Elections & Petitions
Who’s Who in Local Government
President Teddy Roosevelt said almost a century ago
that "Far and away the best prize that life offers is
the chance to work hard at work worth doing." When
he included these words in his speech at the state fair
in Syracuse, New York in 1903 he could have been
speaking of Vermont’s many hardworking local officials.
Nearly 5000 municipal officials in our 237 towns, nine
cities and 45 villages, devote their time to
everything from hearing zoning disputes and writing land
use plans to assessing the value of property in the town
and collecting delinquent taxes. They serve for the
chance to "work hard at work worth doing." Without them,
our communities would not function and our system of
self government would come to a standstill.
Serving in local office is a great way to give
something back to your community. So why don’t you take
a turn? Local officials are either elected at town
meeting, or appointed by the legislative body. Here are the offices you can choose from
in alphabetical order:
Agent to Convey Real Estate (appointed) -
Executes the deeds on behalf of the town.
Auditor (elected) – Review and audit all town
accounts and prepare the annual town report. Should be
very detail oriented. Good writing skills are a plus.
17 V.S.A. § 2649
Building Inspector and Deputy Inspector
(appointed) - Appointed only in towns that have
adopted a building code. Performs inspections and
enforces the local building code.
§ 3102, 3103, 3108
Cemetery Commissioner (elected) – Responsible
for the care and management of the town’s cemeteries. If
no cemetery commissioners are elected the Selectboard
fulfills this role.
§ 5431 et seq
Chairperson for Civil Defense (appointed) -
responsible for the organization, administration and
operation of the local committee that is formed for
emergency management in the town or city. The emergency
management chairperson is under the direct control of
the selectboard but may coordinate his or her emergency
management efforts with neighboring towns and cities and
with the state emergency management division, and with
the federal government.
Collector of Current Taxes (elected) -
Collects the taxes for the town. In many towns this
function is performed by the Treasurer or Town Manager.
Should be detail oriented and good with numbers.
Collector of Delinquent Taxes (elected) –
Collects delinquent taxes for the town. Should be good
with numbers and also able to work with people who are
in difficult circumstances. Should also have thick skin.
17 V.S.A. § 2646(9)
Constable (elected) – In some towns the
constable is the town’s local law enforcement officer,
with all powers of search, seizure and arrest within the
town. In other towns the constable only has the power to
serve civil process, assist the health officer in the
discharge of his or her duties, destroy unlicensed dogs,
kill injured deer, remove disorderly people from town
meeting, and, if the First Constable, to collect taxes,
if no tax collector is elected. Should be good at
de-escalating and resolving conflicts.
Conservation Commission Members
(appointed) – Inventory the natural resources of a
community and purchase and administer municipal lands
for the purpose of conservation.
Fence Viewers (appointed) - Three viewers are
appointed by the selectboard each year. When called upon,
they examine fences and other boundaries within the
24 V.S.A. § 871
Grand Juror (elected) – Helps to prosecute
criminal offenses that occur in the town by giving
information to state and local law enforcement.
(Generally not a very active position.)
Health Officer (appointed)
Appointed by the Commissioner of Health to a 3-year term
after recommendation by the town selectboard. Enforces
the rules and regulations for the prevention and
abatement of public health hazards.
18 V.S.A. §
Inspectors of Lumber (appointed) –
Appointed upon request to examine, measure, and classify
the quality of lumber, shingles and wood sold within the
24 V.S.A. § 871
Inspector of Wiring (appointed)
– Inspects electrical wiring in buildings on request
of the selectboard.
Justices of the Peace
Although elected by a town,
justices of the peace are actually county officers.
17 V.S.A. § 2103(10).
more information, see our Justice of the Peace Handbook. The duties of justices of the peace
can fall into five categories of responsibilities:
Justices of the peace are members of the board of civil
authority (BCA). Members of the BCA serve as election
officials at town elections by Australian ballot and
statewide elections. Justices also are responsible for
delivering absentee ballots to voters at election time.
Tax Abatement and Appeals.
Justices of the peace sit as members of the town board
for abatement of taxes to determine whether a taxpayer's
tax obligation should be forgiven under certain
circumstances. Justices of the peace also serve an
important role in the town's tax appeal process. As a
member of the board of civil authority, justices sit to
hear and decide appeals when citizens do not agree with
the final decision of the listers.
c. Marriages and Civil Unions.
Justices of the peace may also solemnize marriages and
may certify civil unions in Vermont.
d. Oaths and Notary.
Justices of the peace may also
administer oaths in all cases where an oath is required,
unless a specific law makes a different provision.
A justice of the peace is a notary public ex officio
and has all the acknowledgment powers of a notary
public. However, the justice of the peace must file with
the county clerk in order to act as a notary public (but
the fee is waived).
Justices of the peace may also serve as a magistrate when so
commissioned by the Supreme Court.
Listers (elected) – Appraise property within
the town for the purpose of property tax assessment.
Should be able to be polite, yet firm, and not
be oversensitive to criticism.
Moderator (elected) – Runs the Annual and
Special Town/School Meeting. Should have a good sense of
humor, be good at group process, and have experience
following Roberts Rules of Order.
Municipal manager (appointed) - If the
manager system has been adopted by the electorate, the
town manager is the official administrator of local
government and has general supervisor of the affairs of the
24 V.S.A. §
Patrolmen (elected) – Patrols town highways
under the direction of the selectboard – if the town so
orders. (Generally not an active position.)
17 V.S.A. 2646(15)
Planning Commissioners (appointed or elected)
- Appointed unless town votes to elect. Duties include
preparing a municipal plan, making recommendations on
matters of land development, conservation, and
preservation, and participating in a regional planning
program. Makes site plan and subdivision permit
decisions unless there is a Development Review Board in
town. Should have a good working knowledge of all
aspects of the town and be able to listen to many sides
of an issue.
Poundkeeper (appointed) – Cares for the
animals that are impounded within the town.
20 V.S.A. §
Regional Planning Commission Representative
(appointed) – Helps develop the regional
plan and assess municipal land use plans.
§ 4341 et seq.
Road Commissioners (elected or appointed) –
Can be elected or appointed. Has no independent
authority, but can assist the selectboard in overseeing
town highways at the request of the board. Should have
experience with town highways and be a good
17 V.S.A. § 2646(16),
17 V.S.A. § 2651
Selectboard members (elected) – General
supervision and control over town, enacts ordinances,
regulations and policies for town, oversees town
property and personnel, prepares, presents and manages
budget, oversees roads, including laying out,
discontinuing and reclassifying roads. Sits as local
board of health, liquor control commission and sewer
commission. Should know the town well, be able to
understand all sides of complex issues, and have very
17 V.S.A. § 2649
by the selectboard, the town administrator, sometimes
called the administrative assistant to the selectboard,
assists the selectboard in managing the business of the
town. The town administrator has no independent
statutory authority. The scope of his or her
duties is determined by the selectboard.
Town Agent (elected) – The town agent used to
prosecute and defend suits. The selectboard now have
that authority. Thus, the Town Agent’s duty consists
merely of assisting when litigation is in progress at
the request of the selectboard. (Generally not a very
17 V.S.A. § 2646(11)
Town Clerk (elected) –– Records, preserves
and certifies the public records of the town, issues
dog, marriage, civil union and hunting and fishing
licenses and motor vehicle renewals. Runs the local
elections, serves as clerk of the Board of Civil
Authority, and hears tax abatement requests and tax
appeals. Should have the patience of a saint and be a
good ambassador for the town.
17 V.S.A. § 2646(2)
Town Energy Coordinator (appointed)
– Responsible for developing the town energy plan
and conducting the town energy audit.
24 V.S.A. § 1131
Town Forest Fire Warden (appointed) -
Appointed by the fire commissioner with the approval of
the selectboard. Prevents forest fires in the town by
enforcing the laws designed to prevent forest fires.
10 V.S.A. § 2641
Town Services Officer (appointed) -
Appointed on or before April 15th of each year. Assists
individuals within the town who require emergency food,
fuel or shelter assistance when the Vermont Department
of Social Welfare is not available.
33 V.S.A. §
2102 et seq.
Town Treasurer (elected) - Keeps the town
and school’s accounts (unless a separate school
treasurer is elected), invests money (with the approval
of the legislative body,) keeps a record of the taxes
voted and pays orders drawn on him or her. Should be
very precise, detail oriented and good at math.
17 V.S.A. § 2646(3)
Town Tree Warden (appointed) - Plans
and implements a shade tree preservation program for the
purpose of shading and beautifying public places.
Removes diseased, dying or dead trees which create a
hazard to public safety or threaten the effectiveness of
disease or insect control programs.
Trustee of Public Funds (elected) –
Manages, invests and reports on real and personal
property held in trust by the town. This includes
cemetery trust funds. Should like investing money.
17 V.S.A. § 2646(12);
24 V.S.A. § 2431 et seq.
Trustee of Public Money (elected) –
Oversees "United States Public Money" received under the
Act of 1836 held by the town. (It is unlikely any
Vermont town still has these funds.)
17 V.S.A. § 2646(13)
Water Commissioners (elected or appointed) –Water
commissioners supervise the town’s water department by
establishing water rates and all the rules and
regulations for the control and operation of the
department. Should be a good manager and detail
17 V.S.A. § 2652
Weighers of Coal (appointed) – Serves as a
referee over weights of contested loads of coal.
24 V.S.A. § 871
Zoning administrator (appointed) -
Appointed by the planning commission with the approval
of the selectboard. Approves or denies applications for
zoning permits. Administers the municipal bylaws
literally. Enforces regulations pertaining to the zoning
24 V.S.A. § 4448
Zoning board of adjustment or development review
board members (appointed)
–Holds hearings and makes decisions on land use permit
applications and appeals from decisions of the zoning
24 V.S.A. § 4460