A lot of readers of the Independent have been asking, “What can be done about Wellfleet?” I’m not sure what the answer is, but I have a few ideas.
The problems in the town’s accounting department, many years in the making, have been thoroughly exposed now, though not really explained. The unsatisfactory explanations we have been given include incompetent employees, lack of supervision and support, problems with adapting to new software, and high turnover. Those factors are undoubtedly part of the story, but they don’t offer much help on how to make things better.
Former Town Administrator Dan Hoort told the Independent’s K.C. Myers last May that the real problem is that Wellfleet has a bad reputation and doesn’t attract qualified job candidates. “The select board has to do some soul searching and decide why Wellfleet is not such a great place to work,” he said. Though there may have been some truth in what Hoort said, that’s not the whole story, either. The town’s recent efforts to find a new treasurer, accountant, and town administrator appear to have yielded promising results. Clearly, there are still qualified candidates out there who want those jobs.
What will those new hires find at Wellfleet Town Hall? Will they get the assistance and guidance they need from the town’s senior elected and appointed officials?
For the second year in a row, Wellfleet faces a town election with two open seats on the select board and just one candidate on the ballot. Michael DeVasto is running for re-election, but his fellow board member Janet Reinhart, after announcing that she also would run, changed her mind. The deadline for submitting nomination papers for the election has now passed. That means Reinhart’s seat will have to be taken by a write-in candidate — someone who didn’t want the job enough to seek the nomination in the usual way.
Helen Miranda Wilson, elected last year to her fourth three-year term, had planned to step down from the board this spring because of serious health and other personal issues. Now, in light of Reinhart’s decision, Wilson is considering staying on the board, she says.
It’s not hard to see why Wellfleeters aren’t clamoring to run for select board. Is it an easy job? No. Does it pay well? No. Is it fun? The last 28 regular meetings of the board have averaged 3 hours, 14 minutes.
But is it work that matters? You bet it is.
Wellfleet is at a crucial moment in its history. It deserves judicious, sure-handed leadership from people who know the community and have the time and energy to serve. It needs people to participate in meetings, learn the ropes of public service, and run for office.
It is unfair to Helen Wilson, who has given so much to the town, to ask her to compromise her own health because others are unwilling to step up and devote three years to Wellfleet’s financial, environmental, and political well-being.
What are you doing for the next three years? How about helping to build a better future for your town?