The Bedford Citizen’s CIVICS PROJECT

Welcome to 2023

Although civics is taught in the eighth grade, the lessons are mostly targeted to the basics of Federal and State government. Local government issues are often left for people to learn on their own. 

The Bedford Citizen has decided to embark on what we call The Civics Project.  

First, some basics from the state:

In Massachusetts there are four types of local government:

  1. Mayor/Council. Think big cities such as Boston, Springfield, etc.
  2. Town Council/Town Manager. Smaller cities such as Cambridge and Franklin have this type of local government.
  3. Representative Town Meeting. This is the form of government in larger towns such as Lexington and Danvers where the town is divided into precincts with representatives who are elected to attend and vote at Town Meeting.
  4. Open Town Meeting – the Bedford model.  

Bedford is 1 of 256 towns in Massachusetts with an open Town Meeting form of government. This means all voters are eligible to vote on budgets, bylaws, and all matters brought before Town Meeting, including approval of  debt (bonding). Town Meeting acts as the legislative body of the town. 

The executive branch of the government consists of the elected Select Board and the Town Manager. The Select Board hires (appoints) a manager, sets policy, appoints boards and committees, and may be authorized to approve or veto some of the manager’s appointments and approve union contracts. The Town Manager is the chief administrative officer (CAO), appoints department heads, and other employees, prepares budgets, awards contracts, negotiates with unions, and oversees administration.  A Town “Manager” is a voting member of a school committee only on union contracts; a Town “Administrator” sometimes serves in this role. A fair number of boards and/or commissions may be elected.

The town is governed by the Town Charter,  and the town Bylaws that were last amended at the 2020 Town Meeting.  

Here is the organization chart for the town’s government:

Posted on the town website are the  Guide to Town Meeting and another guide for  civil discourse, Town Meeting Guidelines for Civil Discourse

Finer Points

As we start the new year we thought it would be helpful to walk through step by step how the town works.  

First Up in January – The Town Caucus:  (The Bedford League of Women Voters shared information about the caucus earlier this week.)

  • What is it? The Town Caucus takes place on the second Tuesday in January to focus attention on the upcoming annual Town Election in March.
  • How does it work? The Caucus is open to all Bedford registered voters. For those seeking office, a win at the Caucus eliminates the need to take out nomination papers. Each nominee for a given position may make a statement of up to three minutes on their interests and qualifications. The Caucus then votes to identify two candidates for the position who will be designated as “Caucus Nominee” on the ballot for the Town Election. A minimum vote of eight percent is required.
  • Why it’s important: The Caucus pushes incumbents to decide whether they are running for another term and encourages prospective candidates to identify themselves. It also identifies town positions that remain open with no candidates while there is still time for candidates to declare their interest.
  • How do I get involved: Attend the Caucus! This is your opportunity to help place a candidate of your choice on the ballot. This year’s Town Caucus takes place at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 10 in the Reed Room at Town Hall. 

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Kim Siebert
January 6, 2023 9:19 pm

Brilliant! Keep this type of article coming!

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