Town Meeting Basics
The purest form of democratic governing is practiced in a Town Meeting. In use for over 300 years and still in use today, it has proven to be a valuable means for many Massachusetts taxpayers to voice their opinions and directly effect change in their communities. Here in this ancient American assembly, you can make your voice heard as you and your neighbors decide the course of the government closest to you.
A Town Meeting is both an event and an entity. As an event, it is a gathering of a town's eligible voters, and is referred to as "the Town Meeting." As an entity, it is the legislative body for towns in Massachusetts, and is referred to simply as "Town Meeting." So you may say, "I went to the Town Meeting. Town Meeting approved the budget."
Town Meeting Decisions
Town Meeting decides three major things:
- It sets the salaries for the elected officials
- It votes to appropriate money to run the town
- It votes on the town’s local statutes, which are called by-laws
A moderator’s job is to run the Town Meeting. Specifically, the moderator declares the outcome of all voice votes. In Middleton the Moderator is elected at the Annual Town Election for a one year term. When the elected moderator is absent, a temporary moderator may be elected at the Town Meeting.
Selectman or Selectwoman
Selectmen are a town’s executive officers. Voters elect them to the Board of Selectmen, which has five members elected for three-year overlapping terms. Selectmen are authorized to call a Town Meeting provided that they have posted a warrant. The Board of Selectmen picks and supervises a person, who, in turn, runs the town and supervises town workers. That person is known as the town administrator
Town Clerk's Role
At the Town Meeting, the clerk records all votes and takes minutes. The town clerks are elected for a three-year term. In the event of all of the selectman / selectwomen resigning, the town clerk is authorized to call a town meeting.
The town counsel is a lawyer who works for the town. During the Town Meeting, the town counsel answers legal questions that come up. He or she is appointed by the selectmen.
The finance committee studies the budget in the months before the annual Town Meeting starts. It also studies financial articles (which are agenda items). Its recommendations are advisory. When the Finance Committee recommends an article on the warrant, their recommendation serves as both a motion and a second.
The seven members of the finance committee are appointed by the moderator. The finance committee’s report is distributed to all residences with the warrant.