LWV panel invites residents to “jump in” and run for town election

Dates to Remember

February 25 — Town Caucus

April 21 — LWV Candidate Forum

May 7 — Town Election

07aKC-LWVPanel

The League of Women Voters panel on running for town election included (left to right): Planning Board member Mark Lamere, Board of Selectmen Chair Peter Scavongelli, Town Clerk Charlene Hinton and Town Moderator Wayne Davis. At right is event organizer Barbara Lewis from the League of Women Voters.(Photo by Karina Coombs)

by Karina Coombs

“You don’t necessarily have to be an elected or an appointed member to have an influence on how the town is run, but if you are on a board, you have the opportunity to help form decisions and accept input and provide your expertise to help the town run a little better each time,” said Town Clerk Charlene Hinton. Hinton was one of five panelists at the League of Women Voters of Concord-Carlisle (LWV) January 15 workshop, “Getting Elected in Carlisle,” where current members of town government shared their experiences in running for office. It also provided an overview of open Town Meeting government and a step-by-step guide to the election process within Carlisle.

LWV panel moderator Barbara Lewis said, “We want to give people the confidence to get involved and run.” The panel consisted of Planning Board member Marc Lamere, Board of Selectmen (BOS) Chair Peter Scavongelli, Hinton, and Town Meeting Moderator Wayne Davis.

Why get involved?

Panelists discussed how they each came to the decision to become active in town government and described their election experiences or appointments.

positionsScavongelli humorously recounted that he had taken an early retirement package a number of years ago and was spending a lot of time at home, which led his wife to suggest he run for the BOS. As to why he wanted to run, “I was in a position in my life where I had the time and money to give back and thought [the BOS] would be the perfect opportunity.”

Lamere’s experience in town government began ten years ago as a member of the Trails Committee, a volunteer appointment. Lamere explained that many boards in Carlisle are staffed by volunteers, appointed by the BOS and not elected. When a new housing development started behind his home seven years ago, he began attending Planning Board meetings out of interest both as a property abutter and in his capacity as a member of the Trails Committee. Eventually Lamere learned that there was an open Planning Board position and was elected.

Wayne Davis described having moved to Carlisle after living in a decidedly different urban environment. Eager to become an active member of his new community, Davis volunteered for many things before ultimately deciding to run for Town Meeting Moderator. Davis had two losses before winning the position a few years ago and said of campaigning, “Win, lose, or draw, it is fun and rewarding.”

Before being appointed as Town Clerk in 2003 and elected in 2004, Charlene Hinton had worked part-time as secretary for the Conservation Commission and the Board of Appeals. She had also worked with the previous Town Clerk, Sarah Andreassen, and grew to admire the position. Says Hinton, “I was fascinated by the job and thought it would be an exciting challenge. I get to help my neighbors and people thinking of moving into town.”

Picking a board

Registered voters thinking about getting involved in town government should first think about areas of particular interest to them and then start attending meetings, agreed the panel. Lamere encourages people to “go to at least three meetings to get hooked.” Davis suggested talking to current members of a board to find out their specific needs, if any. “Each board needs a range of experience. Board of Health (BOH) needs physicians, civil engineers, someone who knows something about water. Almost every committee could use a lawyer. [You] may find that a board has been ‘limping’ along without someone [and] you have just the thing they were looking for,” says Davis.

Hinton stressed that even without a specialized skill, a candidate’s enthusiasm “is the most strongly sought after quality for a board.” Explained Hinton, “You can be helped with detail, but the excitement and enthusiasm is needed [and] a strong attribute any committee would be happy to have.” (For profiles of town government boards and committees see the Mosquito archives online at www.carlislemosquito.org under Archives-Resources.)

Town Caucus

The first option to run for office is to seek nomination at the Town Caucus, held on February 25 at 7 p.m. in the Clark Room of Town Hall. Political party affiliation is not a factor in Carlisle’s town government. There is no party ticket and people run as individuals.

Hinton assured the audience that the nomination process is not complicated and simply requires one person to nominate and another to second the nomination. Scavongelli suggested that the nominee bring two friends to make the process run even smoother, noting that after he was nominated by his wife he then had to wait for someone in attendance to second it. Hinton explained that if there are more than two candidates running for any one open position a run-off is held immediately. Each candidate gets a chance to briefly speak about her/his interest in the position before caucus attendees vote for two names. The Mosquito covers the event and will take photos of each candidate on the ballot.

Nominees can also be nominated in absentia at the caucus, but will need to meet with the Town Clerk within 48 hours to sign the required forms.

Petition candidates

If an interested candidate misses the caucus, which Hinton says a number of people do each year, a petition may be picked up from the Town Clerk’s office. The petition must receive 34 signatures from registered voters, or 1% of the registered voters in Carlisle’s most recent state election.

Scavongelli explained that when he decided to run for BOS the first time, he learned that he had missed the caucus deadline, but he was able to get on the ballot using this method and noted that it was not an onerous process. Petitions are due three weeks from the date of the caucus. The Town Clerk will contact the candidate once the signatures have been validated.

Candidates are required to submit campaign finance forms four times during the campaign to the Town Clerk. The panelists overwhelmingly agreed that campaign finance reporting was a simple task since town elections do not usually require more funding than is needed to print up signs and flyers. Both contested and uncontested positions require candidates to submit campaign finance forms.

Last-minute write-in candidates

In an effort to show just how accommodating the process can be, Hinton explained that there was a third option available to candidates who missed both the caucus and petition deadline. Interested candidates could campaign to be a write-in on the election ballot. Lamere discovered he was too late to get on the ballot for his first term in the Planning Board and used the write-in method successfully.

On April 21 the LWV will hold a candidate forum, inviting all the candidates for interviews and questions before the Town Election on May 7.

The panelists acknowledged that it is sometimes difficult for people to take the leap into local government if they have never done anything like it before. Says Scavongelli, “If there is anyone out there thinking of running, if you feel you are not up to speed about issues, don’t think that’s reason not to run. If you come to a meeting and don’t feel you understand the issues, don’t worry. Just ask questions. People will help you get there.” Hinton agrees, “Don’t use limited knowledge about a subject area make you think twice about jumping in. We’ll help you swim and throw you a life raft.” ∆

Resources

The LWV workshop was recorded for CCTV and can be found online at: www.concordtv.org/video-on-demand. The town’s website (www.carlisle.ma.gov) and the Carlisle Phone Book, by the Red Balloon Preschool, contains useful information on town government and current board members.