The New Gloucester Board of Selectmen voted unanimously Monday to make Juneteeth an official paid holiday for town employees and declined to revisit the board’s failure to meet a deadline for appointments to the charter commission.

The board also elected Peter Bragdon as chairman and Paul Larrivee as vice chairman at its first meeting since the June 8 election, when Larrivee, Dustin Ward and Stephen Hathorne were elected to the board. Peter Bragdon and Tammy Donovan were not up for reelection.

Hathorne

Juneteenth, declared a federal holiday last week, marks the day, June 19, when the final enslaved African-Americans learned they had been freed, 2½ years after the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863.

“This is a very important holiday for people of color,” Ward said. “I would hope that as we move forward, that this would be an opportunity to also commemorate that. To learn more about that. It’s not just a paid holiday, but it is a significant time period for people of color, so I want to at least put that on record.”

In other business, Hathorne’s request that the board add to its agenda a discussion of “what action the board wishes to take in regards to charter appointments” was largely shot down.  

The creation of a town charter commission was approved in November last year, but  the Board of Selectmen failed to appoint three members of the commission within 30 days of the vote as required by state statute. Hathorne had been critical of the Selectboard for failing to meet the deadline. 

“My intent is to make people aware that we do have policies and procedures. And we as selectmen are supposed to be making policies and procedures, and we need to follow them, whether it’s this issue, or any other issue,” Hathorne said at the meeting.

The Selectboard in April appointed Donald and Steven Libby and Linda Chase, then a member of the Selectboard, to the commission. Voters on June 8 elections elected the remaining six members, including Hathorne and Bragdon.

Residents attending the meeting spoke out against revisiting the charter commission appointment issue, including former Selectman George Colby, who resigned from the board in February during an effort to recall him. Colby said the board members needed to “put on their big boy pants” and not vote on the item.

Another former Selectboard member, Linda Chase, reminded the audience that the board had already discussed the issue five times.

Resident Tom Jordan said “if there are no real substantive legal problems with the past appointments” he would encourage the board to “tread as lightly as possible.”

“Many of the new board members did run on the platform of unity and moving forward together,” Jordan said.

The board decided not to revisit the appointment issue and eventually agreed to let the charter commission begin its work as planned.

“I am satisfied to let the public know and the board know the rules and regulations out there, and that was my intent, to educate,” Hathorne said.

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