Goshen puts women in charge

  • Peri Hall, from left, Kristine Bissell, and Angela Otis, who are the first all-woman Select Board in Goshen’s history, stand on the steps of the Town Hall on Friday morning. STAFF PHOTO/BERA DUNAU

  • Peri Hall, left, Angela Otis, back, and Kristine Bissell, who are the first all-woman Select Board in Goshen’s history, stand on the steps of the Town Hall on Friday morning. STAFF PHOTO/BERA DUNAU

  • Peri Hall, front, Kristine Bissell, right, and Angela Otis, who are the first all-woman Select Board in Goshen’s history, stand on the steps of the Town Hall on Friday morning. STAFF PHOTO/BERA DUNAU

  • Peri Hall, from left, Kristine Bissell, and Angela Otis, who are the first all-woman Select Board in Goshen’s history, stand on the steps of the Town Hall on Friday morning. STAFF PHOTO/BERA DUNAU

  • Angela Otis, from left, Peri Hall and Kristine Bissell, who are the first all-woman Select Board in Goshen’s history, stand for a photo on Friday morning. STAFF PHOTO/BERA DUNAU

  • Angela Otis, from left, Peri Hall and Kristine Bissell, who are the first all-woman Select Board in Goshen’s history, stand for a photo on Friday morning. STAFF PHOTO/BERA DUNAU

Staff Writer
Published: 8/14/2022 8:00:59 PM
Modified: 8/14/2022 7:57:33 PM

GOSHEN — There is a place where women rule, across multiple levels of government. But this place isn’t the fictional island of Themyscira, famously home to the superhero Wonder Woman; it’s the small hilltown of Goshen.

“Perhaps other people have that expectation that leadership roles are filled by men,” said Angela Otis, chair of the Goshen Select Board. “I don’t have that head space.”

Instead, Otis said that she thinks those roles should be filled by the qualified.

Goshen swore in the first all-woman Select Board in its history this year. However, the Select Board is not the only town government body that’s all women, as the board of assessors, council on aging, cultural council, finance committee and open space committee share this distinction as well.

Dawn Scaparotti, chair of the finance committee and interim town administrator, said that voters in town vote for people who get things done.

“There are a lot of capable women who do that (in town),” Scaparotti said. “These people have stepped up.”

“I think people don’t care if they’re men or women,” Scaparotti added.

However, she also said that this degree of female leadership is not the norm at the Select Board level elsewhere.

Peri Hall is the most recent member of the Select Board, having been elected this year.

“I’ve always been interested in being involved in local issues,” Hall said.

However, she said that she previously didn’t have enough time to serve on the Select Board, despite having lived in Goshen for 21 years. This year, her schedule made her feel that she could step up.

“It takes a time commitment,” Hall said.

Select Board Member Kristine Bissell, meanwhile, said that she’s “trying to carry on family traditions of being involved in the town.”

And she said that she has in-laws who have been involved in various roles in Goshen.

As for being a part of an all-woman Select Board, Hall said that it’s not surprising for Goshen because there’s a long tradition of women leaders there.

“It’s noteworthy, but it just feels natural,” Hall said.

One historic female leader in Goshen is former fire chief Susan Labrie, who in 2006 became the state’s first female fire chief in history.

“People just saw her as capable,” said Scaparotti.

Hall said that the board works “great together.”

“I think we’re all enjoying working together,” Hall said.

This sentiment was also shared by Otis, who has served on the Select Board for more than seven years and is both its chair and most senior member.

“We hold each other accountable, in a kind way,” Otis said. “I think as women we’re really good at researching the facts.”

She also said the board is good at making its concerns known to other officials and bodies, and that the board is looking to shepherd through the construction of a new highway department building.

Bera Dunau can be reached at bdunau@gazettenet.com.

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