New committee in Amherst to offer advice for increasing diversity on town boards

  • Town Manager Paul Bockelman GAZETTE FILE PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

Staff Writer
Published: 3/7/2019 3:35:13 PM

AMHERST — As part of an aim to increase the diversity of those serving in Amherst’s government, a new committee will soon be providing advice to the town manager on committee appointments.

The Residents’ Advisory Committee is an element of the new town charter that will “assist with evaluation and selection of candidates for appointment,” according to the town charter. The committee’s input is recommended when the town manager is making choices for “multiple-member bodies,” based on the responsibility the Town Council gave the committee.

Town Manager Paul Bockelman said Tuesday that he intends to consult with the three-member committee about the qualities and characteristics of people he should be seeking for boards.

“I will be utilizing their knowledge of committees to ensure we have a diverse body of people on boards,” Bockelman said.

Bockelman said he may also use the new committee as a way to screen those who apply to be on boards and committees.

The members each bring a unique background and different understanding of Amherst.

Keisha Dennis, of Autumn Lane, has extensive experience working with nonprofits, community groups and early childhood education, though she has no previous experience with Amherst government.

On the flip side, Connie Kruger, of Hop Brook Road, is a former Select Board and Planning Board member and worked for the town Planning Department.

The third member is Jim Pistrang of High Point Drive, formerly town moderator. He served as chairman of the Town Manager Search Committee and member of the Puffer’s Pond 2020 Committee, and he also spearheaded the Dog Park Task Force.

Brianna Sunryd, communication manager for the town, said she envisions that the Residents’ Advisory Committee might also collaborate with the three community participation officers in attempting to get a more representative cross-section of Amherst to be involved in town government. 

Scott Merzbach can be reached at
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