision not to seek reelection sprung from his desire to spend time with his young son, whom he adopted from Morocco, and the rest of his family. He noted that his father was a doctor and did not spend as much time at home as he would have liked.

“A lot has changed in my personal life since I started,” he said with a smile. “The baby is so cute and so fun. I’m really enjoying being a dad. Believe it or not, it’s easier this time around. When he throws his tantrums, it’s actually funny for us.”

He stressed that “there are plenty of good candidates out there.” He said he is happy to meet with anyone interested in running for Select Board to explain all that the position entails.

“People are engaged, and that’s one of the best things about Hopkinton,” said Nasrullah. “They want to contribute. Whoever is running is doing it for a love of Hopkinton.”

4 Comments

  1. Scott

    You think a group of citizens voicing their opinions is unfair? It’s called democracy. So now you are the victim? What a distorted view of reality.

    Reply
    • Irfan

      Wow, you’re really reading into something that I never said. I never said I was a victim, reading that out of this article is a distorted view of reality.

      Reply
  2. Amy Groves

    Thank you for six years of serving amicably with a wide variety of colleagues, and for continuing to serve the town faithfully even when others were not so amicable. The town was fortunate to have someone with your legal knowledge on the Select Board.

    Reply
    • Irfan

      Thank you. It’s been a privilege and honor to serve this town.

      Reply

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