The first Groton Board of Selectmen that I became aware of consisted of Bob Ricciardelli, Bob Hargraves, and Arthur Blackman. These men had disagreements, often emotional, but I don’t remember anyone opining that the Board was “dysfunctional”. The streets got plowed after a snowstorm, the bills got paid, the budget was balanced, and unexpected emergencies were dealt with.
Fast forward to 2015, what’s different? For one, the population of the Town has nearly doubled. Running Groton has become more complex, which has led to the Town Manager form of governance. The Board of Selectmen has grown from 3 to 5 members. Not much has changed in terms of expectations and results though. Town services continue to be met, a new Fire Station was built under budget, a school funding crisis was averted, our bond rating has improved, etc. The statement that we are “paralyzed by internal dissension” is demonstrably false. Not a single example of this paralysis is offered.
The two issues raised in last weeks’ Groton Herald editorial (reprinted here) are valid. I agree with The Herald that there was questionable judgment exercised in both cases. However, neither issue is worthy of the amount of attention that has been placed on it. There has been no “paralysis” whatsoever caused by either of these issues.
But clearly, something is different. When I joined the Board nearly 8 years ago, there was comity, as well as effectiveness. Fran Dillon, may he rest in peace, was my role model. We had to deal with some tough issues, but we always respected one another and respected the process. It’s pretty clear that our Board’s tendency toward disharmony began exactly, almost to the day, when Fran stepped down nearly 3 years ago. The other four members of the Board remain the same. The Town Manager remains the same. Yet now there is disharmony. What’s changed? I leave it to the reader to draw his/her own conclusion.