Annual Town Election Is March 28
By Sean Sullivan
On Tuesday, March 28, Natick’s annual town elections will be held.
The Natick Select Board and the School Committee each have vacancies that will be filled via the vote.
Five members comprise the Natick Select Board, and each serves for a 3-year term, although those tenures don’t necessarily run parallel with one another. In this month’s Select Board election, four candidates are vying for two vacancies.
Four candidates are likewise running for vacancies on Natick’s School Board, whose members also serve for three-year-terms. Six candidates are seeking seats on the Morse Institute Library Board of Trustees.
As of this writing, candidates for the March 28th elections hadn’t yet been published on the town’s website.
The Iowa caucuses have been a rite of passage early on the campaign trail for those seeking the American presidency. The events are famous for their peculiar voting method in the primary elections, and the theater of retail politics that surround them.
Cookouts where candidates consume local cuisine and culture have long been a feature of the caucuses; contenders have often been judged by how well (or poorly) they fit in with the local flavor.
Here in the northeast, forests punctuated by maple trees may stand as backdrops instead of Iowan cornfields. In lieu of grilled pork products, pancakes are on the menu. Natick’s “Maple Magic” pancake breakfast might be a miniature version of those meet-and-greet marathons that take place in Iowa every four years.
Scheduled at Natick Community Organic Farm for March 4, the breakfast isn’t a political event per se, but it’s been tradition for candidates seeking local office in the town to attend, greet and meet with residents.
Here in Natick as well, voting is done differently from our neighbors in Iowa. Voters at our local polling places choose from a list of candidates, and those earning the most votes win. Contrast that with the confusing caucus system, which resembles auditoriums full of sports teams, each group trying to coax other players to defect and join their side.
It makes for good theater, but it’s easy to see why this form of choosing leaders has largely been jettisoned in favor of simpler and more transparent systems. It’s also why, in part, the Democratic Party recently chose to remove Iowa as the first state in its presidential primary election process.
Paul Joseph is chair of the Natick Select Board; his seat is not on the ballot this year. Joseph first got into town politics about 15 years ago, when his children were attending school in Natick.
“That’s what pulled me into the political process,” he said.
He took a hiatus from town office after his term ended, but decided to run again when the world began to return to normality after the pandemic. Following those tumultuous few years, Joseph said he decided his experience in town politics could come in handy.
Seats on other local political bodies are also up for election this year, including the Planning Board, Recreation and Parks Commission, Board of Assessors, Board of Health, and the Natick Housing Authority.
None of these are paid positions.
“This is a common misunderstanding,” said Joseph. The half-joke, he added, is that “You essentially become a full-time volunteer.”
The reward, he said, comes in the relationships developed during one’s tenure, the legacy left on a community’s character and future. Although national policy and cultural debates and elections steal much of the spotlight, municipalities matter more than many people realize.
“The truth is, it’s your local vote that has the biggest impact,” said Joseph, “I connected with the town in ways I couldn’t predict.”
The recent debate about the South Natick spillway was among those surprises.
“That decision wasn’t even on my radar.”