This year, two candidates are hoping to get your vote to become Moderator of Representative Town Meeting. As with Selectboard candidates, we’ve sent emails and invitations to use the site to communicate with voters to each.
Douglas Cox is one of those candidates, and his interview follows.
Tell us a little about yourself…
I have lived on a small homestead on Sunset Lake Road since 1985. My wife Lisa and I raised two boys here who went through the Brattleboro schools. I have a nationally recognized violinmaking business which I run from the studio adjacent to our home. I have been a Town Meeting member for 20 years and Lisa served 13 years on the Town School Board, 10 as chair. I am a founding member of the Town Arts Committee, formed by the Selectboard in 2008, and have been involved in governance leadership of many arts and religious organizations.
Why are you running for Representative Town Meeting Moderator? What would you bring to the position?
I love Brattleboro and the richness and diversity of its people and cultures; and I love democracy with all its quirks and idiosyncrasies, and the very human messiness and passion of the democratic process. I see Town Meeting as a place where these come together in a way that embodies who we are as a community and how we relate to each other. As a student of Brattleboro’s Representative Town Meeting, and other forms of participatory governance process I feel I have much to offer, and I would like to continue my growth in these areas by seeing the community and its governance process from the Moderator chair.
What sort of previous experience have you had with large meetings?
I have chaired many committees and boards within the New England Quaker community and for area arts organizations. Representative Town Meeting is larger than most groups I have experience with, and has its own culture and practices. The size and organization of Brattleboro’s Representative Town Meeting feels very comfortable to me.
Has the Representative Town Meeting system (opposed to a regular Town Meeting) been a successful experiment in your view? Why or why not?
I feel Representative Town Meeting is very successful in that the elected body provides a continuity of experience and perspective, and in many ways does a better job of representing the breadth of population and interests than would an open, voluntary attendance Town Meeting in our community. The attendance record of Town Meeting members is remarkable
While Brattleboro’s Representative Town Meeting is unique in Vermont, there are many towns with this structure in Massachusetts and Connecticut. Should I continue for some time as Moderator, I would expect to share experiences with Moderators and other town officials in some of those communities.
What do you enjoy about Representative Town Meeting?
It is a wonderful study in human nature and the challenges of living together and taking collective responsibility for our community. I feel uplifted about Brattleboro after most Town Meetings, and I hope that all who participate will leave with some sense of growth and accomplishment from the proceedings, and with stronger respect for each other and the democratic process. The biggest challenge is to help focus discussion so that full and careful consideration is not compromised by the need to get home and walk the dog..
Is there anything you’d like to try to change about the day?
Not initially. By broadening the voices making initial motions, I think we might reduce the feeling that there is an “us and them” relationship with the School Board and Select Board. I would hope to continue the pre-meeting training sessions for new Town Meeting members, and help insure that helpful or important voices from non Town Meeting members are part of the discussion.
Former Moderator Tim O’Connor is leaving some big shoes to fill. Are you up to date with the new Brattleboro Charter? Is your Roberts Rules of Order dusted off and ready to go?
It is helpful having been part of the recent Town Charter revision process. I am familiar with our Charter and feel it can serve us well. I am not an expert on Roberts’ Rules but respect it and know enough to use if effectively. I hope that Town Meeting can be run as a community deliberation with Roberts’ Rules as the underpinnings, but not as the definer of the meeting’s culture.
Is there anything else you’d like to answer that we haven’t asked?
I would hope to serve (if reelected) for 6-8 years. That time frame would allow me be of most service to the Town, grow into the role substantially, and then share the opportunity to serve the Town with other and younger citizens.
I am curious if other towns with our structure use the Moderator to facilitate effective participation by the citizens in their government at other times, and in other ways than town meeting, I would welcome the opportunity to serve the ongoing democratic control of our Town should there be ways to do so.
Thanks for taking time with iBrattleboro!