Alan Slavin prepares to retire from 12 years of Select Board service
The seed for Select Board member Alan Slavin's interest in public service was planted early.
"My grandmother years ago, before she passed away — I think this is typical of her upbringing in the Jewish religion and how we do things — she said that, ‘When you can, you will give back," said Slavin. "Not, 'You can', but, 'You shall' give back to your community of people."
Now, Slavin is planning to round-out his time on the Select Board. He is not planning to run for re-election in the upcoming election cycle, making his fourth term his last and bringing to a close 12 years of Select Board service.
Slavin started his time in local government on some of Wareham's ancillary boards, together with his wife, Sandra Slavin.
"I think I went to my first town meeting with Sandy — she was already involved — and the Finance Committee got up and walked out because they wanted their budget, and they disagreed with the town manager's budget," said Slavin. "I turned around to Sandy and said, 'They can't do that. That's not right.' And she looked at me and said, 'If you don't like it, do something about it.'"
Slavin chose to do something about it, joining the master plan committee for the Tremont Nail Factory. The town had bought the property to preserve it, out of fear that developers would buy it and alter it, but it did not have a plan in place for how to use it, Slavin said.
From there, he served on other town boards, including the now defunct Wareham Marine Resources Committee and the Capital Planning Committee, which he helped reconstitute.
Six or seven years into this period of public service, people in town began asking if he would run for the Select Board.
"I really wasn't that enthused about the idea," Slavin said. "They kept after it, and I finally said, 'Yes.’"
The only disappointment Slavin has had in his 12 years on the Select Board is he couldn't get a commuter rail program in place for Wareham, he said. "The spur that would come down for the Cape Flier here is really all ready to go, has been for a while, but I don't think we have enough support."
As for what he's proudest of?
"I don't know," said Slavin. "There are so many different things, you kind of forget it once they happen.”
Much of the work Slavin did to benefit the Select Board happened not on the board itself, but through his participation with other boards and committees, he said.
"I decided very early on I would step up and get on different boards and committees outside the town," Slavin said.
In his time on the Select Board, Slavin served as a commissioner and eventually as chair with the Southeastern Regional Planning and Economic Development District, as a member of the advisory boards for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority and the Greater Attleboro and Taunton Regional Transit Authority and as a member of the board of directors for the Massachusetts Municipal Association, among other bodies.
Sometimes, Slavin's work with these organizations led to specific, tangible benefits for the town. In one instance, Slavin was able to work with GATRA and the Southeastern Regional Transit Authority to establish a bus line between Wareham and New Bedford.
The connections Slavin made on these boards had their own benefits for the town.
"What it has done is help the Town Administrator, because I'm able to find different grants, different programs that are available,” said Slavin. “They don't come easily unless you're involved. A lot of times, if I'm at a particular meeting as the board's representative, I can actually physically make a phone call to someone while the meeting's going on and get an answer."
"That's the biggest thing we're going to lose for a while," Slavin added. "I don't think we're in a position where there's anybody else able to fill that void."
With himself, Director of Planning and Community Development Ken Buckland and town clerk Debra Gremo all leaving around the same time, the town will lose a lot of its current institutional knowledge, according to Slavin.
Slavin isn't sure what his own next steps will be after leaving the Select Board. He has taken out nomination papers to run for the Wareham Fire and Water District Prudential Committee, and has plans for how he could help the town's water districts, but he has "mixed feelings" about whether or not he wants to run.
Regardless of his decision, Slavin will still have hobbies to keep him occupied, including working on custom muscle cars.
Slavin said he can recognize when it's time to go. It takes a long time to get things done on the Select Board, and "you tend to get to a point where you lose your enthusiasm,” he said.
"Do I have regrets about leaving? Absolutely," he said. "But at the end of the day, I just think it's time."