State law requires a Town Moderator to “preside and regulate the proceedings, decide all questions of order, and make public declarations of all votes” in an open town meeting. Every town in the Commonwealth must have at least one meeting, called the Annual Town Meeting; our by-law requires we hold ours on the second Tuesday in May. Typically, Ipswich also has another meeting, called a Special Town Meeting, in the late fall. There is also a process for calling additional Special Town Meetings.
By way of background, available for download on this page is the Moderator’s three-part series on the history of the institution of town meeting in Ipswich. It begins with a description of meetings generally, and the Role of the Finance Committee specifically; the second part describes the Responsibilities of the Selectmen and the School Committee during town meeting; the last installment addresses the Town Clerk, the Town Moderator, and what is known as the scope or “four-corners” rule, established in 1715, which applies to all Massachusetts town meetings.
Also available here is a modern account of the duties and responsibilities of the various actors in town meeting, together with a glossary of terms used . For those who wish to speak at or present to the meeting, there are a few other useful documents here. One is the general introduction to modern-day meetings Introduction to Town Meeting, another is a step-by-step description of how to present or speak at a meeting Presenting and Speaking at Town Meeting, and the third has the Moderator’s requirements with suggested guidelines when using graphics in a meeting Use of Visual Aids at Town Meeting. With it is the Moderator’s PowerPoint Guidelines, a template for those who would like to use graphics to explain the article they are sponsoring. Here you can also find a template motion to use when proposing amendments on the floor of any town meeting Motion Form.
Finally, in addition to presiding over town meeting, the Ipswich Town Moderator – as in most towns – is an appointing authority for certain committees. As detailed in the attached Appointments to Committees, the Moderator designates three of the nine-member Finance Committee; Selectmen also appoint three and the Annual Town Meeting appoints the other three. The Town Moderator also appoints all members of the Ipswich Open Space Committee.