Elected or appointed? Officials divided on Buckland town clerk position

Published: 12/9/2019 1:01:12 AM

BUCKLAND — Views are divided among town officials about whether the town clerk should be an elected or appointed position.

During two recent meetings, some Selectboard members voiced the idea that an appointed position may provide more stability for the town. However, current town clerk, Janice Purington, said she feels strongly against changing the position to an appointed one.

“I think it should be elected,” she said. “When a town clerk is elected, they run because they care about their town. They care about their residents. It’s never been a high-paying job.”

Selectboard member Dena Willmore voiced concerns about having an empty position with no candidates running for election.

“I don’t think that’s ever happened in Buckland,” Purington responded. “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it. I truly believe you will find candidates who will run.”

For Purington, the town’s history of clerks demonstrates that those elected to the position can give the job security.

“I did a little research,” she said. “Since 1877, which is 142 years ago, there have been eight town clerks (in Buckland).”

Purington said that the shortest term was six years and the longest has been 40 years, with the majority of clerks serving for more than 20 years. Purington has served as Buckland’s town clerk since 1990 and will not seek reelection in the spring.

Town Administrator Heather Butler also provided the board with informal research she conducted on town clerk positions across the state. She found that out of 48 towns with fewer than 10,000 residents and/or that lie in Franklin County, 33 towns elected town clerks and 15 towns appointed them.

“I think there are merits on both sides, but I don’t think the timing is right,” Selectboard member Barry Del Castilho said.

Whoever becomes the new town clerk after Purington will serve a three-year term, regardless of ongoing discussion by the Selectboard and the town, Butler said. During that term, the board can take the issue of appointed versus elected up again, and put it on a Town Meeting warrant.

Given that timeline, the Selectboard voted on Nov. 26 to table the issue until December 2020.

The Selectboard agreed that Buckland residents should decide the issue.

“If voters are going to elect a clerk, they should also be able to decide whether they want to elect the clerk,” Del Castilho said.

Reach Maureen O’Reilly at moreilly@recorder.com or at 413-772-0261, ext. 280.

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