ATHENS — As a small town, Athens sometimes struggles to find enough people to fill the positions needed for our town. In the most recent past, our Selectboard chair has also worn the hat of moderator.
In our opinion, this doesn't serve the town well, in that often the chair of the board is looked to for answers to voters' questions.
A Handbook for Vermont Moderators, published by the Vermont Secretary of State's office in 2009, describes moderators as “the referees of municipal meetings. They guide and mold the meeting from opening gavel to adjournment with an authority that is second to no one, not even the selectboard, during the time the meeting is in session.”
The handbook further indicates that the moderator is required to be impartial through the meeting and should step down before an article is read if they must speak on a motion.
That becomes quite difficult if that moderator is also the chair of the Selectboard and thus the one with many of the answers voters may be seeking.
Therefore, we are pleased that Candace Damon has put her name in the running for moderator for the town of Athens.
The role of the moderator is to facilitate the will of the voters and thus is critical to helping the voters through the sometimes-messy democratic process of a Vermont Town Meeting.
Having worked with Candace for the past five years on the Brick Meetinghouse Committee, we know she has both the intelligence and the skill set for the job as well as a sense of humor that can help to smooth ruffled feathers.
Voting Candace into the role will free our Selectboard chair to speak to motions and respond to questions without raising concerns about impartiality or confusion of roles during a meeting, allowing him to fully serve the voters with his knowledge of the matters before the body.