SKOWHEGAN — Voters will have their say about whether they want to keep the positions of road commissioner, town clerk and town treasurer as elective positions, as they are now, or ones filled by the town manager.

The question, which drew considerable public comment during the selectmen’s meeting Tuesday night, will go to a referendum ballot in November, when Americans will be voting for a new president.

Selectmen voted 5-0 to present it on the November ballot and not the Town Meeting voting ballot in June, when fewer people tend to go to the polls.

Residents, selectmen and some town officials differed on how the question should be answered Tuesday night, but most agreed that a vote should be taken in the privacy of the ballot booth, not in a public show of hands at Town Meeting.

Some suggested that Skowhegan voters are smart enough to pick their own officials in townwide voting, but others said it was time to plan for the future and structure town government in a more orderly fashion by having officials appointed and therefore more accountable.

One of the rallying cries was about a citizen’s right to vote, as resident Ambrose McCarthy said. McCarthy also noted that the current road commissioner works on his days off, and he wondered whether an appointed road commissioner would do the same.


Resident Joan Farnsworth said she likes town government just fine the way it is — electing town officials. She said Skowhegan doesn’t have to worry about “what if” an election doesn’t work out.

“I think we have a good system right now,” Farnsworth said to selectmen. “Voters like the fact that they have some control. If (the officials) were appointed, there would be more discontent.

“You have your job,” she told selectmen, “and we have our job as voters.”

Selectmen Soren Siren and Paul York said they had spoken with constituents leading up to Tuesday night’s meeting, and most said they want to take it to a ballot again. Selectwomen Darla Pickett and Betty Austin agreed that if the question were to be asked, it should be done in the privacy of the ballot box.

Board Chairman Donald Skillings said earlier that he was asked to bring the issue to the board, noting concerns that in future elections a person who is not qualified could unseat Greg Dore, the elected road commissioner, or Gail Pelotte, the elected town clerk and treasurer. The debate has been raised several times over the past years but was never approved by voters, who have the final say on the matter.

“However the townsfolk vote is OK,” Skilling said. “But I do think, from a managerial aspect, it is easier for a town manager to manage an appointed employee versus an elected employee. And from that regard, I think that the town would flow in a more orderly fashion. That’s a personal opinion on my side that I think that.”


Dore, 60, has been Skowhegan’s elected road commissioner for 23 years. He has been challenged for the job every three years but has prevailed each time.

Pelotte, 55, was re-elected unopposed for a three-year term in 2015. She is in her third three-year term. McCarthy noted that the question of appointing officials instead of electing them seems to come up every eight years and has failed each time.

Pelotte told the assembly that when the question last was raised in 2008, those supporting elections, not appointments, prevailed overwhelmingly.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]


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