SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

May 20, 2013

New Danvers selectman has worked her way up

BY ETHAN FORMAN
STAFF WRITER

---- — DANVERS — For about 10 years, accountant Diane Langlais served on the Finance Committee, an important town body that gets little attention as it oversees the town budget, warrant articles and capital improvement plans that go before Town Meeting.

But selectmen noticed the work she was doing. Citing her work on the FinCom, her experience as a tax accountant, her three years as a Town Meeting member and a long history of what Selectman Bill Clark called “activism in the town,” selectmen chose her to fill out the remaining term of former Selectman Mike Powers, who resigned.

She is also a member of a design committee for the Danvers High project. And Selectman Dan Bennett pointed to her work in constituent services on Beacon Hill in the late 1970s and 1980s, working for Rep. Joan Menard.

“I think that working my way up is going to make it a lot easier for this year,” Langlais said. It also helps that she was appointed, having gone through the budget process for this coming fiscal year, which begins July 1.

“I’m ready for Town Meeting, I know every line item,” she said. “I know every warrant article.”

Langlais said she knows her role as a selectman will be different than that of a Finance Committee member.

Taking a cue from her accounting background, Langlais views the Finance Committee as almost conducting an audit of the town budget. She would look back for five years to see the spending trends, and ask department heads to explain large increases.

“I want a story, I want to know why, exactly, it’s moving,” she said.

She envisions her role as selectman as someone who will listen to residents’ concerns.

Langlais, 53, is a Danvers native from a large, supportive family (her maiden name is Hennessey), many of whom still live in town. She was born at the former Hunt Memorial Hospital, and was active in youth sports when her son, Gary, now 26, played sports. He recently became a lawyer.

Back when she was president of Danvers American Little League 16 years ago, she met Town Manager Wayne Marquis when she decided: “I wanted a field.” It led to the construction of Memorial Field at Plains Park, and she learned from Marquis the “meet me halfway” philosophy, which involves leagues and residents contributing money to such projects, and the town maintaining them.

“You can’t take more than we have,” Langlais said Marquis told her.

As a selectman, Langlais said she will continue to be an advocate for sports programs and the maintenance and construction of town ballfields. She would like to see an artificial turf field built at Deering Field at Danvers High.

“I always said three hours after school of a kid being busy is three of the best hours you can give your kid,” she said of her enthusiasm for youth sports.

Twenty six years ago her husband, Gary Langlais, died in a car accident in Duxbury, but in telling the story, she does not want to dwell on the past.

“I don’t look back, I only look forward,” she said.

Langlais said she loves politics, and felt like she knew what was going in town by serving on the Finance Committee.

Because her term as selectman expires next spring, Langlais said she intends to run for a full term next May.

Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673, by email at eforman@salemnews.com or on Twitter at @DanverSalemNews.