SKOWHEGAN — Voters will decide in a referendum vote Nov. 8 if they want to continue electing their town clerk, town treasurer and road commissioner, or if they want to have them appointed by the town manager.

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

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

Board Chairman Donald Skillings said earlier this year 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 in the matter.

Some say that from a managerial aspect, it is easier for a town manager to manage an appointed employee versus an elected one. Others say electing a town clerk, treasurer or a road commissioner avoids the politics of having an appointment made by the town.

Skillings and others have noted that it is not the people currently in those positions who are being targeted, but the future decision-making process for the positions.

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. Residents have 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 people at a selectmen’s meeting in February that when the question last was raised in 2008, those supporting elections, not appointments, prevailed overwhelmingly.

The question of changing the positions of town clerk, town treasurer and road commissioner from being elected posts to appointed ones first was raised at a January meeting of the board. Skillings pointed to problems with an elected official in the town of Anson and at the county level as driving his move to place the question before voters.

In Anson, residents in November voted to change the tax collector job from elective to appointive in the wake of the case of Claudia Viles, who was convicted of stealing more than $500,000 from the town. In Somerset County, Diane Godin has battled officials over her Registry of Deeds position that she was elected to and has refused to resign even after she was stripped of most authority and pay.

The town treasurer is responsible for overseeing the town’s accounting, investment, billing and financial reporting activities. Day-to-day responsibilities include billing, money collection, the investment and oversight of town money and the preparation of financial reports for municipal officers and others.

The town clerk is responsible for elections, data collection and all records kept by the town.

The road commissioner in Skowhegan oversees the Highway Department’s annual budget of about $1.8 million.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]

Twitter:@Doug_Harlow


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