The Town Governance Study Committee revisited the work of the first Committee, as summarized in their comprehensive Final Report, from October 2013. In the report, they recommended the Town:
• Place an “empowered Town Administrator” — a trained, experienced professional — at the center of Town business to represent the Town (e.g., managing personnel, negotiating contracts) and to implement policies & priorities of the Selectboard. This was approved at a special Town Meeting in December 2013.
• Change the positions of Treasurer, Tax Collector, Town Clerk, and Assessors Clerk from elected to appointed by the Selectboard. The Treasurer & Tax Collector positions were combined into one position appointed by the Selectboard. The Town Clerk is still an elected position and the Assessors Clerk is still appointed by the Board of Assessors.
• Compile a set of general government by-laws. Other than zoning by-laws, Northfield has 12 pages of legal rules, mostly about dogs, noise, driving, snow removal, and the right to farm. With a larger, comprehensive set of rules, a policy handbook could be created. This would be useful for establishing operating procedures, resolving problem situations, and orienting new Selectboard and other town government members.
• Consider increasing the Selectboard membership from 3 to 5.
We are grateful to the first committee — their concerns for the growth and health of Northfield prompted them to do much research, visit similarly-sized towns, interview officials from those towns, and solicit much feedback over many months from Northfield citizens.
Our timeline was only a few months — until Town Meeting in May 2019. See the sidebar for the final report.