Hatfield Select Board chairman to retire

  • Patrick Gaughan, chairman of the Hatfield Select Board, says he will retire next month. Before that happens, he will lead the board at a special Town Meeting Oct. 26, where residents will be asked to borrow $850,000 to renovate Hatfield Town Hall, pictured here. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

  • Hatfield Select Board Chairman Patrick J. Gaughan, 72, will retire from the board in late November after serving in multiple town positions over the course of 20 years. Gazette Staff/SARAH CROSBY

Published: 10/6/2016 11:35:33 PM

HATFIELD — Select Board Chairman Patrick J. Gaughan will retire from the post in late November after serving in various town positions for more than two decades.

He is stepping down from the position at the recommendation of his doctor, who cited the stressful nature of the work.

Gaughan, 72, was previously set to end his three-year term in May 2018.

While he would prefer to finish out the term, his two children have concurred with the physician, Gaughan said. They all agree the continued stress is not in his best interest.

“After careful personal consideration, I feel that’s the best course of action,” he said of his upcoming retirement.

During the last 20 years, Gaughan has held various elected and appointed offices including six years as a School Committee member, an earlier nine-year stint with the Select Board and a three-year term on the Zoning Board of Appeals.

Gaughan returned to the Select Board in May 2015.

“You need people to step forward and to be involved in the town,” Gaughan said. “Coordinating that involvement is a major responsibility of the Board of Selectmen.”

The best of times for him have been with the townspeople, no matter the role in which he served.

In November 2000, voters narrowly approved a Proposition 2 1/2 debt-exclusion override to fund construction costs for the elementary school.

The vote was 900-887 in favor of funding for additions, renovations or construction of a new Dorothy M. Breor Elementary School – something Gaughan, on the School Committee, deemed “really, really necessary.”

That situation served to show how crucial community engagement is, he said.

Gaughan moved to Hatfield in the 1970s with his late wife, Susan, and has since watched that participation expand.

“I’ve seen the involvement of townspeople get stronger and stronger, which is really neat,” he said.

The Select Board recently accepted a proposal from developers Barry L. Roberts and Donald Southwick to convert the former Hatfield Center School into eight condominiums, returning the building to the town’s tax rolls.

Residents voted 222-16 in May to save the historic structure.

Gaughan cited saving the Center School as a key example of what can happen when people get involved.

“What really makes Hatfield what it is, is the closeness of the community, the willingness of people in town to get involved in issues and the opportunity to do that,” he said.

Town Hall project

The next issue in need of engagement is that of the Town Hall renovations necessary to bring the building up to code compliance. The article asking to borrow $850,000 to fund that project failed after a heated debate in Town Meeting last spring, leaving the building’s compliance in limbo.

According to Town Administrator Marlene Michonski, the building must be brought up to code by September 2018 to avoid fines.

The Select Board has set 7 p.m. Oct. 26 for a special Town Meeting in the Hatfield Elementary School, with the hope of moving forward with the next phase of renovations.

The Board recently approved an article that addresses Phase II of the renovations, with an estimated cost of $2,002,714. That works involves handicap accessibility requirements and the installation of fire suppression.

During the meeting, the town must secure a two-thirds vote on a debt exclusion question for approximately $1,312,714, as well as a majority vote on the question which will appear on the Nov. 8 presidential election ballot.

Gaughan said he encourages townspeople to get involved in the voting process of that project, whether they are pro or con.

Participation in a small town is crucial, even if townspeople disagree, he said.

Gaughan cited his biggest strengths that he brings to the job of Select Board chairman as “the willingness to listen and the willingness to, most importantly, make a decision.”

“I may not always agree and that’s happened over the course of the years, but the key is that you can agree to disagree at that point in time,” he said.

He said he has been fortunate to serve with colleagues who understand that no one person does all the work.

Gaughan said he will miss the daily collaboration with his peers and the townspeople, and added that he won’t be a stranger in Hatfield.

He is willing to stay involved in town affairs through a different role than his current post.

His children Stephen Gaughan and Kerry Flaherty both serve the town, following the example set by their parents.

The younger Gaughan is the fire chief in Hatfield, as well as a captain and paramedic for the Amherst Fire Department.

Flaherty is chairwoman of the town’s Council on Aging and Board of Health in addition to serving as a firefighter and emergency medical technician in Hatfield for the last 18 years. She is also a dispatcher for the Massachusetts State Police.

Gaughan said he is very grateful his children have taken interest in serving their community.

He plans to spend more time with them and his grandchildren, following his retirement. He also plans to relax, but not too much.

“There’s enough to be done,” he said of the town, official position or not. “I think Hatfield is special because of what the people make it to be.”

Sarah Crosby can be reached at scrosby@gazettenet.com.

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