Getting from here to there

Mandi Jo Hanneke

If the voters adopt the proposed Charter, how do we get from a Town Meeting / Select Board / Manager government to a Town Council / Manager government? The answer lies in Article 10 of the Charter, but the technical language and all the subparts make it hard to see the big picture. So, here’s your guide to the transition.

March 27, 2018: Charter Election. This is the same day the Town will elect its annual slate of officials: 80 Town Meeting members, 1 Moderator, 1 Select Board member, 2 School Committee members, 2 Library Trustees, 1 Oliver Smith Will Elector, 1Redevelopment Authority member, and 1 Housing Authority member.

If the Charter passes, the spring Annual Town Meeting will take place, beginning in late April. The Select Board will place on that warrant an article requesting a special act from the state legislature to institute the proposed schedule.

November 6, 2018: First Town Council Election. The Town Council election (all 13 seats) will take place on the same day as the state election for governor (and other offices). If a preliminary election is necessary (more than 6 candidates for at-large councilor or more than 4 candidates in any one district), then that election will take place on the same day in September 2018 as the State primary elections.

This is the only election under the charter that would involve a preliminary election.

December 3, 2018: Councilors Take Office. Once elected, the Town Council will take office on December 3, 2018. At that time, the Town will officially become governed by a Town Council and Town Manager. On that date, the Manager in office will continue to be the Manager. Town Meeting, the Select Board, and the Moderator will cease to exist in Amherst.

The Councilors will serve an initial 3-year term, so that they won’t have to run again in less than one year (in the 2019 election season).

The Planning Board will become 7 members. The ZBA will become 5 members. A new Board of License Commissioners will be appointed.  All appointed board and committee members will continue their service until their appointment ends. The Redevelopment Authority will become an appointed board, instead of elected, although all members of it elected on or before March 27 will serve out their term of office.

If you noticed, the November 2018 election is only for Town Council. What happens with the School Committee, Library Trustees, Oliver Smith Will Elector and Housing Authority?

Well, the first election under the Charter for those offices will happen on November 5, 2019. And the terms of office for the members elected on or before March 27, 2018 will get extended until January 2020. On January 6, 2020, the 5 elected School Committee members, 6 elected Library Trustees, the Oliver Smith Will Elector, and the 3 elected Housing Authority members will take office.

At that time, the new Charter will have all of its elected officials in place, and all officials elected will serve until January 2022.

The November 2021 regular Town election will be the first election under the Charter in which all local offices will be on the ballot.

What about that special act? Well, it’s needed because a Town cannot hold a special election for local matters on the same day as a state or federal election without getting approval from the state legislature.

So, if we don’t get approval, what do we do? We’ll hold the Town Council general election on January 24, 2019, with a preliminary, if needed, on December 11, 2018. And, if that happens, the Councilors will take office on February 4, 2019. Their term will still end in 2022, and no other elected offices will be affected.

So, in short, elections for Town Council in November 2018; elections for all others in November 2019. Town Meeting, Select Board and the Moderator cease to exist when the Town Council takes office. Because we had to cover every possibility and all offices with definite terms, it took the Charter Commission eight pages of legalese to describe it.

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