How can you get involved in local politics?
Have you or your neighbors ever considered running for town office? Your experience and concern for the people of Belmont could make a real difference in the future of our town. Is it your turn to run for office?
Here are a few tips to get you started in a campaign for town-wide office.
Step One: Legal Qualifications
You must be a U.S. citizen residing in Belmont in order to hold town office.
Step Two: Test the Waters
Consider the issues. What are your responses to them? What ideas do you have to improve our town? Ask a few friends whether they think you should run and whether the office you are considering is the right one for you. Listen carefully to their answers to get the message. You don't want to find out later that they were just being polite.
Talk to people who have been involved in political campaigns. Get advice about what to do and what to avoid.
Step Three: Check the rules
Visit the Town Clerk's office to get the necessary materials. You need to obtain and submit 50 signatures of registered voters from the town. It is advisable to submit at least 65 signatures. The filing deadline falls between February 12-20. Check on the exact date. Pick up a copy of the town's annual report, a campaign finance municipal form and guidebook and voter registration lists from the Town Clerk. Be sure to check Town Website.
Step Four: Form a Committee
The Committee to Elect must, by law, have a chairman and a treasurer. It is a good idea to include at least one representative from each of Belmont's eight precincts.
You and the chairman organize the campaign, work out a timetable, and set goals. The chairman advises you about campaign committees and works with you to define and articulate issues -- but you must provide the energy and enthusiasm.
One Suggested Strategy
You and the treasurer must become informed about the campaign finance laws. The treasurer establishes a bank account for the Committee to Elect, works with the chairman to set financial goals and a timetable, and raises campaign money or chooses a finance chairman to do it. Other important positions on the committee are an issues chairman, a precinct coordinator to oversee the 8 precinct captains and volunteers, a coffee coordinator, a visibility chairman, someone in charge of producing campaign literature, and one or two media people. The newspaper will print campaign news and issue papers, and the cable station offers town-wide candidates free access -- if you follow the rules.
Meet with your committee and start making plans for your campaign. You might want to call the incumbents on the board you're running for and tell them why you are running.
Step Five: Launch the Campaign
Hold a kick-off event and introduce your campaign committee. Get the committee to start work collecting signatures on your nomination papers, organizing neighborhood coffees, canvassing door to door, raising money, preparing campaign literature, distributing and posting signs and bumper stickers. Lawn signs are legal but not always welcome in Belmont, though usually accepted for a short period of time. Signs on telephone poles and trees along the street are not legal nor are unattended signs on public property. But you can park a car displaying your signs in any legal parking place.
Fall and early winter: Test the waters, check the rules and form a committee.
January: Launch the campaign! Go door-to-door collecting nomination signatures. This is a good way to meet prospective voters. Identify voters who are likely to support you, and make sure they're registered to vote in Belmont. One must register by mid-March in order to vote in the April election. The town clerk can tell you the exact date, as it varies year to year.
February: Return your signed nomination papers to the town clerk by 5:00 PM of the filing deadline.
March: Submit your response to the League of Women Voters questionnaire so your ideas will be included in the Belmont Voter Guide which is mailed to every household in Belmont. Have "visibility days" -- hand out leaflets, hold signs on weekends in strategic places, do town-wide mailings or door-to-door leafleting. Be sure to attend Candidates' Night, usually held two weeks before the election. Many citizens attend this event or watch it on local cable.
April: Call your likely voters and make sure they have a ride to the polls. There are special rules for campaigning at the polls on Election Day. Be sure that you, your volunteers, and all camapign signs, buttons, and literature remain 150 feet from the polling place. Make sure you and your campaign staff know polling places in advance. And good luck!
Town-wide Elected Offices (3-year term unless otherwise noted)
Moderator (1-yr. term) - elect every year
+ Town Clerk - elect every 3 years (Full-time position)
+ Town Treasurer - elect every 3 years (Full-time position)
Selectmen - elect 1 each year
Assessors - elect 1 each year
Cemetery Commissioners - elect 1 each year
Board of Health - elect 1 each year
Housing Authority (5 year term - elect 1 each year, except for the one member who is appointed by the Governor)
School Committee - elect 2 each year
Library Trustees - elect 2 each year
Water Commissioners - elect 1 each year
+ Full-time position