The final webinar in the Massachusetts Select Board Association Leadership Conference series covered the future of public meetings. Speakers included (clockwise from top left) Stow Town Administrator Denise Dembkoski, Westwood Select Board Member Michael Walsh and Franklin Town Administrator Jamie Hellen.

The future of public meetings was the topic of the fourth and final webinar in the Massachusetts Select Board Association’s Leadership Conference series today.

Franklin Town Administrator Jamie Hellen kicked off the meeting with a discussion about how the town has transitioned from all-virtual to hybrid board and committee meetings that allow for a combination of virtual and in-person participation. Hellen showed how Franklin’s Town Council chambers have been set up to allow the council, staff, presenters and meeting participants to attend meetings in-person while the public joins remotely.

Hellen covered important aspects of the set up, such as room layout and the necessary technology, as well as the town’s partnership with its local access TV provider, Franklin TV. He also emphasized the importance of trial and error in order to develop a system that works best for the community.

Stow Town Administrator Denise Dembkoski discussed what hybrid meetings look like in her community, which has transitioned over the past few months to a hybrid meeting format that allows all select board members and town employees to attend board meetings in person, while giving the public the option to attend either virtually or in person.

Dembkoski discussed two different camera systems that Stow has used successfully for hybrid meetings, covering the pros and cons and relative costs of each. She also demonstrated some of the tools that are built into the Zoom platform that make hybrid meetings more accessible, including the use of closed captioning to provide a live transcript of meetings.

More than 90 select board members attended the webinar.

The MSA’s four-part Leadership Conference series was held every other Wednesday from June 16 through July 28. Recordings and additional resources can be found on the MMA website. The first three topics were municipal policing on June 16, mental health policing initiatives on June 30, the open meeting and public records laws and municipal finance on July 14.

The New Norm of Hybrid Meetings – Town of Stow presentation (2M PDF)
Changing Dynamics in the Municipal Workplace: In-Person Board and Committee Meetings – Town of Franklin presentation (5M PDF)

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