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Civics Sunday - Part II: The Town Moderator and The Town Clerk

by The Publishers
February 24, 2019

Continuing our Civics Sunday series, we begin by reminding you, our reader, that our intent is to describe local boards, elected positions, or committees in hopes of preparing voters for our Annual Town Meeting on May 6, 2019, as well as helping to inform our decisions for the next Local Election on May 21, 2019.

Continuing our Civics Sunday series, we begin by reminding you, our reader, that our intent is to describe local boards, elected positions, or committees in hopes of preparing voters for our Annual Town Meeting on May 6, 2019, as well as helping to inform our decisions for the next Local Election on May 21, 2019.

This week’s helpful but brief descriptions include the Town Moderator and the Town Clerk, both elected positions that were mentioned in Civics Sunday, Part I: The Town Meeting, published on February 17.  In case you missed it, follow this link to last week’s article: Part I link.

Part II:  The Town Moderator and The Town Clerk

This week we describe two elected positions pivotal to Holliston’s town government:  the Town Moderator and the Town Clerk.  Let’s take a closer look at some of the responsibilities each of these people assumes…

The Town Moderator

The Town Moderator, not surprisingly, moderates all Town Meetings.  Holliston’s Moderator is elected for a 3-year term.  On May 21, we will vote for the Town Moderator. Because Holliston has specific by-laws governing our Town Meeting, the Moderator must be familiar with these.

During the Town Meeting, the Moderator summarizes each article or reads it entirely before starting debate.  “It is through the Moderator’s skill that deliberation is kept orderly and on-point. Speakers are required to stay on topic when discussing an article under consideration by voters.  No member is allowed to address another without the permission of the Moderator." Part of the responsibility of moderating is to declare each outcome of votes.  If a moderator is absent for a Town Meeting, a temporary moderator may be elected at the Town Meeting.

Being able to read and enunciate accurately, having a comprehensive knowledge of Holliston’s Town Meeting procedures, and maintaining a respectful order seem to be crucial skills and responsibilities for the Moderator. 

The Town Clerk

According to the Holliston town website, the Town Clerk is “the core of local government and serves as the center information point for everyone.”  The Town Clerk, voted to office in Holliston for a 3-year term, serves this community as the chief election official, recording officer, registrar of vital statistics, public records officer, licensing and public information officer.  MA General Laws and the Town By-Laws govern this position. 

On May 21, we will vote for the Town Clerk.  An Assistant Town Clerk and an Administrative Assistant aid Holliston’s Town Clerk.  These are both appointed positions.  

The Town Clerk keeps the official bulletin board at the town hall and maintains the meeting calendar on the town’s website.  Notices include, for example, the agenda of a meeting.  The Town Clerk maintains an archived copy of committee and board minutes and posts them to the Town website.

The Town Clerk may be consulted for various concerns:  for example, executive session procedures, public records status of documents, disclosure forms, and the open meeting law.

A) - Licenses and Certificates

Several licenses and certificates may be issued from the Town Clerk’s office.  Birth, Marriage, and Death certificates (all considered vital records) are easily attainable in Holliston.  The dog license is also obtained from the Town Clerk’s office.  License your pet by April to avoid a hefty $50 fine.  On-time licensing is $15 for an “altered” dog, and $20 for an “intact” pet.  If you conduct business under a name other than your own, you must obtain a business certificate from the Town Clerk. 

B) - Voter Registration

The Town Clerk carries out voter registration, which may be done in person or by mail-in.  Alternately, you may register to vote at the Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV).  Citizens are asked to keep their Town Clerk informed of any changes to their information.  A new voter registration form must be submitted if you wish to change your name, address, mailing address, or political affiliation.

The Town Clerk also has applications for absentee ballots, which may be submitted in person or by mail. 

C) - Elections

Elections bring several specific responsibilities to the Town Clerk.  For example, the Town Clerk “promptly notifies” each person who is elected or appointed to any office, board, committee, commission, authority or trusteeship on the town.   

As soon as an order or vote appropriating money becomes effective, the Town Clerk certifies to the Assessors, Auditor and Town Treasurer, each appropriation in detail. 

D) - Town Meeting

During the Town Meeting, the Town Clerk records all votes and takes minutes.  Minutes must contain summaries of matters discussed, list of documents used, all decisions made and votes taken. Additionally, all minutes of all sessions of the Annual and Special Town Meetings are kept in the custody of the Town Clerk for a minimum of 10 years.  The Town Clerk also gives a copy of any motion passed during the Town Meeting to that person or group to which it pertains. 

E) - Annual Report and General By-Laws

In December of each year, the Town Clerk notifies in writing the chair of any committee that has not made a report to the town since the last annual meeting that a report must be filed with the Board of Selectmen on or before February 1. 

The Annual Town Report and General By-Laws contain useful information about the duties and responsibilities of individual boards and committees.  These items are available at the Town Clerk’s office or on the Town web page. 

Briefly reviewing the skills most necessary for the position of Town Clerk, it is our opinion that this person should be a fine communicator, be highly organized, have an advanced knowledge of the Town’s By Laws and the MGL, be a high level problem-solver, and be an accurate “answer-person,” under various time constraints. 

 

To conclude this week’s Civics Sunday column, a few words about candidacy for open positions in Holliston: 

  1. A candidate must be at least 18 years of age, a resident of Holliston, and a registered voter.

  2. For any elected office, nomination papers are available from the Town Clerk’s Office, usually the 1st of February.  Fifty (50) signatures of registered voters from town are required to ensure a spot on the ballot.

  3. Town Elections are held the Tuesday following the third Friday in May (May 21,2019).   The polls are open at the high school field house from 7 AM to 8 PM.

  4. If you are the winning candidate you take office immediately upon being sworn in by the Town Clerk.

Next week, Civics Sunday will bring you the Board of Selectmen, known in many towns as the Select Board.

Note:  More detailed descriptions of these roles may be found on the websites listed below:

Town of Holliston By-laws

Citizen's Guide to Town Meeting

New England Town Meetings

 

 

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Comments (1)

Another great job, please keep it up.

- Henry Dellicker | 2/24/19 9:44 AM

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