Board to discuss, organize goals

MERRIMACK – Selectman Carolyn Whitlock doesn’t want her colleagues to find themselves in an embarrassing predicament.

In early June, the Board of Selectmen will sit down with candidates for town manager as part of an intensive “hell weekend” put together by a consultant helping the board conduct a national search.

“We would be at risk of embarrassing ourselves if a candidate asked what are the board’s goals for the next year, or the next five years,” Whitlock said.

To that end, Whitlock is spearheading a push for the board to set goals for 2004-05, and longer-term goals.

By the time selectmen meet tonight they will have had a chance to examine goals submitted by Town Hall department heads. At tonight’s meeting, selectmen will brainstorm their own set of goals, which they’ll discuss and organize into categories.

That list will be presented at the board’s May 20 meeting and approved either then or on May 27, Whitlock said.

As an example of a goal, Whitlock mentioned one idea she’ll present: that the board conduct a self-evaluation. The Board of Selectmen hasn’t done that in the recent past, although the School Board has, Whitlock said.

“I think the Board of Selectmen needs to do a self-evaluation,” Whitlock said. “I will be tossing that out to see how the other selectmen feel about it.”

Whitlock referred to the warrant article that in 2003 established the Ethics Committee, saying there was a “philosophical tie” between the formation of the committee and the Board of Selectmen.

Through a self-evaluation, selectmen could ask such questions as, “do we always make sure what we talk about in nonpublic in fact always qualifies for nonpublic,” and “do we treat people courteously.”

Two years ago, the Board of Selectmen under Chairman Norman Carr did set goals, but that year was dominated by planning for the closing of the town landfill and the opening of the transfer station, Whitlock noted.

Last year, when Whitlock and Selectmen’s Chairman Dick Hinch were elected, the board didn’t set goals, she said.

“We came in at a very trying time and we had to make some very tough decisions right from the beginning,” said Whitlock, the board’s vice chairman.

This year the timing is better, and she said goals should be set early in the term of the new board – two new members were elected on April 13.

In a summary submitted to the selectmen last week, Whitlock noted that well-defined goals “give direction to administrators, help in making policy, set priorities, help in planning programs” and “promote good communication among the board, town manager, staff, employees and the community.”

Goals also “provide a tool for periodic evaluation” and “are the basis for accountability,” Whitlock wrote.

Patrick Meighan can be reached at 594-6518 or