This week, Andover News is publishing profiles of the candidates running for select board, moderator and school committee in the 2023 Andover Town Election on March 28 to help voters make decisions. You can also view all Andover News election coverage.
Responses are from a questionnaire sent to all candidates in February and, in some cases, have been edited for length and clarity. Today’s profile is from incumbent Moderator Sheila M. Doherty, who is being challenged by Keith Saxon.
All Andover News coverage of the town election on March 28 will be available free to non-subscribers as a service to Andover voters. Please consider supporting local news by subscribing to Andover News.
Education: St Augustine School, Our Lay of Nazareth Academy, Merrimack College
Occupation: Owner of Doherty Insurance
More about Sheila Doherty: I was born and raised in Andover. After earning my degree at Merrimack College I taught school on the South Side of Chicago for a year and then in Kentucky for 4 years. I joined our family business when I returned to Andover and also served part-time as the Youth Minister at St Augustine Church for 21 years.
Campaign Website: https://www.facebook.com/SheilaMDohertyAndover/
Qualifications for Office
Experience relevant to serving in elected office:
This past year Andover has emerged from the post pandemic period where we had two outdoor Town Meetings under Large tents as well as a large meeting in the Field House. All of which took a significant amount of planning and logistics to bring about. We held a special Town Meeting called by a number of residents within the annual town meeting and we had a special town meeting this past fall to vote on additional funds for the West Elementary/Shawsheen School Project. In addition to moderating those meeting we had the turn over of several positions on the Finance Committee which by charter, I am charged with appointing. I
What differentiates you from your opponent?
My opponent and I come to this election with some distinctive differences. My opponent is an advocate. Since moving to Andover, he has taken on some very strong positions on issues in Town. He has advocated and worked with groups who have appealed decisions of Town Boards, he is currently the Vice Chair of the Republican Town Committee. All of which demonstrate a passionate active member of the community, all of which I applaud him for.
But, that is not the role of the Moderator. I believe I have the skill set to be the moderator. I am not an advocate, and work very hard to remain neutral on most issues in Town. I understand, honor and respect the rules and traditions of our Town Meeting. I have brought a number of changes to our Town Meeting, and hope to implement those changes recommended by the Town Government Study Committee, which I was honored to be a part.
Anything else Andover voters should know about your candidacy?
In addition to moderating the Town meeting, the other key responsibility of Moderator is to appoint the Town Finance Committee. The key role and purpose of the Finance Committee is to advise Town Meeting about all appropriation articles that come before Town Meeting. The Town Charter gives this responsibility solely to the Town Moderator.
The rationale being that the School committee oversees a significant part of the budget, as does the Select Board. For either of those elected bodies to appoint the Finance Committee could result in an appearance of bias towards their budgets. With the independent position of the Moderator, the appointment of Finance Committee Members can be focused on forming a Committee that is truly independent to make recommendations to Town Meeting.
My opponent has indicated that he would set up a Committee to appoint the finance committee. Let me be clear, there is no authority given to the Moderator to do this. There are so many questions that would come with this process. Who appoints the selection committee? What is their charge? What if the Moderator appoints someone who didn’t go before the selection committee? How is this better?
I have been VERY proud of the appointments I have been able to make to the Finance Committee. Some have come from the Talent Bank forms that residents have completed, and other residents I have sought out because of the value I believed they would bring to the Town. I seek individuals from varied backgrounds that reflect the areas of spending that we make, (technology, construction, finance, engineering) who are knowledgeable in budgets and finance with a cross-section of the Town’s demographics, (Seniors, Parents, diverse backgrounds, newcomers to Town and “Townies”) and most of all, members who can respectfully and professionally work together for the good of our Town.
On the Issues
Andover News asked candidates a series of questions on issues facing the board or committee they are running for, as well as general issues the town is likely to face during the candidate’s term.
Do you support keeping open town meeting in Andover? Why or why not?
I do support keeping Open Town Meeting. I believe the ability of every registered voter having the CHOICE to vote for the issues that are important to them is not only a cherished right, but a civic responsibility. I have said many times that I really believe in the collective wisdom of Town Meeting.
As a Town Meeting discussion is unfolding I am watching, observing, and I often marvel at the dynamic of each meeting. Many articles, or issues with Town Meeting pass as a matter of housekeeping. Other issues, though, take on the full attention of the meeting, and the issues are hashed out by the voters. There have been times when the elected officials have come with strong recommendations to the voters, and yet, the meeting, after hearing the input has voted differently than the recommendation of elected officials.
That tells me, that the Open Town Meeting is the last stop for many issues that affect our community. That no one elected official or Board will always represent the way you want an issue to go. Open Town meeting gives YOU the say in how you want your vote to go. It is an often tedious process in a world that wants swift, easy, don’t take my time solutions, but, honestly, it is a remarkable process when you have the front row seat I have had as the Town Moderator.
Do you support electronic and/or remote voting for Andover Town Meeting? Why or why not?
“I absolutely do. The technology has emerged to allow for affordable electronic voting. I believe there are three main reasons the Town Meeting should adopt this technology:
- The accuracy of the vote will be more assured – with more and more votes being so close, I believe it is so important that we get the votes right.
- Every voter will have the assurance of having a private vote – Many voters in Town have been very open about not attending Town Meeting because fear retribution with some of the votes they might make.
- It will save significant time and allow for a more efficient meeting.
In the past, some Town Meeting Members have been concerned with the possible ability to hack the system. While No system can be absolutely hack free, the voting systems used by many towns have been found to have significant safeguards to prevent hacking. The Residents of the Town of Andover have always embraced technology, and I am hopeful the Voters of Town Meeting will vote to approve this Town Meeting improvement.
With regard to Remote Voting, at this time, it is not a legal option to have remote voting for Town Meeting Votes. I do, however, believe that it is on the horizon. The Mass Moderators Association, of which I am a member, is doing a very active study on how remote voting could be implemented, how one’s vote can be tallied with assurance, and how remote voting can be incorporated and still maintain the integrity of Town Meeting. I believe we will see it, that the home rule legislation will start to be filed by some Towns with the State Legislature to allow it. I also believe we will see some Towns vote Not to allow it in their Town Meetings. The residents of Andover will be brought into that process, and it will, of course, be their decision.
Previous Candidate Profiles
- Monday: Kevin Coffey, Select Board
- Tuesday: Laura Gregory, Select Board
- Wednesday: Keith Saxon, Moderator
- Thursday: Sheila M. Doherty, Moderator
- Friday: Lauren M. Conoscenti, School Committee
Key Dates For The 2023 Town Election
The town election is scheduled for March 28. The last day to register to vote in the 2023 Andover election is March 18, 2023. You can register to vote online or by visiting the Town Clerk’s office.
March 15, 7 pm at Memorial Hall Library: Andover/North Andover League of Women Voters’ Candidates Forum
March 18: Deadline to register to vote in the March 28 election.
March 21: Deadline to submit a vote by mail application.
March 28: Election Day. Polls open 7 a.m. – 8 p.m. (completed mail-in ballots must be received by 8 p.m. on election day).