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August 24, 2019  |  

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Clinton Change is More than Just a Town Manager

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In November Clinton’s form of government will change from a Board of Selectmen (BOS)-style to a town manager form of government. As the November elections approach, the Harbor News is taking a closer look at how the new system of governance is intended to function.

The town manager will be a hired professional who will assume many of the duties currently handled by the first selectmen. Instead of a BOS, the board will be replaced by an elected, seven-person town council.

Elections

The Town Council will be made up of seven members, with a maximum of four from any one political party. During the 2019 elections, the four town council candidates who receive the most votes will be elected to four-year terms, while the next three highest vote-getters will receive serve a two-year term. In subsequent elections, each candidate elected will serve a four-year term. Clinton Town Clerk Sharon Uricchio explained that in future elections, some years will have four council seats up for election, and in other years there will be three. That provision was written into the charter by the Charter Revision Committee as a way to ensure that the entire council would not be voted out of office every election. Currently, the BOS is elected to a two-year term.

Roles

Similar to other boards and commissions, the Town Council will elect a chairperson and a vice chairperson. The chairperson will earn $3,000 while the other council members will earn $1,500. (Clinton selectmen previously collected a $3,000 annual stipend but discontinued that in 2018.) The compensation rate can be changed by a vote of at least five members in favor of a new rate. The chairperson and vice chairperson will be voted on by the council at the first meeting following the election. The chairperson will fill the role of chief elected official and ceremonial leader in town and help coordinate events that may fall outside a town manager’s duty. For example, the person hired to be the town manager may reside outside of Clinton and thus lack the connections to various town organizations that the chairperson would theoretically have.

The council will meet twice a month; at least one meeting a month will be held during the evening hours. For duties, the Town Council will take on many of the actions that currently fall under the jurisdiction of the BOS. These actions include approving appointments to boards and commissions and enacting new ordinances. The Town Council will be the body that reviews the final candidates for the town manager position and has the authority to hire and fire the manager (with a vote of at least five in favor of either move).

The Board of Finance will be eliminated under the new charter, so the Town Council will also be the body responsible for approving the proposed town budgets prepared by the town manager and finance director. The council will make any changes to the proposed budgets and send them to referendum. Should a budget be rejected, the council will revise and make changes as they see fit.

A complete copy of the new charter is available on the Clinton town website at http://clintonct.org/344/Town-Charter-Ordinances.

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