Selectmen, no more: Hanover among Mass. towns to adopt gender-neutral titles for governing board

If you’re still referring to your town’s executive board as “Selectmen,” think again.

That could change in your community, if it already hasn’t, as more Massachusetts towns are adopting a gender-neutral title and renaming their town board to become more inclusive.

Take Hanover, for example. The town has already changed the name of its governing body from Board of Selectmen to Select Board on its website.

Now, a bill before the Massachusetts Senate aims to change “the board of selectmen of the town of Hanover to a select board.”

The word “Selectmen” would be replaced with “Select board member,” according to the bill filed by Sen. John Keenan and state Rep. David DeCoste.

“Notwithstanding any general or special law to the contrary, the executive 127 body of the town of Hanover, previously known as the board of selectmen, shall be known as the 128 select board and shall have the powers and authority of a board of selectmen under any general 129 or special law,” the bill states.

In 2020, the Massachusetts Selectmen’s Association changed its name to the Massachusetts Select Board Association “to reflect a movement among towns to adopt a gender-neutral name for their elected policy board,” according to the association, which was established in 1929 under its former name.

Nearly 1,200 select board members serve in 292 towns in Massachusetts, according to the association.

Most Massachusetts cities have historically held gender-neutral titles, such as “City Council.” The towns of Bridgewater, Barnstable and Franklin, for example, use the title “Town Council.”

Massachusetts towns that currently refer to their local governing body as “Select Board” include Mansfield, Carver, Plymouth, Brewster, Nantucket, Ipswich, Dartmouth, Needham, Milton, Concord, Reading, Hopkinton, Arlington, Belmont, Winchester, Truro, Stoneham and Sherborn.

Duxbury and Bourne refer to their governing boards with one word: “Selectboard.”

“Since former Governor Charlie Baker has signed the home rule petition we now have a formal general Town bylaw change that will be considered at an upcoming annual town meeting in May 1, 2023,” Peter Meier, chairman of the Bourne Selectboard, said in an email to Boston 25.

Other towns that still use the title “Board of Selectmen” include Whitman, Kingston, Rockland, Dover, East Bridgewater, West Bridgewater, Westport, Halifax, Abington, Yarmouth, and Berkley.

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