For those who have been attending, following and watching the Waitsfield Select Board since the board changed after Town Meeting in March, the meetings have been frustrating, chaotic, contentious but certainly riveting.
It is never easy when the members of an important town board such as the select board change, especially when two long-term members leave and two new members, who were vocal in their opposition to how the previous board was doing things, get voted on.
One would expect normal growing pains and normal clashes of ideology and personalities as a board learns again to take up the business of the town and that has definitely been the case here.
Add in the fact that the board has been trying to work its way towards some resolution to the question of what’s next in the town’s quest for new town offices – an issue that has the town as well as the board divided on process and ideology.
Throw in the possibility of a $750,000 grant – which the town received word it will receive this week – and you add further murk to the question of how to go forward.
But here’s the good news: After several meetings during which board chair Paul Hartshorn has had to bang his gavel repeatedly they are figuring it out. This week’s meeting featured all of the usual back and forth about whither the town offices and how and when, etc. This week also featured the newfound regular presence of members of the public who are now coming regularly and participating.
But remarkably, it also featured several unanimous votes by the board on other issues. These were issues where the board members, old and new, expressed diverging opinions on what was in front of them, talked about it and got to a unanimous vote.
This happened not once but a couple of times, and while there is not total agreement on all the issues, there’s movement, there’s compromise and there’s an understanding that no one gets their way always.
And, although it sometimes makes for a chaotic public meeting (democracy is messy), how refreshing it is to have so many members of the public taking time to participate in these meetings to discuss not just the town offices with the select board but all the other things that come before the town’s governing body.