Hampden Selectmen Chairman James D. Smith has officially announced that he will not seek re-election at the town's May 1 elections. Smith said it is time for him to pursue other endeavors in life.
"I've always felt that government is run best when the general public gets involved. My way of becoming involved was through government," said Smith. "I felt that with my management experience I could best serve my town on the Board of Selectmen."
Smith has served the Town of Hampden for 12 years and believes that it is time to move on and let other people bring fresh ideas to the town.
Smith said he didn't start out with hopes for any monumental changes, but rather his goal was to keep the government process as open as possible.
"The voters want to know what's going on, and they want leaders who share their thought process," he said.
Some of the important town accomplishments that happened while Smith was on the Board were the ground breaking and completion of the Senior Center, and the expansion of Green Meadows School.
"A lot of things like that were completed due to the combined effort of lots of dedicated people, and I'm just glad to be a part of that," he reflected. "I feel it's a duty for people to get involved in their community, and I have tremendous respect for civic involvement."
Smith said his goals were not to go after tangible objects, but to create an openness in the community. He said he doesn't look at government as a process of goals, but as being a smooth process that keeps the public involved.
"The projects that were laid out in front of us were completed, and we had a lot of contract issues within the town offices, and we worked through those," he said.
And while there were many positive things that happened while Smith was on the board, there were negative aspects as well.
"I was disappointed that we had to close the Library, and the Senior Center, and cut back on the town Highway and Police budgets, but I don't know if there was anything I could have done differently," he said.
Smith said there were lots of challenges over the years, but the biggest one was to balance the town's budget.
"By far the biggest challenge was the limited amount of money and the rising cost of everything. Health insurance preemies and government mandates were the big ones," he said.
Smith said some of the upcoming challenges will be to continue to find ways to hold down costs in the future.
He also said he would like to remain active in the town, but doesn't have any specific plans yet.
"Being a selectman requires tremendous commitment and time, and at some point and time, you have to say 'I want something else with my life'," Smith said.