Upon becoming the Swampscott Board of Selectmen’s new chairman, Peter Spellios did not stake out his leadership goals. Instead, he declared himself a collaborator.
Spellios followed up that stance by stating it is time for the five-member board to decentralize meetings and, to paraphrase, spread the opportunity and initiative to undertake projects to each member of the board.
His collective call to arms borders on a master stroke for a town politician who knows the stakes are high for his community. In many ways, Spellios’ predecessor, former board chairwoman Naomi Dreeben, played a definitive role in laying the groundwork for initiatives the board must shoulder over the next several years.
Definitive decisions were made under Dreeben’s watch about the former middle school property and Marian Court’s future. She set the tone for revisiting the consolidated school concept that went down in flames in 2014 and she brightened the spotlight shining on Humphrey Street and its role as a town commercial zone.
Now comes Spellios who has alternately during his board tenure played leader and conciliator. To get a school built, to make rezoning a reality, and to launch big developments are goals only achievable if selectmen as town leaders conquer by dividing.
Spellios is a solid politician when it comes to lining up his proverbial ducks: He enjoys by all accounts a good relationship with Town Administrator Sean Fitzgerald. He nominated Selectman Patrick Jones to be board vice chairman after Jones nominated Spellios to be chairman and he went out of his way to praise Dreeben.
Lining up ducks is a good move for a town leader who is two weeks out from a Town Meeting that will be asked to approve a $750,000 feasibility study for the proposed consolidated school. Spellios staked out his ground in no uncertain terms on the school project when he said, “Effective town leadership was missing from the past school discussion.” Boy, you can almost see the sparks flying off those words and Spellios upped the stakes even higher by making Jones the point person on the feasibility study.
Spellios is the type of elected official who knows there is no getting around controversies but, conversely, there is also a time and place to lay the cards on the table and a time and place to keep them close to the vest.
Swampscott is entering a period — not to belittle the outsized acrimony that surrounded last year’s rail trail debate — when sound decision-making preceded by rational debate must take place if the right moves are going to be made on big projects like the consolidated school.
Fitzgerald put it aptly when he said, “I think the work ahead is going to be really exciting.”