Newton’s Boards and Commissions

Newton’s Boards and Commissions, which range in topics from the city’s urban forest to human rights, are in need of more members.  According to Newton’s “Boards and Commissions Openings” page, there are openings in all but two of the commissions (Council on Aging and Economic Development).  With the range of responsibilities of the commissions, chances are you can find a commission that both interests you and that will be glad to have your help in carrying out their responsibilities.

After attending the Urban Tree Commission meetings for the past few months, I recently became an appointed member of the Commission.  I have found that being a member of the Tree Commission is a great way to get involved in the decision making process, to learn more about how decisions are made, and to simply help out with an important process.

If you’re at all interested in becoming a commission member, I would suggest first identifying which commission you are interested in being a part of and then actually attending a meeting or two.  Then, once you have decided that it is actually something that you want to be a part of, reaching out to the appropriate person in order to apply for a position.  The entire application process, from start to finish may take a while, in my case it was from about November to March, so getting started soon could be a good idea.

If anyone has any experiences, positive or negative, with being on a board or commission, feel free to share your experiences below.


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Bill RoesnerSallee Lipshutz Recent comment authors
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Sallee Lipshutz

Jess, you are right that serving on a commission or board could be an excellent window into the operation of our City’s government. Some boards and commissions, however, operate in isolation, even as advisory boards, distant from input from those who are affected by decisions they may make. Often, they do not keep or publish in any timely manner, their minutes, so it is impossible to see their reasons for any advocacy. It is unclear whether they observe OML either. In addition, no one knows how many boards and commissions there are. Many are long defunct, yet remain, like ghost towns, on the living list. I am pleased to know that the Charter Commission will be reviewing the Board/Commission System and may recommend an overhaul in it. I must admit that the time, decades ago, that I spent on the Newton Cultural Affairs Commission, was quite rewarding.

Bill Roesner
Bill Roesner

Jess, interesting post, especially as I was ( as an Architect ), recently not reappointed as a Commissioner on the Historical Commission and the Chestnut Hill Historic District Commission after 24 years of service on both. These are mayoral appointments, and from my perspective highly political. The objective of the formation of historical commissions is presumably for the protection of the historic character of our many villages and their artifacts. I took this responsibility seriously, much to the consternation of many petionioners, among whom often were real estate developers and home owners more interested exploiting financially or idosyncratticaly the properties they were entrusted with. The mayor had to deal with unhappy constituents and builders complaining that they were being disadvantaged having to wait the 12 months ( or 18 months for National Registered Properties ), before they were able too demolish or do whatever they were intent on doing before the Commission weighed in . Apparently I , and Rodney Barker , former long serving Alderman, Zoning Committee Chairman, School Committee Member , were thwarting the mayor’s attempt to ease the process for those constituents he was hearing from, by refusing to renominate us for further service.
So indeed there are openings on those Commissions at least. But don’t try too hard at the role of preservationist. It could be a short term.

Tom Sheff

These positions are all political. In 2010, after the Mayor won, I applied for 3 different committees in different parts of the year. All had openings. I dropped my resume off at the Mayors office and the person who took the resume said he would give it to the right person. I never even got an email/letter saying that they had received my resume and it was under review. Nothing. I did ask the contact person whether he gave my resume to the correct person and he said he did. Whatever.