Moderator Says He Is Ready for His Town Meeting Debut

David Powell says he is relaxed and ready.

The newly-elected town moderator will preside at his first session of the 2024 annual town meeting, which opens at 6:30 p.m. on Monday in Bedford High School’s Buckley Auditorium.

“I’m feeling reasonably comfortable – I don’t know if that’s a bad sign or not,” Powell laughed.  At the start, he said, “I will make sure everyone knows this is my first meeting moderating. I know there will be people on the stage and on the floor to assist me.”

One of them, he hopes, will be Michael Bahtiarian, if Town Meeting approves. “I have identified him as a deputy moderator that I am comfortable with and will nominate him at Town Meeting and ask for their consent,” Powell said. 

During the week preceding Town Meeting, Powell is consulting with Facilities Director Ron Scaltreto and members of his staff to discuss audio-visual needs and other aspects of the auditorium infrastructure, as well as connecting the BHS library as overflow space.

He will also continue discussions with Town Manager Matt Hanson and Assistant Town Manager Amy Fidalgo about the wording and intent of individual warrant articles, as well as the wording of motions. He also scheduled a walk-through with the town clerk. Powell said town staff is arranging for the paid tellers, who count hand votes when requested. 

The new moderator plans a walk-through with former long-time Moderator Betsey Anderson for some additional answers, as well as “to get a better sense about how the meeting starts.” Traditionally annual town meeting begins with the posting of the colors by a detachment of Bedford Minutemen. 

Powell said he is “getting comfortable with Bedford’s rules, the charter and bylaws, and state laws,” and has acquired “Town Meeting Time,” a handbook of parliamentary law produced for moderators for the Massachusetts Moderators Association. “I am reasonably comfortable with the process,” he said.

He noted that the 6:30 p.m. start time, still new to many voters, was established “to try to get residents who have school-age children to be part of it.” 

David E. Powell will serve as Town Moderator at the 2024 Annual Town Meeting on March 25. Staff Photo.

At some point on Monday he expects there will be a motion to adjourn until Tuesday, unless the end of the warrant is in sight. “We all think more clearly at 6:30 p.m. than we do at 11,” he said.

Powell acknowledged that the recent decision by the Select Board to postpone a town meeting decision on funding construction of a fire station “makes my first town meeting a little less daunting.” He expects significant interest in the zoning bylaw amendment for an overlay zone to allow multi-unit housing by right, as required under state law, and the segment of the capital article that proposes replacing the synthetic turf athletic field.

“There’s always a surprise, there’s always a sleeper that we spend a half-hour or 45 minutes talking about something nobody expected,” said Powell, who served three terms on the Finance Committee.

Powell was elected to fill a one-year unexpired term, and he will be running again in March 2025 if he wants a full three-year term. 

“It’s nice to have this year to try it out, see if I like it and am any good at it,” he said, noting that there will be additional town meetings in June and the fall.

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