After steering this year’s efficiently from start to finish in just one evening, Town Moderator Charlie Salisbury stunned Town Meeting stalwarts when he announced he will not run for re-election in March 2012.
Just before midnight last night Salisbury asked for a moment of personal priviledge before calling for adjournment.
“After 21 years it is time for a change; therefore I will not be a candidate for Town Moderator in March 2012,” Salisbury said, as the crowd jumped up in a standing ovation.
When the crowd settled after several minutes of clapping, Salisbury continued, “I didn’t think when I got into this, that I would be here for 21 years.”
He then enumerated the various town officials he had served with since his election in March 1991 which includes three town managers, two town clerks, and six school superintendents for starters adding that he has also appointed 53 citizens to the town’s Finance Committee.
Salisbury added that among town officials sharing the Middle School auditorium stage with him, only Planning Board Chair John Simons has served North Andover in the same role longer.
Reached at his home on Johnson St., this morning, Salisbury said he intentionally kept his decision quiet discussing it only with his wife, Martha, because he didn’t want to disrupt the flow of this year’s Town Meeting or prompt speculation on who might replace him.
“There is nothing like being a lame duck town moderator,” he said, chuckling.
However, Salisbury said he wanted to give the town plenty of notice about his intention to step down so that those interested in the moderator position have plenty of time to mount an election campaign.
“I expect it will be a contested race,” Salisbury said, noting that Town Moderators, once elected, generally serve for as long as they like even though the position is a one-year term.
“It isn’t uncommon for moderators in other communities to serve 25 years or more,” Salisbury said, noting that Pembroke likely holds the records for moderator longevity with one person serving in the position for 50 years.
“It is a very important position for just a few hours a year,” he mused.
Salisbury, 69, was born and raised in North Andover graduating from The Brooks School in the Class of 1960 and then the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1964. His father, Arnold H. Salisbury, served as the town’s attorney for 18 years. Following their marriage, he and his wife, Martha, settled in North Andover in 1969. They have two grown children, Hunt Salisbury, of Rockport, MA, and Margot Shewchuk of Redmond,Washington.
Salisbury was appointed to the town’s Advisory Board, the former name for the town’s Finance Committee in 1971, and he won election to the Board of Selectmen in 1978 serving for 12 years.
Salisbury said he was attracted to the moderator position initially because he felt he had the skills and depth of knowledge about North Andover to preside over North Andover’s Town Meetings fairly and impartially.
“I’ve always felt the role is more umpire than activist or Speaker of the House,” Salisbury said, noting that he has occasionally missed the chance to weigh in with his personal opinion on a number of town issues over the last 21 years. “There have been a few instances when I have stepped down from the podium but they have been more often for procedural rather than substantive issues. I am looking forward to being in the role of voter again.”
Salisbury said that if need be he will preside over any Special Town Meetings which are called between now and next March and he will continue in his role as the sole appointing authority for members of the Finance Committee.
And he also plans to research whether any other Annual Town Meetings in recent history have begun and finished on one evening.
“There might have been one other if memory serves but this year’s record is a good one to go out on,” he said.
He also hasn’t ruled out a run for another elected town position or service on an appointive town board.
“I do believe there is much I can contribute,” he said. “This is my town and I love it.”