April 18, 2022 By Carol Britton Meyer
Citizen participation is "at the core of Hingham's commitment to self-governance" is how Town Moderator Michael Puzo describes the important role the town’s many volunteers play.
The Town Moderator and Select Board are responsible for interviewing candidates for all open positions and then making the appointments to fill them.
“Self-governance is both a profound privilege and a responsibility. Carrying out that responsibility rests largely on the shoulders of our volunteers,” Puzo told the Hingham Anchor.
“The town quite literally could not exist as it does without its volunteers.”
The dedication and level of expertise of Hingham volunteers is “unmatched,” Select Board member Liz Klein said. “With more than 400 citizen volunteers serving, Hingham is able to not only carry on normal business, but also engage in new initiatives related to climate planning and resiliency; diversity, equity, and inclusion; and affordable housing.”
Nearly 50 volunteers have been appointed for various Town of Hingham committees and commissions from July 1, 2021, to the present, ranging from the Harbor Development Committee and Historic Districts Commission to the Accessory Dwelling Unit Study Committee and the Commission on Disabilities.
"Beyond voting at the polls, as important as that is, Hingham’s very character is embodied in those many citizens who step up to serve the town as volunteers," Puzo said. "In their devotion to service, often coupled with a consistent participation in our Open Town Meeting, Hingham’s volunteers play a pivotal part in Hingham’s civic life and in charting the Town’s future."
On matters of finance and land use, education of the town's younger population and a dedication to seniors, housing and historic preservation, preservation of open space, oversight of development, and industrial and commercial issues, "citizen volunteers give freely of their time and abilities for the good of the community," Puzo said.
Select Board member William Ramsey explained that Hingham’s reliance on volunteers dates back to the town's Colonial beginnings. “From the establishment of the Old Ship [Meeting House] to the legacy of Benjamin Lincoln, our citizens have continued to have a commitment to volunteerism in 2022. Today, we have hundreds of volunteers serving in elected and appointed positions in our municipal government and hundreds more serving on the boards of various non-profit organizations, youth sports programs, and school-related associations. The strength of our community lies in the efforts of our volunteers,” he said.
The opportunities to serve are many and varied. "Do you care about public safety, energy use, the harbor, traffic, issues of aging, building projects, the library, our veterans, and environmental issues, to name just some of the essential issues in which citizen volunteers are engaged? Then, volunteer service is for you," according to Puzo.
Klein noted that volunteers are involved in designing a new community pool at South Shore Country Club, safer streets, and a vision for the harbor, among other efforts.
She expressed appreciation for “the tireless work of Hingham volunteers and the privilege to work alongside them for our community.”
Select Board Chair Joseph Fisher also values the town’s volunteers. “Volunteering in Hingham connects you to others, has an impact on the community, and increases your awareness of how things get done in our town,” he said. “In Hingham, we say that volunteers are the glue that holds our community together. Volunteering is a two-way street: agreeing to serve on a town committee or to work on a special project is one of the best ways to make new friends and to strengthen your commitment to causes that really matter to you.”
Fisher also said that citizens with a disability or who have limited mobility should not shy away from volunteer opportunities. “The Town needs their talent, and we will all benefit from their active participation in our community.”
Julie Strehle, chair of the 15-member Advisory Committee, said that in its role as both finance committee and authors of the Town Meeting warrant article comments and recommended motions, its members interact with volunteers of almost all of the town's committees.
“There are 46 committees, and each of those is comprised of dedicated volunteers who work year-round on issues that affect the Town,” Strehle said. “I feel like this sentiment is repeated often, but in my 20-plus years volunteering in different capacities around the town, I have been continually amazed at all of the volunteer hours put in by our residents -- whether contributing to a church community, volunteering at the schools or coaching sports, and/or serving on town committees, with many volunteers serving in multiple capacities.
That kind of involvement is what knits together our community, and I'm grateful to live among these kinds of volunteers.”
Finally, Fisher said, “Let's not forget about the joy. Volunteering can bring fun and a sense of fulfillment to your life.”
Talent back applications are available on the town website and in the warrant for the Saturday, April 30, Town Meeting that will be mailed to every Hingham household.
"This is an open and a welcoming process," Puzo said, "and citizens are urged to offer their talents to the town.”
As with its tradition of volunteerism, Hingham’s commitment to Open Town Meeting, “where each citizen has both voice and vote in serving as Hingham’s legislative body, is at the foundation of Hingham’s special character," Puzo said.
The following volunteers were appointed to town committees, boards, and commissions from July 1 to present:
Gerry Allen, Sharon Allen, Nick Amdur, Victor Baltera, Ruth Bennett, Martha Bewick, Henry Buckley, Mark Buonegurio, James Byrne, Kenneth Carr, Al Chambers, Daniel Clark, Amy Cowan, Matthew Curran, Michael Donovan, Mark Engel, Christine Falvey, David Gossage, Katie Gosselin, Matthew Goulet, Stephen Jiranek, Ed Johnson, Shannon Kacherovich, George Kay, Caitlyn Kirk, Jonathan Kirk, Laura Marwill, Leon Merian, Caroline Nielsen, Joseph Nevins, Michelle Paterniti, Elliott Place, Mona Pohl, Beth Porter, Kathleen Puzo, Katharine Reardon, Chrissy Roberts, Isabel Robinson, Brigid Ryan, Sara Smithson, Abi Sood, Steve Spall, Nathaniel Stillman, Michael Tesler, Nina Villanova, and Randy Winters.
These volunteers serve on the following committees:
Accessory Dwelling Unit Study Committee
Commission on Disabilities
Harbor Development Committee
Naming By-law Committee
Hingham Housing Authority
MBTA Advisory Board representative
Weir River Estuary Park Committee
Cable TV Advisory Committee
Energy Action Committee
Fourth of July Parade Committee
Historic Districts Commission
Harbor Development Committee
Capital Outlay Committee
Cleaner, Greener Hingham
Community Preservation Committee
Metropolitan Area Planning Council representative
Climate Action Planning Committee
Country Club Management Committee
Board of Registrars
Council on Aging
Zoning Board of Appeals alternate
Hingham Library Board of Trustees
Bare Cove Park Committee
Board of Assessors
Tree Preservation Study Committee
Affordable Housing Trust
Lincoln School Apartments board
Hingham Development & Industrial Commission