Should the city clerk be appointed rather than elected? That’s a question Westbrook voters will be asked when they go to the polls Tuesday.

City Councilor Ed Symbol, who has said he believes an appointed clerk would better serve the city, proposed the move in March. It would require a change to the city’s charter.

When he proposed the change, Symbol said he felt that as long as the city clerk position was an elected one, that person would be accountable to voters only every two years.

Mayor Bruce Chuluda has said he would prefer to keep the clerk’s position an elected one to ensure that a Westbrook resident retains the position.

“I think it’s important in the city to have a Westbrook resident in city hall,” he said.

However, even if voters decide to make the clerk’s position an appointed one, there is a chance nothing will change.

City Administrator Jerre Bryant said that because the vote would change the city charter, by state law, at least 30 percent of Westbrook voters who cast ballots in the last gubernatorial election need to vote in this election for it to be valid. In this case, the voter turnout needs to be at least 1,906 voters for any change to be possible. If the voter turnout is below that number, no changes will be made, even if a majority of voters favor of the change.

Bryant said Tuesday early returns of absentee ballots indicate a low voter turnout, which is generally the case in an off-schedule election.

However, Bryant said, the city felt it was important to hold the vote before the November elections, since incumbent City Clerk Barbara Hawkes already has announced her retirement. Deciding the question this spring would eliminate the possibility of holding an election for a new city clerk at the same time voters were deciding whether to change the position from an elected one to an appointed one. Additionally, Bryant said, the city is hoping the middle school referendum will draw enough voters to the polls to make the clerk’s referendum valid.


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