Running unopposed, Chuck Barton was pretty much guaranteed to win the post of Town Moderator, which he did Tuesday, garnering 3,930 votes (98.5 percent).
That said, Barton readily conceded he did not think he would actually serve as moderator, presuming that voters would approve eliminating the Financial Town Meeting on Election Day. The town moderator’s sole job is to preside over the FTM.
Lo and behold, the majority of voters thought differently, rejecting Question 8.
And, so, come the second Tuesday in June, Barton will preside over the FTM, even though there has been no quorum since 1999.
Barton said he suspected voters were thinking a couple different ways.
“There’s probably some suspicion of motives for doing away of a very participatory democratic event. We haven’t really used this vehicle in 14 years, but it’s nice to know its there,” he said. “The second is, this is kind of a tradition…. It’s kind of quaint. It’s part of the town’s heritage.”
The FTM has been in place since 1752.
Barton said the excitement over this year’s local election made him wonder if the town wasn’t moving into a different – more engaged – cycle.
“This election, there were some impassioned candidates,” he said. “The contests were a lot more vigorous than in a while. I think people were saying, ‘Let’s invigorate local politics a little.’”
Our new town moderator is hardly new to East Greenwich elected office, having served 12 years on the School Committee (1988 to 2000) and two on the Town Council (2002-04).
“I thought I was going to be a trivia question as the last town moderator,” said Barton. “Now I’m wondering if I’m the only person to serve in all three elected offices.”
Barton said he takes the job of town moderator very seriously.
“The reason I ran, even though I assumed the meeting was going to be abolished, was because I have great respect for it,” he said. “Now I have the honor of being one of a long line of town moderators, dating back 250 years.”