Appointed Town Clerk Makes Sense for Dartmouth [OPINION]
Times are changing, and so are the responsibilities of many area town officials.
Dartmouth Town Meeting recently voted to advance a proposal to change the position of town clerk from an elected position to an appointed one. Proponents of the change make a good case, but ultimately it will be up to town residents to decide.
SouthCoastToday.com reports the decision to pursue the change was made when Town Clerk Lynn Medeiros announced her retirement. The decision reportedly had nothing to do with her performance, just the reality that new laws and regulations have made the responsibilities of the position more complex.
Supporters of the change believe the most qualified person should fill the position rather than someone popular with the most voters, even if that person is not a town resident. Opponents believe a town clerk should be independent of the town's political leadership and beholden only to the voters.
Both sides make solid points, but perhaps with complex changes in how people vote, including mail-in ballots, early voting, and same-day voting, the time has come to hire an experienced clerk for the position.
Voters will get to decide the issue at the annual April election. Should they make the change, the Board of Selectmen would appoint the town clerk, and that person, a full employee of the Town of Dartmouth, would assume the position as of July 1, 2021.
Other Massachusetts communities have made the switch from an elected town clerk to an appointed one. It seems to be a sensible approach to addressing an increasingly complicated operation.
Barry Richard is the host of The Barry Richard Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @BarryJRichard58. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.