DRESDEN — In a shift in town policy, voters have decided that town office staff ought to be appointed and not elected.

At a special town meeting Monday, residents voted 41-14 after about 45 minutes of discussion to authorize the Board of Selectmen to eliminate the elective town clerk and treasurer positions and hire those positions instead.

For resident Amanda Silverman, who was among the 55 people who turned out to vote on the proposal by secret ballot, change is a good idea.

“We’ve been electing the same people for these positions for a while now, partly because they have institutional knowledge. It’ll be nice not to have to risk every year retraining someone,” if the incumbent is not re-elected, Silverman said, noting the jobs of clerk and treasurer are getting more complicated.

But resident Shari Lily still has mixed feelings. At a public hearing two weeks ago, she said she preferred being able to elect those positions.

“I wanted to read over the material,” Lily said. “In many ways I think it’s good, but I also think it might have some negatives to it. There’s no doubt that whoever it is in those positions, whoever it is, deserves a fair wage for the hours they put in. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing, but for me, it’s wait and see.”

Selectmen are expected to act in the next few weeks to create the jobs and approve job descriptions. The jobs would then be posted, and if the funding to pay for the additional costs of benefits is approved at the annual Town Meeting in June, town officials would move ahead with filling the positions.

Residents brought with them a host of questions about the change, including why only the town clerk and treasurer positions were included when the proposal calls for adding a town administrator, who has the final say on hiring decisions, and whether Dresden is changing its form of government.

Michael Henderson, who is the current administrative assistant and who would become town administrator, said the selectmen already have the authority to change his job title and description because that position reports to them.

“If they wanted, they could change the job to Popsicle stand manager,” Henderson said.

Changing his job title and job description doesn’t require a vote at Town Meeting, he said, but if voters preferred, it could be on the warrant.

Creating a town administrator is not the same as moving to a town manager form of government, he said.

Dresden would retain its Town Meeting form of government under the proposal, but it would have staff in the office who would be hired, supervised and held accountable by the town’s Board of Selectmen, rather than be independently elected.

The new structure would have a town administrator/fiscal officer, whose duties would include some performed by the treasurer. The proposed duties of the town clerk and tax collector roles would overlap more than they do now in registering motor vehicles and boats and issuing marriage licenses and birth and death certificates, among other things. The town clerk’s duties would encompass running town elections, filing reports with Inland Fisheries & Wildlife and maintaining the public record. The tax collector would file required excise tax reports with the state, send out tax bills and file liens.

“We have a timeline,” First Selectman Trudy Foss said. “We had to do it before the 13th for it to take effect.”

Had selectmen opted to wait until Town Meeting in June, town residents would have been able to take out nomination papers for those positions.

The vote was conducted as a secret ballot on a motion by Selectman Allan Moeller, who said he had received a request  from someone to conduct the vote that way, and a majority of the voters agreed.

Because the proposal affects the job of Town Clerk Shirley Storkson, she asked for a volunteer to supervise the voting and requested volunteers count the ballots.

 

Jessica Lowell — 621-5632
[email protected]
Twitter: @JLowellKJ

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