EDITOR'S NOTE: For his one-man campaign to recruit new Town Meeting members in Framingham, helping to fill some seats that had been empty for years, and for his tireless efforts to help rebuild the Framingham Public Schools, Framingham Patch selected Herb Chasan as the man who made a difference in Framingham in 2011. Whether you supported Chasan's causes or not, he was tenacious in his efforts.
School Committee Chair Beverly Hugo said she is “thrilled” with the choice of Herb Chasan as the Man Who Made a Difference in 2011.
“He’s a true testament of how one person can have a profound effect in a community,” Hugo said. “His affable personality and tenacious perseverance, combined with his good heart and noble intentions, has made our town of Framingham a more cohesive and appealing community.”
School Committee member Michael Bower called Chasan “a tremendous advocate for the kids” and noted Chasan is committed to the youth of Framingham even though he does not currently have any children or grandchildren in the Framingham Public School system.
“The man is just a bundle of energy. He is just tireless. He has more energy than most 30-year-olds,” Bower said.
Chasan was elected to Town Meeting in 2008, according to Assistant Town Clerk Lisa Ferguson. He helped found Framingham Save Our Schools in mid-2010, in response to repeated school budget cuts. He and the Save our Schools group collected thousands of signatures advocating for more money for the Framingham Public Schools. Around the same time, Chasan also started actively recruiting residents to fill vacant Town Meeting seats.
“He was in our office almost every day to see what seats were available,” Ferguson said. “He would check attendance for Town Meeting to see who was attending and who wasn’t.”
It was a lot of work for the office of the Town Clerk, Ferguson said. However, it also represented a major shift in town government as Chasan managed to fill vacant Town Meeting seats with new members.
“I’ve been here many years and it’s the first time I’ve ever seen all the seats full,” Ferguson said. She wasn’t sure how Chasan was recruiting new members, or what he was telling them.
Some of Chasan’s new Town Meeting recruits ended up resigning soon afterward, perhaps unaware of the level of commitment required. But many new members continue to serve.
Lori Greene is one of who continues to serve her precinct as a Town Meeting member. Greene said Chasan took a great interest in the new Town Meeting candidates, walking them through the process of collecting signatures and putting their names on the ballot. After they were elected, he matched them up with mentors (current Town Meeting members), who guided them through their first Town Meeting, answering questions and explaining procedures.
New Town Meeting member Renee Faubert said she had the feeling Chasan was just going down a list of names when he first called her. But she had already been thinking about joining Town Meeting at the time he called. “I just needed that extra push and Herb was definitely the one to give me that push,” she said.
For Chris Kopacko, the situation was similar. Chasan asked him whether he believed the schools needed more funding, but it wasn’t clear to him until later that Chasan was intent upon pushing forward a Save Our Schools agenda. Still, Kopacko said he doesn’t regret joining Town Meeting and expects to continue with it.
Chasan can be a bit overbearing at times. He has been known to call Town Meeting members who haven’t attended every meeting. He can also push his issues hard.
“Sometimes you have to say no — I got the email, you don’t have to call me too,” Faubert said laughing, adding she has three kids and works two jobs. Town Meeting is a bigger commitment than Chasan told her it would be. Yet, she is glad to be a Town Meeting member and doesn’t plan on leaving her post anytime soon.
“I think it was good for Herb to have so many people join Town Meeting because they were concerned about the schools,” Faubert said. “I think the more people contribute to the process, the better it is for the town.”
For State Representative Chris Walsh, Herb Chasan represents how one person can have a large impact.
“Certainly, Herb is an example of how sheer determination to get something on the table really makes a difference and he is to be certainly applauded for that,” Walsh said. “Herb has, through a sort of sheer force of will, has gotten people to join Town Meeting, he’s gotten them to focus on schools, and that’s all very good.”