Frequently Asked Questions


How many Select Board members does Lancaster have now?

Lancaster currently elects three Select Board members for three-year terms.   One term expires each year.

How many Select Board members do you propose we have?

The Select Board would have Five members, serving three-year terms.   Most years we’d elect two Board Members; every third year we’d elect one.

Who has reviewed this so far?

The state "Division of Local Services" review Lancaster's government in 2023; in their final report they recommended that Lancaster expand it's Select Board to five members.

The town's "Government Study Committee" surveyed Lancaster in fall, 2023 and identified a strong desire to expand the Select Board.  The committee voted to recommend that the option to expand be placed before voters this year.

Does any other town have five Select Board members?

There are 292 communities in Massachusetts with a “Select Board – Town Meeting” form of government.  

·         One has 7 Select Board members.   (Wakefield)

·         148 have five Select Board members.

·         143 have three Select Board members.

·         In our area, Berlin, Bolton and Sterling have three-member Select Boards.   Clinton, Harvard, Hudson, Lunenburg and Stow each have five-member Boards.

What are the benefits of a five-member board?

·         More coverage: the Select Board is responsible for appointing and overseeing many town committees.   Additional members would let each board member be a more effective liaison to fewer committees.

·         Easier for members: when a board has three members, the quorum that makes a meeting Is two.  This creates an ongoing hazard: any deliberation on town issues outside of a public meeting between any two members is an open meeting violation.  With five members, the quorum for a meeting is three: this allows members to consult with a peer safely.  Two members can even be assigned to  work through a problem between meetings, making the boards meetings more productive.

·         Better for applicants:  in Lancaster the Select Board currently issues one Special Permit, for Earth Products Removal.   The state requires that special permits be approved with a “super majority” and stipulates that for a three member board, all three members must approve.   This is a daunting prospect for an applicant: they need unanimous approval to receive a permit.

·         Better for the town: With three members, any two members can make a decision.    With five members, it’s more likely that a board will reflect more of the town and will thoroughly explore issues.

What do we need to do to make this change?   When could it take effect?

The town first needs to authorize the Select Board to request special legislation.   After that, we need to wait until the Select Board requests and the legislature approves a Special Act for us.   Once that’s done, we’d have a town ballot vote (either at an Annual Election in May, or at a special election) to adopt that Special Act.   If the town votes in the affirmative, we’d then pick three Select Board members at the next annual election instead of one.   The highest, second-highest and third-highest vote-getters would serve a three, two and one year term respectively. *

A possible timeline for expanding the Select Board:


May, at Annual Town Meeting: Town votes to approve this petition and the Select Board 

       subsequently petitions the Legislature for “An Act increasing the membership of the  

      Select Board of the Town of Lancaster.” The legislature approves an Act for Lancaster.


May, at Annual Town Election:  Town considers a ballot question to approve the Act.


May, at Annual Town Election:   The town picks three Selectmen this year, instead of one.  

      The highest, second highest and third-highest vote-getters would serve a three, two and   

      one year term respectively.   From that point forward, there are five members on the

      Select Board, with two terms expiring most years, and for subsequent elections

     members are elected to three-year years.

* What if there’s a tie?   Massachusetts handles a tied election as an election with no winner and it becomes Select Board vacancies to be filled with a special election.

Is the proposed town meeting article text, proposed special act, and process sound?

The language we picked was taken from a successful article and special act used for Milton in 2015. They also switched from a three-member select board to a five-member board.   They initially authorized their Select Board to request the special legislation in October, 2015.   Their legislation wasn’t approved in time for their 2016 annual town meeting, so they adopted the Special Act with a ballot vote over a year later at their 2017 town election.  They successfully expanded their select board at their annual town election in 2018.

If there’s a possibility that the town could adopt a town charter in the future, should we wait for that charter to make this change?

Not necessarily.  Drafting and adopting a town charter could take years; adopting the change now wouldn’t limit the towns options with a charter.  Moreover, adopting this change now would simplify any charter discussion and let an expanded board before any other changes are introduced with a charter.   (As of this date there is no charter initiative in Lancaster, and the 2022-2024 Government Study Committee did not identify a desire to create one.)