SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Opinion

April 11, 2014

Benton: Remembering Bob Curtis

This region owes a lot to Bob Curtis, Danvers’ former town manager, who died last Saturday.

Curtis set a high standard for professionalism and integrity, which has continued for the past 35 years under his successor, Wayne Marquis. Credit the Board of Selectmen and voters for having had the wisdom to keep these two men on board for so long.

Appointed managers, now the norm in area towns, have the advantage of not having to pander to each and every special-interest group with a loud voice and a cause to promote.

Area cities, which elect their chief executives, have been fortunate in recent decades in choosing people with sound qualifications. But as recent events in the city of Lawrence have demonstrated, political success does not necessarily result in good government.

One of Curtis’ greatest contributions was getting the communities of the North Shore to think and act regionally, rather than putting their parochial interests first and foremost. He left Town Hall in 1979 to become director of the North Shore Economic Council, forerunner to groups such as the North Shore Chamber of Commerce and the North Shore Alliance for Economic Development.

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The new Essex Technical High School soon to open in Danvers is one of the results of the regional thinking fostered by Curtis and others. And, yes, people are starting to question just how much the new vocational training institution is going to cost the people who live in its member communities.

Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll described recent projections of her city’s assessments as “staggering,” and she and her fellow municipal officials are seeking help from the Legislature. Little wonder skeptics like former Danvers selectman Keith Lucy are saying, “I told you so.”

One problem is a lack of accountability by those spending your money. This newspaper had long advocated requiring that members of the school’s board run for election. But the legislation as written allowed mayors and boards of selectmen to appoint members, most of whom remain unknown to the general public.

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