Our Opinion: Cheshire sets a template for change


Two new faces will grace the Cheshire Select Board, after Michelle Francesconi and Ronald DeAngelis were elected Tuesday in the culmination of a four-year effort to expand the board from three to five seats ("Francesconi, DeAngelis easily win seats on expanded Cheshire Select Board," Eagle, Aug. 14).

Mr. DeAngelis noted that the expansion reflects residents' having "an open mind to change." And while Select Board expansion is by no means a silver bullet to solve local dysfunction, it's a move that, done right, can inject new legislative life, jostle free longstanding logjams and lighten the load of officials' service to their towns.

It's a move that Stockbridge ought to consider, among others, to help solve existential problems facing Norman Rockwell's town as it hurtles toward the future.

On a related front, Stockbridge has a golden opportunity to consider a town manager form of government as it decides how to permanently fill the space left by newly minted Richmond Town Administrator Danielle Fillio ("Stockbridge town administrator set to take Richmond post," Eagle, July 3). A town manager, or Select Board expansion, or both, would help render elective office less of a full-time job, more fully opening Stockbridge government to residents with young families, jobs or other commitments.

Clearly, no solution is perfect. In a little town, a Select Board expansion is not guaranteed to change the often dynastic nature of leadership. Ms. Francesconi, for a convenient example, is a qualified, capable former town police officer in her own right, but does come from a politically active local family — no rarity in the Berkshires.

Town managers, for their part, can be expensive. They're unelected, a deal-breaker for some residents enamored of New England's unique town meeting system — America's premier example of direct democracy.

So whatever solution Stockbridge, or any town, embraces, must be thoughtfully considered. As Mr. DeAngelis said, an open mind is a prerequisite. In order to look looming local problems squarely in the face, Stockbridge residents and officials must be open to change.



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