Question in Smithfield: Elected mayor or appointed manager?

Question in Smithfield: Elected mayor or appointed manager?

SMITHFIELD – The question of whether Smithfield will have an elected mayor or continue with a Town Council-appointed town manager should be left to the people, says Charter Review Commission member Tom Winfield.

Former State Rep. Winfield said rumors around town accusing him of joining the commission because he’s going after the position are wrong.

“That is false. That is not why I did that,” Winfield said.

Winfield said he is not interested in running for mayor of Smithfield, and has not been approached about the position. He said people are spreading misinformation, and he said he joined the commission to give some background based on his experience as a state representative.

“I retired from elected office so I would work less, not seek any other elected office. So anyone that says I am seeking to replace the current town manager is just another windbag bragging about their stupidity,” he said.

Asked if he would consider running for elected office in Smithfield, such as for Town Council, he said, “never say never.”

“I like my life how it is right now. I was elected for a long, long time,” Winfield added.

The commission is currently reviewing various potential questions to put on the ballot this November. The commission will send a list of proposals to the council, and council-approved proposals will go on the ballot. The council may reject some items.

Winfield said it is premature to say the commission will be looking into going to a mayor. He said he thinks adding the question of term limits to the ballot is more pressing.

Winfield said the commissioners interviewed elected Lincoln Town Administrator Joseph Almond and were impressed. He said first and foremost, an elected official answers to residents.

Member Al Costantino said the commission is tasked with questioning department heads to gain insight on how the town functions, listening to issues, and coming up with solutions to update the Town Charter. Those solutions are brought to and approved by the council and then sent to taxpayers for a vote.

The best part, he said, is the people decide on all the changes proposed by the commission.

Whether the town would like to move to an elected mayor or an appointed town manager is a major issue this year, he said.

“Right now, there’s nothing in writing. We’re writing what we’re going to discuss,” he said.

As the commission interviewed the council on May 14, the consensus from councilors was that the question of an appointed or elected top administrator in Smithfield has never been brought to the town.

“It’s basically, the difference is a town manager who works for the council, or an elected mayor who works for the people,” Costantino said.

Costantino said the commission does not have a person in mind for either role.

“The people vote on it. It all goes on the ballot. This is about the people. They have the final say of what’s on the charter,” he said.