Amherst to hold elections for Town Meeting positions

By Michelle Williams

Although Amherst’s demographics have more than 50 percent of residents falling between the ages of 18 and 24, this overrepresented population bloc is underrepresented in one place that counts: Amherst’s 240 Town Meeting members.

This March, Amherst will be holding Town Meeting member elections, and a third of its seats will be up for grabs.

A Town Meeting member is an elected member of the community, one of 240 from the town’s ten precincts. These members are allowed to attend the biannual Town Meetings. At such meetings, issues including zoning bylaws and town funding are discussed.

Town Meetings can also result in new developments in town bylaws. As a result of a 2009 Town Meeting, more than four unrelated persons were banned from living together under the same roof, which some saw as unfairly targeting students.

In a community where more than half the population is between younger than 24, surprisingly there is only one Town Meeting Member in this age bracket. That member, Daniel Melick, a recent alumnus of the University of Massachusetts, hopes this representation will change.

“A lot of the laws that the town deals with affect students, and upset them,” Melick said.  “I want to see them represented at the town meetings.”

According to Amherst’s Town Clerk’s office, all are invited to run for the position of Town Meeting member, a position that currently has 80 full-term seats up for election, as well as many more partial term seats. A full term is three years, while a partial seat is one or two years.

Any person registered to vote in Amherst can seek election. Nomination papers, available at the Town Clerk’s office, require at least one signature of a registered voter of the precinct from which they are running. This one signature can be that of the candidate running. The nomination papers must be filled out quickly, though, as the deadline is Feb. 2 at 5 p.m.

At Town Meetings, members discuss warrants, or issues that citizens have brought to the legislative body.

“The time commitment is minimal. Each session starts at 7:30 at night and lasts for about two hours” Melick said. “Since my own election last May I think I’ve been to ten meetings and spent maybe 20-30 hours on Town Meeting related work.”

According to Melick, this spring, he plans to bring a revision to the current housing ban on having more than four unrelated persons living in the same house.

“I plan to bring an amendment to the meeting,” said Melick, “yet without backing, it won’t pass.”

For more information on how to run for Town Meeting member, contact the Town Clerk’s office by calling 413-259-3035 or by e-mail, [email protected].

Michelle Williams can be reached for comment at [email protected]