DIRE Committee chair Fippinger discusses Williamstown select board bid
On May 10th, Williamstown, Massachusetts voters head to the polls for the annual town election. Randal Fippinger is Visiting Artist Producer and Outreach Manager at Williams College’s ‘62 Center for Theater and Dance. He is also a candidate for one of two three-year seats on the five-member select board up for grabs.
Chair of the town’s Diversity, Inclusion, Racial Equity Committee, the 54-year-old spent the last year taking part in Williamstown’s Strengthening Police and Community Partnerships program, which was initiated after a series of scandals in the police department. He spoke to WAMC about what he wants to bring to the town’s select board.
FIPPINGER: I see that this is a very exciting time in Williamstown. There is a lot of opportunity. There's a lot of change happening in town. For example, we have a new town manager search, we have potentially a new police chief, the Social Work CARES program, the Special Police and Community Partnership Council, and the comprehensive plan coming up. So this is an opportunity for the town to reimagine what kind of place that we want to be and how we want to be as a community going for the next number of years, and I want to participate in that conversation. I think I have a lot to bring to that conversation.
WAMC: From your perspective as someone working in those conversations between community members in the police department and in the town at large, where do you see that conversation at at this point? And, you know, I have heard criticisms of that process from other candidates. I'm interested, do you feel like this has been a robust effort? Do you feel like- Just sort of give us your update report, where are we with all this?
I think it's been a rough few years for this town. But I'm happy that we've gone through this. I think of it as growing pains. As a town, we are trying to reimagine how we're doing things and we're reimagining how we want to have community conversations. So while I don't want to redo our community conversation last few years, I think this is a great time to be moving forward with one and potentially two new select board candidates.
Now as far as equity efforts in the Williamstown community, where do you feel like the community is at with that ongoing process? Do you think that there are ways that the town could enshrine some of the results of those conversations in official town policy?
Well, I'm very encouraged by a select board meeting just a few weeks ago, when the select board was talking about DEI training – diversity, equity and inclusion training – for town employees and potentially branching out to even citizens. So it's the fact that we're even having this conversation. It's not if we should be having it, it's that we're having a conversation about how. Same thing with the schools, the regional school system, having a DEIB – diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging – officer added to them. And so this is a great time to enshrine those advances in those conversations.
What do you see as on the forefront of Williamstown's agenda heading into the meat of this year? Is there infrastructure stuff you're looking at, policies from the town you'd like to see changed or addressed, or community concerns that you think are particularly keen right now?
Well, the three main things that are on my radar at the moment- First is police reform and how we have law enforcement in Williamstown, because we asked so much of our law enforcement officers. So having a conversation with them, including the CARES social work interviews and the Special Police and Community Partnership Council, to reimagine law enforcement. That's number one. Number two is thinking about affordable housing in Williamstown. Again, what makes me so optimistic is that we're not talking about if, we're talking about how we should have affordable housing in town. And thirdly, senior citizen issues. There are so many ways that we can be supporting senior citizens in this town, and I'd like to dive deep into those conversations and have community conversations about better supporting them.
And as far as going out in the campaign trail and talking to folks, what do you see as your avenue to success here? Is there a strategy you're pursuing? Walk us through that.
Well, the best way for me is to get out there and meet people. I don't claim to have all the answers. What I bring to the community is the willingness to be present and have conversations and try to bring people into the community and bring people into the conversation. So what I want to do is just get out and start meeting and talking to people and hearing what they have to say and learning from the experience of so many people in our town, whether it's people that have lived here their entire lives or Williams employees or any other citizens in this town.