A reader wrote this week inquiring why Wellesley doesn’t just consolidate its elections, such as next week’s townwide election and an expected override poll date to come this spring (with a town meeting in between).
I reached out to Town Clerk Kathleen Nagle for answers and here’s what she said:
The Annual Town Election is set by the bylaws to occur the first Tuesday of March. This election is for all the town offices and Town Meeting Members. There has been discussion over the years as to the question of holding elections before or after Town Meeting and the consensus so far is to have the election before. This allows people who are currently interested in items that come before town meeting to become active in the correct time frame and be elected to the TM that will take up those issues.
Town bylaw required Town Meeting to begin the last Monday of March. Tradition in Wellesley is to have Town Meeting vote on the budget and do its work to determine if an override will be necessary. (A few other towns ask voters to approve any override in advance and then let Town Meeting spend the money.) If an override is required, it occurs about 45 days after the conclusion of Annual TM – mid may. Because an override is for a specific dollar amount, it is dependent on the budget adopted by TM.
Town Elections cost about $24,000 per election. Statewide/presidential elections cost a little more in staffing to allow for better voter experience and few lines. Local elections have lower staff costs, but other costs such as ballot printing are needed for those elections.
Elections are a cost of self government.
As for next Tuesday’s election on March 4(voter info here), most offices are non-contested, but 3 candidates are vying for 2 slots on the School Committee (incumbents Wendy Paul and Diane Campbell, and newcomer Matthew Kelley). Some of the Town Meeting precincts are contested, and note that two write-in candidates have come forward for the Natural Resources Commission.
Lise Olney is running for a 3-year seat and Raina McManus is eyeing the 2-year seat.Olney has been on the Sustainable Wellesley leadership team since 2011, working to encourage Wellesley residents and businesses to develop more environmentally friendly habits. McManus is a founding member of Friends of Brookside, which advocates for Wellesley’s valuable natural resources, especially the lands surrounding our town’s water wells.
Incumbent Joan Gaughan is also running for a 3-year seat.
In addition to the townwide office contests, voters will weigh in on whether they want to allow retail establishments such as supermarkets and other food stores to be able to sell beer and wine for consumption off premises. The measure easily passed through Town Meeting in December and could result in places like Fells Market selling booze later this year.