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Should the town clerk be elected or appointed? DeWitt Town Board seeks residents’ feedback July 23

— For the last 17 years, Barbara Klim has served as the DeWitt town clerk. But on June 25, Klim announced that she plans to retire effective July 22, leaving a vacancy which needs to be filled immediately.

The town board must appoint a new town clerk to serve at least until the end of the year. At the board’s July 14 meeting, members discussed the possibility of changing the law to make the town clerk an appointed position indefinitely.

“My feeling is that people want smaller government, and smaller government means having fewer elected officials,” said DeWitt Deputy Supervisor Kerry Mannion. “I don’t think we particularly need an elected town clerk.”

Klim has run unopposed for the position for each of her nine terms in office.

“There never really was an election for town clerk during the last 20 years because she’s never had an opponent,” Mannion said.

But some residents, like DeWitt Republican Committee Chairman Matt Wells, are concerned with the idea of no longer allowing the people to select who will represent them as town clerk.

“It’s not in the best interest of the town: it doesn’t increase accountability or transparency of government, doesn’t reduce costs and doesn’t promote democracy,” Wells said. “I think it may add to this current board’s power and could lead to unintended consequences in the future.”

Town Councilor Ken Andrews brought up the point that if the town were to change the position to appointed, it could open the door for a potential conflict of interest for the town clerk, part of whose job is to ensure that the board is abiding by state law.

“One responsibility as town clerk is to tell us if we can’t legally go into executive session, for example, and the clerk is obligated to report us if we go into executive session inappropriately,” Andrews said. “If we appoint the person who sits in that chair, we can unappoint the person who sits in that chair. I think the person who sits there should be accountable to the people that elect them, not the board.”

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