SHEFFIELD — Select board Chairman Dave Smith believes in term limits.
That was the driving factor behind his decision to formally announce he will not seek reelection for his seat in May on Monday night.
“After eight years, there are certain people who are obviously glad to see you go and there are certain people who have already said to me, ‘can we change your mind? Would you stay?’” Smith said.
Smith, who has served on select boards for the better part of three decades, said he’s always viewed the position as community service. While he plans to stay on the other boards he serves on, including the Finance Committee and the Council on Aging, he says it’s time for new blood on the select board.
Smith first ran for the Great Barrington Select Board in 1991 as a write-in candidate. He hadn’t run for government before — he was a business owner, and he felt his town ought to be run more like a business. Smith ran, and won, on a single issue: moving Great Barrington to a town manager style of government.
When Smith was elected, very few towns in the Berkshires had pursued a town manager government. Lenox had recently added that position. Sheffield had also recently added a town administrator.
Smith felt Great Barrington was a big enough town to warrant a manager rather than an administrator — the town needed someone running the day-to-day operations.
“I always equated it to a school district not having a superintendent, or a hospital without someone at the top, or running a business without a CEO,” Smith said. “The board of directors is always there, but you need someone who’s there every day to run a municipality. You just can’t do it with part-time people — we have the best of intentions, but we’re not here eight hours a day, five days a week, where an administrator is.”
As part of the transition, he said they also made several elected positions in Town Hall appointed positions. This was part of an effort to keep town employees accountable not just to voters, but to a boss with the authority to discipline them if necessary.
Smith said for many people, their knee-jerk reaction was that Great Barrington didn’t need all the change to their government — but once they explained it to them, he said, voters saw the good to the idea.
At the annual town meeting, Great Barrington residents unanimously voted in support of the town manager.
Smith recalled the rest of his time in Great Barrington fondly — he sat on the board through the creation of a highway department and a transfer station, and learned he enjoyed negotiating union contracts.
“Great Barrington was a lot of fun,” he said. “We got a lot accomplished.”