CLARKSBURG, Mass. — This town of 1,702 is heading for a crisis on May 23.
That's the day of the town election and five offices will have blank spaces next to them on the ballot, including for the Select Board. Three are on the Planning Board, and if there are no write-in candidates, that board effectively won't exist on May 24.
"It takes a village to run a village," said Town Administrator Carl McKinney on Thursday. "And I will have no Planning Board after the election. The state demands we have five people on the Planning Board.
"I will have one. Nobody took out papers to run."
Like many small towns, Clarksburg has been having trouble finding people to fill the important elected and appointed positions that keep it running. Some officials wear multiple hats, like the current chair of the Select Board who's also chair of the School Committee.
McKinney got involved in town government after the 2001 attacks with the idea of thinking globally while working locally to fix this one corner.
Since then, he's served on the Finance Committee and the Select Board and in various offices. In addition to his paid post, he's still the town's representative on the solid waste district as well as the emergency management coordinator and the Americans With Disabilities coordinator. Most recently, he stepped in as a replacement on the Planning Board to keep the number on the board to at least four people.
"I'm not afraid of working but I can't be five people at once," he said. "Our Finance Committee needs two people, our Board of Selectmen is going to be short one."
The town also needs two alternates for the Zoning Board of Appeals, somebody for the Handicapped Commission and someone for the Northern Berkshire Solid Waste District. The town's in the middle of budget season and has exactly one person on the Finance Committee.
McKinney is pushing get current issues on the Planning Board's agenda done before the election. Getting a public hearing for a proposed solar bylaw scheduled will be tight, and might end up being held the night before the election. And sitting out there is a final decision on a proposed cell tower on River Road — a project that first came before the board last year.
"If I don't have a Planning Board next year it's not going to happen," he said of the solar bylaw. And as for the cell tower, "I would be remiss in my responsibility to dump that on a new and inexperienced board. It behooves us to make our decision."
Public service isn't glamorous, McKinney acknowledged, and isn't well paid. It takes a lot of time and a lot of patience.
People expect a level of service but it takes, he said, "living, breathing human beings to operate a town."
He's encouraging citizens to come forward and write-in candidates to fill out an empty roster.
"If we chose to be a town unto ourselves, we need people," McKinney said. "If not, then the type of government we have becomes questionable, the sustainability becomes questionable, and the ability to govern is highly questionable."
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