The Town of Wellesley depends on the active participation of its citizens in governance of the Town. Wellesley has 11 Boards and Committees on the ballot at the Annual Town election each year in March. The 2020 election will be held on March 17.
There are two candidates running for the single open one-year position as Moderator — incumbent Mark Kaplan, and Ron Alexander.
The Moderator must be a registered voter in the Town of Wellesley. The Moderator presides over and regulates the proceedings at Town Meeting, and decides all questions of order. The Moderator also makes a public declaration of all votes.
In addition, the Moderator appoints the members of the following committees: Advisory, Permanent Building Committee, Annual Town Meeting Board, Audit Committee.
We invited both candidates to answer a few questions about their qualifications and priorities for the Town of Wellesley. Mark Kaplan’s Q & A is below.
The Swellesley Report: What is your background and what qualifies you for this position?
Mark Kaplan: I am a graduate of both Harvard College and Harvard Law School. I practiced law in Massachusetts for nearly fifty years, specializing for the last forty of those years — from 1970 to 2010 — in the representation of a diverse group of public sector unions and associations consisting of employees working in such varied occupations as police officers, firefighters, teachers, principals and other school administrators, public works employees, maritime employees, postal workers, department heads, and secretarial, administrative, supervisory and clerical employees. I negotiated my clients’ contracts, arbitrated their disputes and litigated or argued their cases at all levels of the federal and state courts up to and including the First Circuit Court of Appeals and the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts. Over the course of my legal career, I represented such groups in well over fifty different cities, towns and school districts in Massachusetts including the Wellesley School Department whose teachers, principals and administrators I represented for some 20-25 years before I lived in Wellesley. That extensive professional experience necessarily enabled me to become very familiar with how municipal government works in a wide variety of mid-size and large cities, towns and school districts in Massachusetts.
After I moved to Wellesley in 2007 I retired from the practice of law three years later in 2010 which then gave me the time and opportunity to actually serve in local government. I was elected as a Town Meeting Member in 2010 and served in that capacity until I was elected as the Town Moderator in 2019 at which time I had to resign my position as an elected Town Meeting Member and instead became an ex officio member of the Town Meeting. I was appointed to a three-year term on the Advisory Committee in 2015 and served as a Vice Chair during the second and third years of my term. During my time on the Advisory Committee, I was liaison to the Board of Library Trustees, the Natural Resources Commission, the Human Resources Board, the Board of Public Works and the Municipal Light Plant which enabled me to observe and learn how many different facets of our town government actually work. When my term on Advisory ended in 2018, I was appointed to the Human Resources Board on which I served until I was elected to the Moderator’s position in 2019.
As the Town Moderator for the past year, I have presided at last spring’s Annual Town Meeting and at the two Special Town Meetings that were held in June and December. I also sought out, interviewed and appointed seven members to the fifteen member Advisory Committee as well as made seven other appointments to the four other committees for which the Moderator is the Appointing Authority — the Audit Committee, the Community Preservation Committee, the Human Resources Board and the Permanent Building Committee.
I believe that my extensive professional and service background in municipal government in general and in Wellesley in particular uniquely qualifies me to continue to serve in the position of Wellesley’s Town Moderator.
SR: If elected, what do you hope to accomplish during your tenure as Moderator?
Mark Kaplan: Upon taking office as Wellesley’s Town Moderator, I joined the Massachusetts Moderators Association and have attended that organization’s various regional and state-wide meetings since then in order to meet other Moderators throughout the state and to learn some of their best practices for presiding at town meetings. I hope to be able to apply what I have learned both from my membership and participation in the Massachusetts Moderators Association and from presiding at last year’s Annual and two Special Town Meetings to this year’s and future Town Meetings in Wellesley so that we will have a fair, transparent and collegial atmosphere in which our town’s legislative business can be conducted.
In addition, I hope to ensure a smooth transition to electronic voting on all substantive motions at this year’s Annual Town Meeting by building upon what was learned during the first experimental use of that method of voting on the single motion that was the subject of the Special town Meeting in December.
Finally, and very importantly, I will continue to reach out to a broad spectrum of qualified and committed citizens in Wellesley to serve on the Advisory and four other boards and committees for which the Moderator is the Appointing Authority under our Town’s Bylaws.
SR: What were some of the challenges of your position as Moderator in the past year?
Mark Kaplan: Since there were only four weeks between my election as Moderator in early March and the start of the 2019 Annual Town Meeting, there was obviously a very short period of time within which to prepare myself to preside at my first Town Meeting. This year, the learning curve will be even steeper since there will be less than two weeks between the election and the start of the 2020 Annual Town Meeting as a result of the fact that the presidential primary that will take place in early March will necessitate a two week delay in Wellesley’s local town election until March 17.
Fortunately, I had a lot of help from four of my predecessors who had served in the Moderator’s position for at least the prior twenty-five years. They were all extraordinarily generous with their time and knowledge in helping me to learn the ropes for my first Town Meeting. I know that I could not have done as well as I have been told by so many people that I did without their help, for which I am most grateful.
Another challenge is learning the names of the ever-changing membership of the Town Meeting so that I can recognize by name more of those members who wish to speak during the floor debate on the issues. The Town Clerk, who sits right behind the Moderator at the Town Meeting, has been very helpful with the names of the members, But for the Moderator, this is still very much a work in progress.
Finally, it is very important under the Guidelines that govern Wellesley’s Representative Town Meeting that the Moderator makes sure that all speakers limit their remarks to the specific motions that are being discussed prior to being voted upon.This requires that the Moderator become familiar in advance with the the substance of all of the Articles on the Warrant and with the Motions that may be submitted under those Articles so that he or she can properly keep the debate focused on the specific matters under consideration without giving the appearance of favoring one side or the other on the substance of any such issue or motion.
SR: Is there anything else you’d like to say that I haven’t covered in the above questions?
Mark Kaplan: In 2019, I was the fourth Town Moderator in Wellesley in as many years. Based upon the preparation for and the lessons that I learned during my first year as Moderator, I am fully prepared to chair the new Town Meeting Members Orientation Session and the Moderator’s Meeting of elected officials, department heads, and citizen petitioners that are both scheduled to take place within the first two or three days after this year’s election and then to preside at the Annual Town Meeting that will get underway two weeks later. This will provide some needed stability for this important position in Wellesley’s town government.
Local government in Massachusetts has a much more direct impact upon the lives of all of the citizens of this state than is the case in many other parts of this country with different systems of local government, and I urge all eligible residents of Wellesley to participate in their local government by registering and voting in this year’s town election on March 17.
SR: What is the best way for voters to reach you?
Mark Kaplan: The best way for voters to reach me is by emailing me at the Moderator’s official email address which is firstname.lastname@example.org I have made it a practice during my time as Moderator to respond by email to all procedural or other questions and concerns that residents ask me.