Town Meeting 101

If you’ve lived in Tewksbury for 40 years, or you’re new to town, you’ve likely seen something in the mail or on Facebook about the upcoming Town Meeting. This is a really unique form of government that we have in Tewksbury and a great chance to be a part of the decision-making process in town.

To help you prepare and know what to expect, here are some frequently asked questions answered by Selectman Jayne Wellman and Lorna Garey, Tewksbury Democratic Town Committee Clerk. Wellman spoke with the Tewksbury Town Crier in 2019, and some quotes have been pulled from that interview.

What is Town Meeting?

Town Meeting is the Tewksbury form of governing where every voting member who is a resident of Tewksbury can attend and have a say in what happens in the town.

We all got a booklet in the mail which was the Town Meeting Warrant. What is the Warrant?

The Warrant is a call to come and be a part of the direct government. It’s unique in Tewksbury in that every member of town has a voice, versus towns where your area is represented by one person. The Tewksbury Town Meeting is the purest form of democracy in action.

How can I get an item listed on the Town Meeting agenda? 

Town departments and the town manager all work on different parts of the warrant. Citizens can submit articles to be on the warrant with a certain number of signatures and the town council will review them to make sure that they are legal. The Board of Selectmen will review all the articles before the warrant comes together.

Speaking of the Board of Selectmen, what do they do? And what about the Town Manager?

The Board of Selectmen appoint boards across different functions of the town. The Town Manager is kind of like the CEO of the town. They are the first stop for citizens, they administer the whole town. Most of the town staff works for them, and they report to the Selectmen.

How can I vote?

If you are a registered voter and a resident of Tewksbury, you are eligible to vote when you are present at Town Meeting. Most votes are handled by either voice vote or by counters — people physically walking around with clickers to count off voters in a section of the room. Articles that deal with salaries are handled via secret ballot.

What kinds of things are brought up at Town Meeting?

“Town Meeting acts upon fiscal issues, zoning changes, by-law amendments, and other matters affecting the town. Special Town Meeting typically deals with paying bills and zoning articles.” There are other activities that happen at Town Meeting, “such as asking to borrow mon­ey, and raising and appropriating funds through taxes. Zon­ing changes are voted upon, as are bylaw adoptions, amendments, and changes.” 

Where can I learn more about the hot button items for Town Meeting?

The Tewksbury TV YouTube channel has all of the zoning bylaw and Selectmen meetings. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCo07nLNoxiVUZjn_P-P9HYw 

The warrant and other informational videos can be found on the town website here: https://www.tewksbury-ma.gov/home/news/2021-annual-special-town-meeting-warrants-and-other-important-information 

What is Tewksbury’s average voting percentage for a local election?

8.5% in 2021 town election

When are Tewksbury’s local elections held?

Every year in the first half of April, on a Saturday

If you would like to learn more about Town Meeting or how to get involved with our local Tewksbury political scene, the Tewksbury Democratic Town Committee has an open-to-all policy with meetings. Join the public Facebook group or follow our twitter to learn more about how to get involved and stay tuned for more content about our local government!

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