Years in Marblehead: 57
Occupation/education: Real Estate Sales, MHS graduate
Appointed positions and/or elected offices:
Marblehead Capital Planning Committee (1995-2002, chairperson 3 years)
Website Development Committee (2003-2006, co-chair)
Sea Wall Study Committee
Chief Shellfish Constable
Non-profit elected positions:
Marblehead Museum (vice president 2004-2014, president 2014 -2020)
Marblehead Rotary Club (member 1994 to present, president 2004 and 2006)
Goldthwait Reservation, Inc. (trustee 1999-2008, president 1996-1999 and 2003)
What are three reasons/issues as to why you’re running for election?
As a 13th generation Marblehead resident and businessman in a multi-generational Marblehead family, I have always had a deep love and respect for our town. I pay close attention to local issues, and I attend several municipal meetings on a regular basis. I communicate with townspeople, employees, and volunteers during my everyday life. As a longtime attendee of Town Meeting, and someone who has assisted the Assistant Moderator over the years, I have aspired to the position of Moderator for well over a decade.
That said, three reasons I’m running for Town Moderator are:
• My love for our town and an understanding of how it works
• My decades of experience in running effective meetings coupled with my ability to be a fair and unbiased leader focused on the good of the town
• A desire to preserve our pure form of governance by protecting and applying good order to Town Meeting, and thereby effectively conducting the town’s business
At least on the national level, our political discourse has grown more coarse and even borderline violent. What will you do to ensure that Town Meeting debate remains civil?
Following parliamentary procedure has guided Marblehead through 373 years of resolving the town’s business. We have faced significant challenges including voting on the construction of a smallpox hospital in 1773, supporting the patriot cause against the British during the American Revolution, and debating relief for our own during times of significant community hardships. Most recently, we have voted through approximately $100m of new schools. Town Meeting procedures allow for all conversation to be directed through the moderator and the moderator can redirect those questions or answer them, while keeping the meeting moving. Also, the tools afforded through motions, amendments, and votes, support the process of order which, applied properly, will assure that debate remains civil and ordered with a moderated beginning and end to each article. Town Meeting can be an impassioned evening.
Because, rightly, very important decisions are made that can impact the everyday lives of our citizens.
Debate, discussion and (yes) disagreements are part of the important process of allowing voices to be heard and opinions shared. Civil discourse is fundamental to effective Town Meeting and as moderator it will be my responsibility to set the tone and hold people to that standard.
Part of the job of town moderator is to strike a balance between giving as many residents as possible a chance to have their voices heard while also ensuring that people’s time is not wasted by making the proceedings as efficient as possible. What guidelines will you use to strike that balance?
I have great respect for the past two Town Moderators, both of whom I have known. I quote current Moderator Gary Speiss, by sharing his sentiments as they match my own. “My goal is to run the meeting in an orderly fashion that ensures all sides are heard on each article. The presenters of an article, whether Town Officials or Citizen presenters, will be given adequate time to explain their proposals.” I would add to Gary’s A Practical Guide to Marblehead Town Meeting that it is the moderator’s responsibility to be available to anyone with questions leading up to Town Meeting while also preparing voters for expectations leading up to the meeting. One of those expectations is to ask people to be as succinct as possible in making their statements but understanding that repetition is not productive to the debate nor conducive to the time constraints of Town Meeting.
What are the challenges you see the town moderator faces during town meetings?
A well-prepared moderator is most effective when working in conjunction with the town clerk, town officials, the League of Women Voters, town counsel and most importantly, a citizenry that has respect for the process. Preparation and availability to the public and town officials throughout the year are fundamental to the moderator’s effectiveness at Town Meeting. In addition, an understanding of pertinent issues and Marblehead’s By-Laws reduces the likelihood of confusion at Town Meeting as well.
Prior to each Town Meeting, an extensive review of all possible scenarios should be conducted. Remote location accessibility, connectivity, and paper balloting are just a few critical components of that review.
Town Meeting 2023 will likely have significant override articles on the warrant; my top priority will be to fully understand the articles and prepare for all possible motions, amendments, and questions.
Do you see the moderator’s role as being largely ceremonial and limited to the day or two the meeting is actually held, or is the role broader than that? If the latter, how so?
The town moderator position is far from ceremonial and I have never considered it as such. The town moderator is in charge of Marblehead’s most important meeting(s) each year and every by-law and financial decision made as a municipality depends on the order that the moderator brings to Town Meeting. Town Meeting voters set the town’s annual operating budget and also consider citizen articles, which, as a whole, gives us a true representation of democracy at work: of the people, by the people, and for the people. While Town Meeting is an annual event, with additional special town meetings held on occasion, I think town moderator is a position that requires and deserves attention all year.
Especially in light of recent struggles to ensure that everyone is following the proceedings adequately, what role should technology play in how Town Meeting is conducted?
First and foremost, ALL voters attending Town Meeting must be able to hear and be heard if speaking at Town Meeting.
With additional remote locations being more of the rule than the exception over the last few years, it is especially important that our audio and visual systems are dependable. Providing Town Meeting voters access to electronic presentation documents is also a must. Physical accessibility and accessibility for those with any disability is an absolute priority. While less critical, ensuring that our friends at MHTV are able to stream Town Meeting is another area that we should facilitate, both for those at home and for the historical record.