Government is the sum of representatives that make long-term decisions for the Town and the laws that guide them. These mainly come in the form of boards and committees, which are made up of elected or appointed volunteers who live in Dedham or work for the Town. For your convenience, there is an alphabetical listing of all boards and committees created and operated by the Town.
That list, however, is not all that this section constitutes. In addition to Town officials, there are elected officials at the county, state and federal levels for Dedham. Below you will find a topical overview of Dedham's governing bodies and documents.
Local democracy is the foundation of Dedham, and the Town is governed by several legislative bodies. At Town Meeting, 270 Dedham residents are tasked each spring and fall with representing the townspeople and acting as a lawmaking body, with the help and guidance of the Town Moderator. The Bylaw Review Committee reviews amendments that are to be considered by Town Meeting and makes recommendations on them.
The day-to-day operations of the Town are handled by the Town Manager, who is appointed by and adherent to the elected Board of Selectmen, who set the general policies of the Town and appoint Town staff, board, and committee members. The Town Clerk is responsible for official record keeping and serves as the Town's chief election official. The Sustainability Advisory Committee advises the Board of Selectmen on strategies for advancing local commitment to renewable energy. The Transportation Advisory Committee reviews Traffic Calming Request Forms to determine if they are eligible for potential traffic calming measures.
Laws & Records
The Town Code is the main document that founded and governs the operations of the Town, and consists of the founding Town Charter and Zoning Bylaw. Much of the Town's regulations, policies, and procedures are derived from state regulations and Massachusetts General Law. Laws that are passed by the State Legislature, but allow for municipalities to adopt them voluntarily, are called accepted statutes. Similarly, special laws are laws made by the State Legislature with specific language about the Town. After someone has been elected or appointed to a governing board, they must pass state-mandated ethics training to understand conflict-of-interest law. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts has careful rules around the operation of open meetings of volunteer boards and committees to ensure clarity and transparency.
In compliance with open meeting law, each board and committee in Town posts agendas and keeps meeting minutes. Anyone may request public records (such as meeting minutes), and the Town provides guidelines on how to access those records. Important vital records, such as birth certificates, marriage licenses, and death certificates, are kept by the Town Clerk. Mailed out annually in early January, the Town Census allows for an accurate recording of the Town's population to help facilitate better municipal services.
Dedham has a strong base of civically-engaged residents and community-oriented officials. The Civic Pride Committee promotes civic pride and works to preserve and beautify public spaces. To support artistic projects and activities, the Cultural Council operates in Town and works with their state counterparts to secure distribute funds for the arts. The East Dedham Revitalization Committee was established to study and propose ways to improve the economic landscape, land uses, and treatment of natural and cultural resources of East Dedham village. Dedham is grateful to have such dedicated citizens, so much so that the Public Service Recognition Committee was formed to recognize citizens whose actions exemplify the spirit of public service with an annual award.
Like most municipalities, the majority of the Town's finances is on education, with the School Committee steering the policy and administration of Dedham's public schools. There are two public libraries in Town—the Main branch on Church St and the Endicott branch on Mt. Vernon St—both of which are maintained by the Board of Library Trustees. Support for students and young people also comes from the Youth Commission, which provides recreational and health programming.
The financial make-up of the Town is important to get right, and four boards and committees help make that happen. One of the most important voices on Town finances is the Finance & Warrant Committee, which makes recommendations on all Town financial matters, most notably the budget. The Board of Assessors oversees the annual valuation of real estate and personal property within the Town for taxation purposes. The elected Commissioners of Trust Funds manage and control funds given to the Town for the use of those funds in various scholarship, charity, and memorial trusts. For more long-term questions, the Capital Expenditures Committee makes recommendations on improving Town-owned buildings and allocates funds for Town projects and studies.
Health & Human Services
Dedham strives to provide excellent humanitarian services to all Town residents. Voters elect the Board of Health to formulate and enforce rules and regulations to protect the environment and public health. The Housing Authority provides housing assistance to low-income residents through State and Federal programs. Working to educate and involve the community in preventing and addressing substance abuse is the mission of the Coalition for Alcohol & Drug Awareness. The Commission on Disability advocates to improve access for persons with disabilities in commercial and public buildings, playgrounds, and schools. Like the department that staffs it, the Council on Aging Board works to address the concerns and needs of aging residents. The newly formed Human Rights Commission supports the human rights of groups, organizations, and individuals against discrimination in housing, employment, education, public accommodations, town services, insurance, banking, credit and health care.
Land Use & Zoning
The planning of our community is crucial in ensuring the economic wellbeing of the Town. The Planning Board studies and plans for the needs of the Town for current and future development and land use. The Conservation Commission protects wetlands, related water resources, and adjoining land areas. The Design Review Advisory Board provides information, recommendations, and professional design review of proposed buildings and signage. Overseeing historic preservation, contextual compliance, and design review within the Town's designated local historic districts is the Historic Districts Commission, which also acts as the Town's Historical Commission. The inter-departmental Master Plan Implementation Committee discusses the goals and progress of the various action items in the Master Plan and provides assistance in achieving them. Should decisions by the Building Commissioner or the Planning Board go challenged, a petitioner may go to is the Zoning Board of Appeals.
Open Space & Recreation
Opportunities for residents and visitors to enjoy the wonderful environment of Dedham is important to the Town. The Open Space & Recreation Committee oversees open space in Town and keeps the Town current with State requirements for open space or recreation plans and with opportunities and eligibility for State funding. The Parks & Creation Commission has a similar but different purpose: promoting physical education, play, recreation, sport and other programs for people of all ages.
The Town maintains a good deal of land and buildings for education, historic preservation, and town administration. The Building, Planning & Construction Committee evaluates Town buildings and determines the need for constructing new buildings, or renovating or adding onto existing buildings. One of the Town's most prominent historic buildings, the Endicott Estate, is maintained and directed by a similarly named Commission. Given the importance of educational facilities, the School Building Rehabilitation Committee is in place to oversee and supervise the design, construction, reconstruction, major alteration, renovation, enlargement, major maintenance, demolition, and removal of Dedham Public Schools' buildings.