Yesterday, January 28, was the statutory deadline by which all who wish to run for Town Office must submit their nominating papers, also known as “petitions.” Without meeting this deadline, your name can’t appear on the election ballot on Town Meeting Day (Tuesday, March 5)
This day is always an interesting one in Town, because it’s now we know for certain who will be running and which races are contested. As we get closer to Town Meeting, I’ll have some thoughts, questions, and even criticisms to offer about the candidates who have declared themselves.
But for now, I’m more interested in who has not declared. It’s notable that not a single person turned in a petition to run as Road Commissioner. This is especially surprising, since one can make a credible argument that Road Commissioner is right up there with Selectboard and Town Clerk as among the most crucial of municipal officials. One of the main functions of municipal government is to oversee and maintain our roads. Furthermore, an enormous chunk of the municipal budget goes toward that function.
The fact that not a single person expressed interest in the job (and it’s a paying job, too) is especially surprising in light of recent history. At last year’s Town Meeting, as many will recall, the warning contained an article proposing that the Road Commissioner position be an appointed, rather than elected one.
The question was controversial. There was considerable debate on the matter, with many arguing vehemently that it was important to keep the position an elected one so that the person in that role would be more closely accountable to the voters. And in the end, a substantial majority defeated the proposal, keeping the job elected. (By way of full disclosure, I supported making the position an appointed one, and have written elsewhere on this blog about why.)
Given that vote, and the passionate feelings that a number of citizens expressed about keeping it elected, you’d think that at least one or two people would come forward to run for the office. But no one did. What gives?
And who’s going to be in charge of our roads now?