Massachusetts Statehouse (copy)

A new proposal from a state senator would replace the word "selectmen," which appears 17 times in the Massachusetts Constitution, with "select board." 

The word "selectmen" appears 17 times in the Massachusetts Constitution, and a new proposal from a state senator would replace each of those mentions with "select board."

Belmont Sen. Will Brownsberger filed the proposed constitutional amendment (SD 2564) last week. Use of the gender-neutral term "select board" has picked up steam in recent years, with many towns individually moving to rename their boards of selectmen.

On Beacon Hill, the House and Senate's versions of proposed joint rules for the 2021-2022 session, which are currently subject to conference committee negotiations, each replace the term "board of selectmen" with "select board" in a section regarding local approval of home rule petitions. Of the 292 Massachusetts municipalities that have town forms of government, more than 100 have adopted the name "select board" for their elected policy body, a Massachusetts Municipal Association list shows.

In many cases, those name changes have involved securing legislative and gubernatorial approval for home rule petitions formally amending the town's charter. So far this session, lawmakers have filed such name-change petitions for Hopkinton (HD 1412) and Middleborough (SD 1862).

The MMA's Massachusetts Selectmen's Association voted in January 2020 to change its name to the Massachusetts Select Board Association, a move the group said was proposed by its executive board "in order to align with a trend among cities and towns to adopt gender-neutral terms for local government bodies in an effort to promote inclusivity and equality."

Similarly, every Massachusetts city that had once had a board of aldermen has now renamed those bodies to city councils. Melrose became the final city to do so, via an October 2019 law.