Bedford has a long history of volunteer committees that serve the town. Many are established formally through the charter or the bylaws, others are ad hoc committees appointed by the Select Board to work on a specific issue. Recent examples are the Fawn Lake Study Committee, the Community Garden Task Force, or the Museum Study Committee. They all depend upon volunteers who are willing to serve their neighbors and the town. The Select Board concurred that broadening the makeup of the volunteer committees to include all segments of the town is a goal and that committees are a valuable way to introduce new people to the civic life of the town.
Emily Mitchell, a member of the Select Board and liaison to the Volunteer Coordinating Committee, made four recommendations on ways to enhance the town’s appointed committee structure, each of which was approved by the Select Board.
The first was a process for managing reappointments to a second term. Candidates would be asked to complete a short questionnaire, either at a board meeting or online, prior to being considered for reappointment by the Select Board.
Mitchell also recommended specific steps for dissolving an ad hoc committee. Once a report or recommendation is made to the Select Board, the Board would vote to accept the report and the committee would be formally dissolved. This would avoid committees that have completed their work lingering on until they petered out. It would also mark the time to thank the members on behalf of the Town.
Margot Fleischman spoke of the need for volunteers. “How do we replace our ranks? What we need are new people who may not be familiar with open town meeting.
It is important to recruit volunteers from a spectrum of residents, particularly from those who have not served before. “
Board member Bopha Malone asked for confirmation that there is a current vacancy on the Volunteer Coordinating Committee, seeing that as an opportunity to broaden the representation on that committee.
Mitchell moved that the Select Board direct the Volunteer Coordinating Committee to develop a recruitment plan by the end of November for outreach to the community. It would seek volunteers who have not served before or whose spouse or family member isn’t serving. Recruitment should focus on those in newer demographics.
Fleischman said, “We’ve had this concern for years about the sustainability of our committee structure. We have a new generation of people moving into town. Replenishing our ranks with new people is an important part of our civic culture.”
Finally, Mitchell recommended that the town develop a board and committee handbook that could be a resource for members. It would include documents such as open meeting law, ethics guidelines, and other basic information about how committees work.