Nearly 1,200 select board members serve in 292 towns in Massachusetts. The Select Board Association was established in 1929 as the Massachusetts Selectmen’s Association, and the name was changed in 2020 to reflect a movement among towns to adopt a gender-neutral name for their elected policy board. The MSA provides opportunities for these town policy makers to network and share ideas, pursue educational opportunities, meet with state leaders and subject-matter experts, and participate in the advocacy work of the MMA.

The select board is the group in town that sets policy and strategic direction, coordinates the activities of other boards, and hears appeals and resolves problems that have not been settled at lower levels. If there is a professional town manager or administrator, the select board generally works through him or her; in other towns, the select board works through department heads.

The Massachusetts Select Board Association is dedicated to promoting the role of select boards in the performance of their duties as executive officers and through the development of best practices and procedures in municipal administration that support well-governed communities.

About the Office of Select Board

The position of select board member is steeped in nearly 400 years of tradition. Though they earn only a small stipend, if anything, for their work on behalf of their hometowns, select board members have played significant roles over the years in shaping the future of their communities. They are looked to – by citizens and local government employees alike – for leadership and integrity, particularly in difficult times. Local government has changed dramatically since colonial times, but select board members continue to be seen as the leaders of an increasingly complex enterprise.

The select board concept was not imported from England but evolved here. Early in the history of the Commonwealth, town meetings would periodically “select” prominent citizens to perform the business of the town between town meetings. In 1633, Dorchester (now part of Boston) was the first New England town to organize a local government, choosing 12 men as selectmen. Other Massachusetts towns quickly adopted this unique form of government.

Colonial laws in Massachusetts gave select boards significant authority over town finances, care of the poor, schools, admission of new residents into the town, roads and other public works, land regulation, local defense, and the appointment of other town officials not elected by the town meeting. In colonial times, most “executive” business of towns was conducted by the select board. As Massachusetts grew and the activities of towns became increasingly sophisticated, select boards were assigned greater responsibilities and authority while new, independent elected officers and boards were entrusted with specialized functions.

A select board operates as a collective decision-making body. The legal authority of the select board is limited to actions taken by the board at a legally called, posted meeting with a majority of the board present. If a board member wants to accomplish specific objectives, he or she must find a way to work with the other members of the board and with other boards in town.

While select board members are the principal administrative officers of the town, other boards, including the school committee, the planning board, and the board of health, may wield at least as much authority over certain aspects of town government.

Generally, select boards have at least several important responsibilities under state law:

  • The power to prepare the town meeting warrant
  • The power to make appointments to town boards and offices
  • The power to employ professional administrative staff and town counsel
  • The power to sign warrants for the payment of all town bills
  • The authority to grant licenses and permits

Handbook for Massachusetts Select Board Members

Click here for this comprehensive guide for the nearly 1,200 Select Board members who serve their towns across Massachusetts, covering the full range of roles and responsibilities.

How do I join?

If you are a select board member in Massachusetts, you are already a member. Please join us at upcoming MSA events.

Select Board Association Officers

Andrew Hogeland
Select Board, Williamstown
MSA President
Debra Roberts
Select Board, Stoughton
MSA First Vice President
Jill Hai
Select Board, Lexington
MSA Second Vice President
Mark Forest
Select Board Member, Yarmouth
MSA Secretary
Christine Hoyt
Board of Selectmen, Adams
MSA District 1 Representative
Jennifer Glass
Select Board, Lincoln
MSA District 2 Representative
Stephen Cavey
Select Board, Stoughton
MSA District 3 Representative
Irwin Nesoff
Select Board, Hull
MSA District 4 Representative

There are also up to 14 county representatives on the MSA Executive Committee.
MSA Districts
District 1: Berkshire, Franklin, Hampden, and Hampshire counties
District 2: Essex and Middlesex counties
District 3: Bristol, Norfolk and Suffolk counties
District 4: Barnstable, Dukes, Nantucket and Plymouth counties
District 5: Worcester County

Contact us

Have a question about the Select Board Association, the role of select boards, or town government? Contact Membership and Project Assistant Amanda Brangwynne using this form.

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