SWAMPSCOTT — Welcome, unofficially, the Swampscott Selectboard.
Four of the five members, as Selectman Donald Hause was unable to attend Wednesday night’s meeting, voted to move forward with procedures to change their name from Board of Selectmen. Board Chair Peter Spellios, who initiated the idea, said he was inspired to initiate the idea given this is the first time in the town’s history there is a women majority on the board.
“I appreciate you bringing it up to us (Peter),” said Selectwoman Naomi Dreeben. “It’s about time, so let’s do it.”
Swampscott was first incorporated as a town in 1852, but there have only been eight women to serve on the town’s board, three of whom are sitting on it right now, according to archive research completed by Town Clerk Sue Duplin. Dreeben and Selectwoman Laura Spathanas have held seats since 2014 and Selectwoman Polly Titcomb was elected onto the board earlier this year.
Titcomb told the Item she was surprised when she learned only eight women have ever served on the board.
“It felt really good to be part of that reflection of a change to the extent to which women are becoming involved in their communities and people are truly supporting that,” she said.
In 1980, Sherry T. Chamberlin was the first woman ever elected to the board, serving until 1981 and re-elected in 1983 for one more year, according to Duplin’s research. The town’s second elected woman was Janet N. Baker, who served from 1993 to 1997. Next was Diana J. Kelley, the town’s first woman chairperson, who served from 1984 to 1986. Then, Carole B. Shutzer served from 1997 to 2003 and Jill Sullivan held a seat from 2007 to 2014.
The first step in the process is to re-establish the Charter Review Committee that was initiated in 2013, which Spellios was on. The committee is essentially the equivalent of a constitution to the town, he said, in regards to the different kinds of proposed changes it can recommend.
“I say with regret and a little embarrassment that the committee at the time didn’t engage in a robust conversation about changing the name,” he said.
Between bringing proposed changes before Town Meeting for approval and going before a general court to change town bylaws, Spellios said it could take 18 to 24 months before the name change is officially legal.
Until then, the members agreed to unofficially call themselves the Selectboard.
“This is all for a reason,” Spathanas said. “We are going to do it now and be able to acknowledge the current make-up of this board.”