Marblehead’s 2023 municipal election season is underway.
As of Monday, March 20, nomination papers were available for voters interested in running for local office in the Tuesday, June 20 municipal election.
Between expiring and unexpired terms, there are 25 elected positions up for grabs across various boards, committees and commissions in Marblehead’s decentralized municipal government, even as much decision-making authority over town affairs lies with Town Meeting and the Select Board.
Open Town Meeting is essentially the town’s legislative branch, where voters authorize expenditures and budgets, sign off on home rule petitions and enact bylaws.
On the other hand, the Select Board constitutes the town’s executive branch. Between state law, Town Meeting actions and local bylaws, wide-ranging responsibilities have been vested in the five-member board, including preparing the Town Meeting warrant, supervising the town administrator and setting policy.
Members hire the heads of several departments under their jurisdiction, from the superintendent of the Highway Department and the fire and police chiefs to the Council on Aging director and town engineer. The Select Board is the town’s licensing authority and represents its interests in legal matters.
Members make appointments to dozens of town committees, commissions and boards like the Conservation Commission, the Finance Committee, the Disabilities Commission and the Zoning Board of Appeals, among others.
The Select Board’s five members serve one-year terms. Incumbents whose terms expire in June include Jackie Belf-Becker, Moses Grader, Erin M. Noonan, James E. Nye and Alexa Singer.
Town Moderator: The town moderator, elected to one-year terms, presides over annual and special town meetings, keeping order and ensuring debate stays on track while declaring all votes. The moderator makes certain appointments, too, like the town’s representative on the Essex North Shore Agricultural and Technical School Committee and a special committee created in 2022 to study how to implement hybrid public meetings for all committees, boards and commissions in town. Incumbent Jack Attridge’s term expires in June.
The Board of Assessors: The three members of the Board of Assessors serve staggered three-year terms. State law charges members with but not limited to approving property valuations, administering abatements and property tax exemptions and hearing and resolving property owners who appeal the town’s assessment of their property. Incumbent John P. Kelley’s term expires in June.
The Cemetery Commission: From Waterside to Old Burial Hill, the Cemetery Commission governs all public cemeteries in Marblehead. Three members who serve staggered, three-year terms set regulations, oversee the department’s budget and supervise the cemetery superintendent. The superintendent executes the day-to-day cemetery operations. Incumbent Pam Peterson’s term expires in June.
The Board of Health: Like the Select Board, the Board of Health’s purview and scope of authorities and responsibilities are wide-ranging. According to the state, Marblehead Board of Health members are “charged with a complex set of responsibilities, including enforcement of state sanitary, environmental, housing and health codes.”
Members set regulations, oversee the department’s budget and supervise the public health director. Their agendas are often proactive and reactive to the town’s public health needs, approving funding for and supporting the public health director’s various programs that address everything from smoking cessation to mental health. Three members who serve staggered, three-year terms constitute the Board of Health. Incumbent Todd Belfbecker’s term expires in June.
The Housing Authority Board of Commissioners: The Housing Authority supplies 304 units to “people of low income, including families, elderly and those with disabilities,” across eight developments, according to Marblehead’s 2021 Town Report.
The Board of Commissioners establishes policy, approves expenditures and hires and supervises the Marblehead Housing Authority’s executive director.
The Board of Commissioners is composed of a Select Board appointee, a governor’s appointee and three residents whom voters elect. All serve staggered, five-year terms. In 2022, Joan Cutler stepped down from the board with a little over two years left on her five-year term. The Select Board and commissioners convened a joint meeting and selected Terri Tauro to fill the vacancy until the June election. Tauro told the Marblehead Current she would pull nomination papers to run for the remaining two years.
The Library Board of Trustees: A half-dozen residents who serve staggered, three-year terms constitute the Abbot Public Library Board of Trustees. Members establish policy, conduct strategic planning, act as ambassadors, provide oversight of expenditures and hire and evaluate the library’s executive director.
The 2023 municipal election comes as Abbot Public Library is amid a transformation, having recently welcomed new director, Kimberly Grad, and begun a $10 million renovation to its Pleasant Street location. Incumbent Gary Amberik’s three-year term expires in June.
The Municipal Light Commission: The five Marblehead Municipal Light Commissioners serve staggered, three-year terms. Commissioners set electricity rates, establish policies, provide strategic planning and hire and supervise the Marblehead Light Department general manager, who carries out the department’s day-to-day operations.
Last year, the Select Board and Light Commission in a joint meeting selected Adam Smith to fill the vacancy created when Karl A. Johnson resigned his seat following the June election, citing health reasons. Smith would need to run to serve the two years remaining in the term. He could technically run for Lisa Wolf’s expiring three-year term.
The Planning Board: The Planning Board is at the heart of Marblehead’s development and land-use planning. Members review and approve development proposals, propose zoning bylaw changes and protect the character of the town of Marblehead.
Five members who serve staggered five-year terms constitute the Planning Board. Incumbents Rossanna Ferrante and Robert Schaeffner’s terms expire in June.
The School Committee: The five-member School Committee sets educational policies, approves budgets and hires and supervises the Marblehead Public Schools’ superintendent. The superintendent, meanwhile, administers the day-to-day operations of the district, serving 2,640 students in kindergarten through 12th grade across five schools. Tom Mathers, whom the School Committee and Select Board selected to fill a vacancy created by the resignation of Emily Barron, has said he will not run for either of the two three-year openings on the School Committee. The other School Committee member whose term expires in June is incumbent Sarah Gold.
The Recreation and Park Commission: Like the Select Board and town moderator, the members of the Recreation and Park Commission serve one-year terms. The five-member commission sets policy, conducts strategic planning for the town’s parks and recreational facilities and oversees the heads of the department.
The terms of incumbents Linda A. Rice Collins, Karin L. Ernst, Matthew Martin, Derek Y. Norcross and Charles Edward Osborne Jr. expire in June.
The Water and Sewer Commission: The Marblehead Water and Sewer Department ensures residents and community members have access to sanitation services and clean water. The key responsibilities of members of the commission are budgetary oversight, strategic planning and setting water and sewer rates, along with supervising the department superintendent. Members serve staggered, three-year terms. The terms of incumbents Barton Hyte and Thomas M. Carroll’s expire in June.
How to pull nomination papers
Prospective candidates must submit a formal request in writing to pull nomination papers in person. Access the application at https://bit.ly/3yIIWFG.
“After receiving nomination papers, you will need to put your name and address (as registered to vote) on each nomination paper before obtaining the required 50 signatures from Marblehead registered voters,” according to the town clerk’s office. “You should obtain more than 50 to ensure you have enough.”
The cutoff to return signatures is Monday, May 1 at 5 p.m.
“If you are submitting papers on May 1, make sure to have extra signatures,” the town clerk’s office writes. “You will not be able to submit more papers after the deadline.”
Michaud also reminds prospective candidates of the Office of Campaign and Political Finance’s filing requirements. All candidates must file three campaign finance reports, notwithstanding the election’s outcome or the amount of personal money spent.
Critical dates to file campaign finance reports are as follows:
— Eight days before the election, June 8.
— Thirty days after the election, July 30.
— End-of-year report, Jan. 20, 2024.