The selectmen serve as a town's chief executive body. They have overall responsibility for the general operations of town government. They are usually the major non-school appointing authority for a town. They are authorized to enter into contracts on behalf of the municipality. The details of their duties and responsibilities are outlined in a publication by the Massachusetts Municipal Association called the Handbook for Massachusetts Selectmen.
While most other town boards and offices serve a particular function (e.g., assessors, finance, school, health), the selectmen's responsibilities are much broader. Their job is often one of sorting out the various positions of different departments and boards to determine the best overall course of action for the town. Selectmen should play an active and strong role in the financial management of the town.
A major role of the selectmen should be to coordinate the roles of all players in the financial management process and to promote a team approach for addressing the fiscal issues of the town. Selectmen should participate in the budget process, directly reviewing budget requests and having input at all levels of the process. They should provide leadership in the development of a capital improvement program and a risk management policy (i.e., insurance). Throughout the fiscal year, the selectmen (in conjunction with the finance committee), should monitor the financial performance of the town. Finally, selectmen should assume an active role in any issue or policy that has broad implications for the financial condition of the town, including such issues as tax classification, free cash policy, use of a stabilization fund, financial reporting and the audit process.