Switching seats

At the beginning of my campaign last winter, I had a bunch of people over to my house to talk about plans.  I had prepared a packet of information for everyone, with an agenda for the meeting, a timeline for the campaign, a fact sheet with key details and contact info, various sign-up sheets and more.  Someone joked "Are you running for Select Board Chair?"

Well, I wasn't.  Or maybe I was, and didn't know it.

There is something about organizing, managing and sharing information that is a natural instinct for me.  I have done this for the Select Board, and in doing so, it seemed to me that I could do more, and that my colleagues might find it beneficial.  So I offered myself for consideration as Chair. 

Gerry and I have had excellent conversations about this change, and he could not have been more gracious, generous and helpful about it.  I wish I had talked to him about my intention to make that offer before last week's meeting, but I didn't.  It's hard to know, especially without any reorganization policy, how something like that should happen.  Now we have a policy, and now I have the benefit of hindsight.  Alas.  Live and learn. 

I met with Gerry today to talk about how all kinds of things work.  Tomorrow I'll meet first with Larry, and then with Kate (who works in the Select Board office, and whom I already know to be incredibly helpful and accommodating, because I've worked with her a lot while doing the minutes,) and I'll try to figure out how we can all work best together to manage the flow of information and expectations. 

It will be different.  I will have a different style than Gerry.  I will probably be a bit rough around the edges as I settle in to this role.  I will make mistakes.  (And you can gloat about them!  I understand the occupational hazards.)  But if I didn't think I could help move us forward, then I wouldn't have gone down this path. 

My sincerest thanks to Gerry for everything.  And to the rest of the Select Board as well, for putting their faith in me. 

What will become of the meeting summaries?  Nothing good, I'm afraid.  (Sitting through a meeting without taking constant notes was so weird - and so great.  This change may have saved me from carpal tunnel syndrome.)  We'll see how all this goes.  Thanks for paying attention. 


Alison said:


We will miss your meeting summaries, with their astute observations, but we will be gaining a lot more with your leadership. Thank you for your willingness to take this on!

Alison Donta-Venman

Mary Carey said:

Congratulations, Stephanie!

O'Reilly said:

Stephanie, Since you started publishing the SB meeting agenda and the SB meeting minutes, your communications played an important role in keeping Amherst residents informed about the details of Select Board governance.

These communications allowed additional communications to be heard by the SB from voters so that feedback came as part of the process and not at the end of the process after the decision was made. (Witness the Kendrick Park Use policy debacle.)

Furthermore, press coverage of Amherst governance via traditional press such as the Amherst Bulletin and Daily Hampshire Gazette is 1) after the fact and 2) insufficient communicating the deliberation and decision-making factors. Instead, it tends to present the controversy and personalities of the people holding conflicting views. None of which contributes to confidence in a decision making process. Instead, it divides and polarizes.

Therefore, it is essential that Amherst find a resource to do this work; posting SB meeting agenda and publishing minutes. Nobody knows better than you the skills needed to do this work. Even if it is a volunteer or paid part-time or additional responsibility for an existing town employee, it is important to the success of the Amherst governance. And I see no reason why it is not published on the town website. Have I sold you?

One more thought, delegate. Know people strengths and use them. Surround yourself with competent people and delegate to the busy ones. If you want something done, give to to a busy person.

Congratulations on your new role as chair of the Select Board. You have so much support in the community. We recognize your leadership skills and we know that your success means success for Amherst. I have boundless confidence in you and in the board, and that the Board will continue to do excellent work moving forward.

Thanks very much, all.

O'Reilly -- per the agendas and minutes: The SB agendas are published on the Town web site every Friday; I just link to them in my packet list. And the minutes are also published on the Town site, once they are approved by the Select Board. All available board and committee agendas and minutes are here. Scroll down for the SB stuff. This page is called "Agendas and Minutes," and it is found on the top of the navigation bar on the left side of the home page, as well as being a link from the Government tab at the top of the page: Government >> Boards and Committees >> Agendas and Minutes.

And for those who don't know, the Town site is at amherstma.gov.

Hope this is helpful. And I may continue to try to do some version of a meeting summary, as I have attempted for 12/1. Hard to know how this will all work just yet.

Clare Bertrand said:

Stephanie, the vote of confidence from your fellow SB members in the unanimous vote is heartening. The spirit of cooperation you engender will serve you well, especially with the tough budget work ahead.
Thanks so much for your willingness to serve,

O'Reilly said:

Is there a particular reason all Select Board agendas and meeting minutes are recorded as PDF files on Amherst.gov as opposed to using HTML?

Amherst.gov could take a lesson from you on user interface.

Content management systems that are built primarily for HTML formatted text are best utilized when "documents" are kept as html formatted texts.

Also, you provided RSS feed from your website. The way Amherst.gov has agendas and minutes implemented, they do not provide an RSS feed and so my newsreader does not know when they are posted.

To recap: Make agendas and minutes HTML formatted, Provide RSS feed to notify frequent readers when minutes and agendas have been posted.



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