SHIRLEY -- The town must make changes in the way it does business, selectmen said during a working session with new Town Administrator Patrice Garvin Monday night.
Garvin's position might be a step in that direction, signaling a significant change from the title of "chief administrative officer," which was vacated when David Berry resigned under pressure earlier this year.
Shirley went back to the town-administrator model, with an updated job description more suited to the community's needs.
Selectmen came up with a list of action items and issues to be addressed, targeting everything from affordable housing to infrastructure improvements, economic development and management of conservation land, including warrant articles for Town Meeting next spring,
Some items could become hot-button issues, such as making the tax collector's job appointed rather than elected. This proposal has come up before, with Selectman David Swain saying it is aimed at eventually consolidating that position with that of town treasurer, as the Department of Revenue recommended in its audit report.
"I'd strongly suggest it" as a Town Meeting article, Swain said. It's not that the person (Holly Haase) in office now isn't competent, which she is, he said, but to avoid troubles down the road that might arise because an election isn't the best way to find the best person for the job.
Bob Prescott agreed.
"Our tax collector is a professional," he said, but demographics suggest a hit-or-miss proposition in the future. Sketching a scenario to make his point, he said that if you take 6,500 people (Shirley's approximate town population), from which 1,500 are children and another 1,500 are seniors, it's unlikely many would qualify for the job.
"It's too small a pool" of potential candidates, he said.
"I don't want to take away anyone's right to vote," Chairman Kendra Dumont said. But she thinks it's better when more, not fewer, people in Town Hall work under the direction of the town administrator. The way it is now, there are too many different rules, she said. "Everyone should be on the same page."
Another issue the group talked about was public access in the Town Offices, specifically, the town clerk's diminished open-window hours, which she (Town Clerk Amy McDougall) recently reduced to allow herself more time for job-related projects.
But this is another elected position, and selectmen have no say in the hours the town clerk sets for the office.
Selectmen agreed it's important to have a "point person" available to answer questions and deal with the public on a daily basis. Typically, that person would be the town clerk, but the question then becomes where to send people if that office is closed to the public.
"We've had complaints," Swain said, adding that this issue, too, should be addressed at Town Meeting, probably as a separate article. He was not specific about details.
In any case, both the tax collector and town clerk were recently re-elected, and have another two-and-a-half years to go on their terms, Dumont pointed out.