Selectmen Candidates Share Views on Possible Town Charter Changes
Election Day is April 2.
Voters in Tewksbury will not be voting on any proposed changes to the Town charter when they head to the polls on April 2.
However, with one candidate in the three-way race for Board of Selectmen presently serving on the Special Act Charter Committee and the incumbent a vocal critic of how that committee has operated, the issue of proposed changes in Tewksbury's form of government has become a sub-plot of the upcoming election.
Presently the town has an open Town Meeting form of government with a five-member Board of Selectmen and a strong town manager.
Before it was required to recreate 12 of its meetings, the Special Act Charter Commission had been leaning toward recommending that the town abolish the Town Meeting and establish a Town Council form of government with a seven-member council.
We asked the candidates for selectman, incumbent Doug Sears and challengers Jim Biewener and Ed Sullivan, for their opinion on what form of government was appropriate for Tewksbury.
"I'm in favor of what we currently have i will keep an open mind," said Sears. "What we have with a five-member board of selectmen is a strong town manager. And We have a great town manager in Richard Montouri.
"From what I saw of the proposed changes (the Special Act Charter Commission) had been working on, it would weaken the town manager position," he said.
Biewener serves on the SACC. He said he is also keeping an open mind but definitely feels the Town Charter, which last underwent an overhaul in the early 1980s with the establishment of the town manager position, is due for an update.
"I'm not convinced that (a 7-member Town Council) is right for Tewksbury," said Biewener. "But I'm also not convinced that an open Town Meeting is right for Tewksbury.
"(The SACC) wants to take a look at the Charter and bring it into the enviroment we have now," he said.
Sullivan agrees with Biewener that the existing Town Charter is outdated and that revisions of some type are needed.
"Is it archaic? Yes, I believe it is," said Sullivan, of the existing charter. "I think it needs to be fixed but I don't know if you have to go all the way to a (7-member) council.
"There need to be some changes. The document has to be looked at very closely and then presented to the public for them to decide."
Each of the candidates was in agreement that the will of the people had to be respected relative to any proposed changes to the charter.