I was pretty wiped out by the end of our meeting on Saturday. Another 9 hour day with a 45 minute break for lunch. I was elected to be moderator, for which I was prepared, but I still have so much to learn and many areas where I can improve.
A moderator’s main job is to keep the meeting moving along and to make sure procedure is followed. Things usually start out just fine, though I am at my most nervous in that first hour of settling in to the meeting. As we go along, things get a little more complicated with questions about the school budget. Fortunately we have the school board members and the school superintendent on hand to answer questions.
A nice bit of excitement, and the most well mannered discussion of the whole meeting was for school article 17: “Shall we change the name of the Islesford Elementary School to the Ashley Bryan Elementary School?” The article passed by a wide majority. It was lovely tribute to someone who has been nationally recognized so many times, but to someone who, for the islands, is just part of our family. Ashley and the students were thrilled. He has been receiving congratulations from all over the world!
The school issues took up the whole morning. We recessed at 12:30 for an incredibly delicious lunch of lasagna, salad, bread and desserts. At 1:20 it was back to work. The more discussion there is on an article, the harder it is to keep track of whose turn it is to talk. I write down the names of people as soon as I see their hands go up, causing my copy of the warrant to look like this:
The proposal to borrow $190,000 to build a new town office merited plenty of discussion. In the end it did not pass. Right away I know one of the things I would change as to how I would run a meeting the next time. That would be to stop people from commenting further after they have made two remarks or questions. Really, they are supposed to only make one remark at a time, and then wait for their turn to speak again (or be called on again to speak) until after others have had a chance to speak. I announce this at the beginning of the meeting every time, but people forget. There were several times in the meeting where an exchange took place that could almost be called an interrogation. It was uncomfortable for everyone and it was awkward for the moderator. However, I would have been in the clear right to have rapped the gavel lightly and said “I need to stop you here. A prolonged exchange does not allow for other people to get into the discussion, and we seem to be getting away from the nature of the article that is on the floor.” There were about three times I wish I had done it. Alas. There is always something to be learned from my mistakes. Learning to run a meeting well is an ongoing process. It’s something I am still eager to learn. If I didn’t like it, I wouldn’t be willing to be elected to do it.
At 5:45, just before we had a motion to adjourn, our AMAZING town clerk gave me the final figures to announce; the total budget for the year and the amount we need to raise from taxes.
Town meeting takes a long time, I am totally burnt out by the end of the day, my ears get so full of numbers that my brain is fried and I stop being an effective moderator in the last hour. At that moment I am annoyed with more people than I care to admit and it’s all I can do to get to the finish line. But you know what? I still love every bit of it.