For the second time in three years, town meeting will consider a warrant article aimed at changing the Board of Selectmen’s title to one that is gender-neutral. Hull is joining other communities that are engaged in similar efforts across the state.
A special town meeting in February 2018 approved an article submitted by WIN (for Women in Nantasket), a small group of Hull residents seeking to amend the town bylaws by substituting the name “Board of Selectmen” with “Select Board” and the words “selectmen, selectmen, selectwoman, or selectwomen” with “select board member(s).”
However, because there were questions about how to implement this change, town officials sought the guidance of the state attorney general’s office.
On May 22, 2018, in a letter to Town Clerk Lori West, the AG’s office responded to the town’s inquiry with a decision of “no action by this Office because we have determined that it [the gender-neutral warrant article] does not constitute a valid by-law subject to our review and approval.”
This time around, the selectmen are putting forward a gender-neutral article. Options include “select board” and “town council.”
The board last week talked briefly about the 2021 annual town meeting warrant, including this article,
During the discussion, Selectman John Reilly suggested renaming the board members “commissioners,” similar to the title of “recreation commissioner.”
Board Chairwoman Jennifer Constable reported at the meeting that Hull League of Women Voters member Celia Nolan reached out to the board in support of this effort and will be invited to an upcoming meeting to participate in a continuation of that discussion.
WIN members are pleased to see the second gender-neutral language article being advanced.
“A town official involved with the process at the time [the first article was presented by WIN] guided us through the language of the article to come up with wording that was thought to be appropriate,” WIN member Liz Kay told The Hull Times. “WIN would be happy to collaborate with Jen [Constable] and the League of Women Voters, along with the [other members of the] board, toward the 2021 warrant article and to work with the town to get the article finally passed and implemented.”
WIN was established following the 2017 Women’s March in Boston. After that event, a group of Hull women got together and organized around the premise that everything starts at the local level, that actions taken by local citizens can affect their government, “and to help to engage people in a positive way,” member Sinead Whelan recalled.
WIN’s focus is to facilitate viable and positive change for the Hull community through inclusive leadership, civic engagement, and fiscal responsibility.
Out of the first organizational meeting came the first gender-neutral language article, with the goal of “bringing us into the 21st century,” Whelan said. “We talked a lot about it that summer, knowing there would be a special town meeting the following February.”
WIN member Robin Coyne Hull recalled the group reaching out to the community and collecting 143 signatures in support of the first article. “I’m very happy that this is finally coming to the public view again,” she said.