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Matt Wolverton - Candidate for Moderator

Marblehead Beacon is presenting these candidate profiles in advance of our June 21 town elections with the goal of helping the community learn more about all of the individuals volunteering their time to run for public office. Please note that the answers included here are printed exactly as provided by each candidate, with only minor typographical edits. Marblehead Beacon does not endorse any candidate or validate any responses. All candidates for the Select Board, Town Moderator, Board of Health, Light Department, and School Committee who had available contact information were given the opportunity to respond to a set of questions specific to the office for which they are running.


What are your qualifications to serve as Moderator? 

I was raised here in Marblehead and have been both an active participant, and passive observer of town politics for most of my adult life. In addition, I am a licensed attorney with 12 years of experience in the practice of law, that includes appearances before various tribunals, including state courts and administrative agencies, as well as municipal boards and departments. I also routinely participate in several forms of alternative dispute resolution, including mediation and arbitration, as part of my practice. I believe my skills and experience as an attorney, and my love and commitment for my community, make me an ideal candidate. 


What experience do you have leading meetings, and are you familiar with “Town Meeting Time”? 

I regularly conduct meetings between persons of varying backgrounds for the purpose of facilitating mediation, negotiation and dispute resolution. I have worked for and with various non-profit organizations in town and have both conducted and attended board meetings for these organizations. As part of my practice, I have significant exposure to the common law of parliamentary procedure and the codification contained in Robert’s Rules of Order. In addition, I own a copy of Town Meeting Time and intend to participate in the training programs offered by the Massachusetts Moderators Association. 


What is your philosophy with regard to moderating debate, particularly on controversial issues? 

While I do not subscribe to any specific philosophy, in my opinion the Moderator has an obligation to protect the interest of three distinct groups: The Majority, the Minority (especially a large Minority), and those who are unrepresented in the debate. With that end in sight, I believe the Moderator must carefully balance these competing interests to ensure that all parties have the opportunity to be heard, and at the same time the “business” of the town gets done fairly and openly in the most efficient manner possible. 


How would you evaluate the use of paper balloting at the most recent Town Meeting? How would you anticipate managing this process as Moderator? With all due respect for the persons involved, especially our current Moderator and the volunteers, I think it went poorly.


There was confusion as to the process and procedure, which in my opinion could ultimately jeopardize the validity of any vote. That being said, I think there needs to be a little more advanced preparation for the possibility of paper balloting, and more information provided to the public in advance to provide clarity as to the process that will be implemented when the situation presents itself. 


Why do you want to be Moderator? 

First, I have a strong personal belief in community service and that the strength of the community lies in the hands of those members who are willing to put forth the effort and participate. If we do not collectively step forward, we may eventually lose the opportunity to do so. I have served on the Cemetery Commission in the past and believe that my particular skill set would allow me to provide a unique service to my community as the next Town Moderator. 


Do you believe the Moderator should consider taking articles out of numerical order to better control the timing of articles that will require significant discussion?

Possibly. This is my concern, while I understand that it may be advantageous to take Articles out of order for purposes of facilitating discussion and encouraging participation, notice and an opportunity to be heard are key elements of the open town meeting procedure. Many people in town rely on the Warrant as posted and time their participation accordingly. I would certainly be willing to discuss and participate in drafting an updated procedure for addressing this that makes adequate provision for advance notice to residents. 


Do you have suggestions for how Town Meeting could be run more effectively?

Historically, I believe the town as done a good job. However, there are always areas for improvement. Our current Moderator has done a great service to the community by providing a practical guide that is posted on the town website. I would like to see us expand on this. In addition, I would like to see greater participation, better use of technology and greater access to detailed information on the process and procedure to ensure free, open and civil debate, while at the same time conducting the meeting in a fair and efficient manner.


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