MANCHESTER — After 20 years on the Manchester Select Board, vice-chairman Wayne Bell has retired.
Bell, who was first elected in 2000, made the announcement in an email late Tuesday morning, saying he's ready to turn the reins over to a younger leader.
"As I complete my 20th year as a Select Board member, I am reminded that balanced with my experience as a 40-year resident of Manchester, a business and property owner, is my belief that the guidance of our town should be shared with younger leaders," Bell wrote.
His resignation from the board was effective Wednesday, the day after his final Select Board meeting Tuesday evening.
At the meeting, board chair Ivan Beattie, who has served on the board all 20 years with Bell, turned the meeting over and Bell read from his letter.
"In light of this recognition and as I have new projects in my bucket list queue, I am resigning my Select Board seat effective Sept. 30 to help facilitate new participation," Bell said. "With the approval of the voters, I hope to continue my Justice of the Peace and Board of Civil Authority duties for another term. With your approval, I'd like to continue to chair the Citizen Recognition Committee and other volunteer town projects until other arrangements are deemed appropriate."
Bell has been a justice of the peace since the 1980s and was originally appointed to the Select Board in 1999 before he was elected in the following election.
He has served with 11 different board members since then, but always alongside board chairman Ivan Beattie, who will remain the longest-serving board member.
With Bell's resignation, a lot of institutional knowledge will be departing. The three remaining board members were elected in 2016, 2017 and 2018.
Bell told the board there is a long-time resident with a young family interested in serving out the remainder of his term.
"One who has a strong skill set on the financial budgetary challenges we face, has attended meetings and is informed on our issues and projects," Bell said. "It is my hope that as you begin the 2021 budget work, you will make this appointment as soon as possible to serve until Town Meeting Day."
Bell's term ends in 2021.
Beattie said state statute declares how to replace a board member who resigns and it's the Select Board's job to appoint a replacement until town meeting although voters can demand an election sooner. He said it would be a waste to hold an election when the winner would only serve until March.
"We've never done that before," Beattie said.
With budget season coming up soon, the board agreed it was important to get someone onboard soon.
We should move quickly, Beattie said.
The board discussed getting someone in place in time to tackle the upcoming budget season, which Beattie said is likely the most important duty the board undertakes.
Anyone interested in the position should submit a letter of interest addressed to Ivan Beattie offering skills, qualifications and experiences that makes them qualified to sit on the Select Board. Submit the letters to Human Resources and Operations Manager Leslie Perra at firstname.lastname@example.org. Questions can also be directed to Perra at that email or by phone at 802-362-1313, option 2.
The board hopes to find a replacement in time to seat that person by Oct. 20 and seeks letters as soon as possible. Letters received by Oct. 9 will have priority, but applications will be accepted until the position is filled.
O'Keefe suggested, and the board agreed, that candidates who have a single issue leading their drive to be appointed are less desirable than someone who has the best interest of the town at heart would be the best fit for this temporary appointment.
"We are appointing on behalf of our whole constituency," Beattie said. "It takes policy out of the discussion."
Bell added to the discussion while joking he should probably stay out of the discussion of finding his replacement.
"I'm having a hard time staying out of this," Bell said. "You've got community commitment, skill set, and that you're willing to make the commitment. Those are the three big questions somebody should answer in a letter of interest."
Beattie said he would have a hard time supporting someone who wanted to join the board to push for a single issue. Toward that goal, the board is asking for letters of interest that "detail the candidate's government, civic and/or charitable involvement in the Manchester community; and any experience, education and training that may be beneficial to the Board and its mission, Town government and the Manchester community."
It goes on to point out that "the Board intends to appoint the successor based on qualification expressed through the letter of interest and the interview process, not policy positions or goals expressed by candidates."
In his letter of resignation, Bell expressed his appreciation to the board and town employees.
"It has been an honor and a pleasure to serve Manchester with all of the Select Board members and especially with you this current board," Bell wrote. "Together, and with our town staff and our appointed committees, we have nurtured, maintained and grown our little town in a way we can be very proud of. I know that I leave our town in good hands with your supervision and that of our most capable town manager."
Beattie thanked Bell for his service.
"Certainly, we thank you Wayne," Beattie said. "[We] appreciate everything that you have done for the Town of Manchester You have been my strong, right-hand man for 20 years and I haven't made any significant decisions without consulting with you first and at least first listening to your thoughts. We haven't always agreed, but I have a tremendous amount of respect for the integrity and the ethics you've brought to your position here. We're going to miss you on the board."
Board member Greg Cutler said it's "been a real pleasure serving with Wayne and it's not going to be the same going forward."
"He was instrumental in helping me get involved with all the different boards I've served on up to this point and super appreciate his guidance and tutelage along the way," Cutler said.
The board gave Bell the honor of making one last motion to adjourn.
"Again, it's been an honor to serve with you," Bell said. "Motion to adjourn."
Beattie said "this is leaving me with kind of a sick feeling in my gut."
"I'm not going very far," Bell said. "We'll still be chatting."
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