N. Yarmouth approves charter, elects Palmer, Whittier

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NORTH YARMOUTH — Voters on Tuesday adopted a revised Town Charter, and elected Clark Whittier to the Board of Selectmen, while re-electing Chairman Steve Palmer.

The charter was approved, 380-148, with 44 blanks. Whitter received 349 votes for one of two open seats on the board, followed by Palmer with 336. Woodfin “Woody” Brewer received 139 votes to place third in his first campaign for an elected office.

Whittier thanked those who supported him, adding that he is “looking forward to (serving), although I will miss the Planning Board.”

He noted that there are “a lot of issues that are important for the town going forward.”

Whittier’s service to North Yarmouth includes three prior terms on the Board of Selectmen in the 1990s and early 2000s, as well as terms on the Budget Committee, the Planning Board, the personnel and fire department subcommittees of the Board of Selectmen, the Charter Commission and the Foreclosure Committee. He has also served on the Zoning Board of Appeals and the Events Committee.

Palmer has served one term on the Board of Selectmen, including the last year as chairman. He said he wants to make sure he has more time to see the board’s work further along.

His service has also included a joint standing committee with Cumberland, as well as the Zoning Board of Appeals. He is also on the Personnel Committee, and the personnel and fire department subcommittees of the Board of Selectmen.

The approved charter revision calls for the administrative assistant to be replaced by a town manager and Town Meeting to be moved from June to April. The Charter Commission began its review of the 31-year-old charter last August.

“I’m very pleased, and I’m glad that the work that the commission did came to fruition,” commission Chairwoman Audrey Lones said Tuesday night. “I appreciate all the work that the commission members put into the project, and that their … hard work had a positive outcome.”

The commission found that the Board of Selectmen’s burden has increased, while the duties of the administrative assistant have also grown, to include those usually performed by a town manager.

The manager will be the town’s chief executive and administrative officer, and the day-to-day governmental responsibilities of the Board of Selectmen will shift to that person, enabling the board to focus on larger policy matters, according to the commission.

The commission rejected a Town Council form of government in favor of the existing Town Meeting. But the panel found that moving Town Meeting from early spring to June in recent years caused scheduling conflicts and made it more difficult for many residents to attend, and is proposing a return to April.

A charter amendment, instead of an overhaul of the document, can change the date again if the April scheduling does not boost attendance.

With approval of the new charter, the current document becomes void, and the Board of Selectmen could appoint an interim town manager.

Lones said this spring that there is no reason Marnie Diffin, the town’s administrative assistant, could not serve as an interim manager, or as manager, should the Board of Selectmen hire her.

Diffin has declined to discuss the revision.

“Until such time as the board has an opinion or motion on the proposed charter, as administrative assistant I have no opinion or statement to make,” she said at the time. “As an employee whose position of employment is being proposed to be eliminated, I am in a conflict-of-interest position.”

Other North Yarmouth elections were uncontested. Virginia Dwyer was elected to another term on the School Administrative District 51 Board of Directors, and David Holman and Ande Smith were chosen to fill two of three open seats on the Budget Committee. Mark Heath was elected to the Cemetery Commission.

Of 3,119 registered voters, 572 ballots were cast – 18 percent of the town’s voting population.

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

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Steve Palmer

Clark Whittier

A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.