Town Clerk Position To Be Appointed Rather Than Elected ... Eventually
Voter turnout at Special Town Meeting is sparse, as voters pass 18 of 19 articles.
Following passionate debate, Tewksbury residents made history at Tuesday night's Special Town Meeting, voting to switch the office of Town Clerk from an elected to an appointed position.
A motion to indefinitely postpone the article was defeated, 76-65. The article itself passed by an 88-58 vote. Total voter turnout in the Tewksbury High gym was only 155.
Despite the vote, the change will not take place immediately. In accordance with state law, Town Clerk Denise Graffeo will be allowed to serve out her term, which expires in April 2014. She was elected this past April.
Graffeo, who came out publicly in favor of the switch, said she was relieved the issue was settled.
"I'm glad it's over," said Graffeo. "I was going to go to work and do my job to the best of my ability one way or another."
Kevin Donnelly of the Finance Committee spoke against the article, saying the current process of electing the Town Clerk has served the community well. He said that prior to Graffeo, the town had had just three Town Clerks over the past several decades, "and they all did a pretty good job."
Dennis Francis, a member of the School Committee, moved for an indefinite postponement of the article and echoed the opinions of several other residents when he said he believed a fall special town meeting was not the place to decide the issue. Francis said the vote would pre-empt the work being done by the Special Act Charter Committee.
Speaking in favor of the article, Selectwoman Ann Marie Stronach said the move was not meant to sidestep the will of the people.
"My colleagues and I completely respect the voters of this town," she said, adding the selectmen voted 5-0 to endorse the switch.
Selectman Scott Wilson, chairman of the Special Act Charter Committee, said his committee voted, 7-1, to include the switch in the proposed new charter. He added that he believes the Town Clerk position, which oversees all town elections, needs to be removed from the political process.
"Our Town Manager Richard Montuori, is not political. He doesn't get involved in the politics, and I think the Town Clerk should be in the same vein," said Wilson.
In all, voters approved 18 of the 19 articles on the agenda. Article 16, which had to do with the acceptance of a land gift, was tabled, as Montuori said more information was needed.
- Voters approved rescinding five previous town meeting votes that had approved more than $5 million in borrowing. Montuori had said that borrowing was not necessary.
- Voters approved the placing of $1.3 million in the Stabilization Fund. the fund had been drained to just $50,000.
- Voters approved the expenditure of $28,455 to purchase a new command vehicle for the Fire Department. The old vehicle had been totalled when it was hit by a drunk driver while on a call on I-93.
- Voters approved the tax incentive plan being granted to Thermo Fisher as it moves into the old Avid Technology complex near Ames Pond. Montuori said the 15-year deal will net the town around $2 million.
- Voters accepted Catamount Road and Mac Drive as public ways.