Northampton charter panel to review elected status of city clerk position

  • Northampton City Clerk Pamela Powers GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 8/19/2019 11:18:00 PM

NORTHAMPTON — The city’s Charter Review Committee will hear public testimony on changing the city clerk’s position from an elected to an appointed position at its Tuesday meeting.

Although the committee will not vote on a recommendation Tuesday, it did take a straw vote in June, voting unanimously in favor of the change. The meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. in the hearing room at City Hall.

Charter Review Committee Chairman Stanley Moulton said that the city clerk is the only department head in Northampton that is elected.

“It’s a management position that should be appointed,” Moulton said.

Northampton City Clerk Pamela Powers is not taking a public position on the issue, Moulton said.

But her predecessor, former city clerk Wendy Mazza, is backing the change.

The last time the subject came up was in 2012, in the previous charter review process, when Mazza actually spoke against making city clerk an appointed position.

Asked why she has changed her mind, Mazza said that because few of the people who work in the clerk’s office live in Northampton, “There’s no natural progression left in the office,” she said.

She said that making the position appointed would allow the city to look for candidates outside of Northampton. Mazza also presented the fear that someone would run for city clerk just because of the salary.

On Tuesday the committee will hear from Beverly City Clerk D. Wesley Slate Jr., who is also the secretary of the Massachusetts City Clerks Association. Slate’s position is appointed.

Slate said that he will lay out how things operate in Beverly, and some of the things the Charter Review Committee can consider.

“It’s not to say the way we do it is the way it should be done,” he said, although Slate did say that there are similarities between Northampton and Beverly regarding their form of government and size.

He also said that he has made contact with other city clerks to see how their communities operate in preparation for Tuesday.

“There’s no perfect solution,” he said.

Slate was invited to speak initially by Charter Review Committee member Robbie Sullivan.

Moulton said that the committee will vote on a recommendation about the city clerk position in September. In the meantime, he said the committee will continue to gather information.

“This is a good time for residents to weigh in,” Moulton said.

The Charter Review Committee must submit its report, which will include any recommended changes to the charter, by Dec. 31 to the City Council and the mayor.

Any changes to the charter must be approved by the City Council and the mayor, and submitted to the Legislature in the form of a home rule petition or petitions.

Significant changes to the charter may also need to pass a city-wide vote.

Bera Dunau can be reached at bdunau@gazettenet.com.


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