Concord residents vote at Town Meeting. Photo by Jennifer Lord Paluzzi

Is it time to modernize Concord’s Town Meeting? 

By Celeste Katz Marston
December 12, 2023

Help wanted: Concord is preparing to take another deep dive into how its centuries-old form of self-governance works for the voters of today.  

“The time is right for this. I think it’s been 30 years since we’ve done an in-depth, thoughtful study of the open Town Meeting process, [and] I think that all of us are aware that there have been changes in our community,” Town Moderator Carmin Reiss told the Select Board at a recent meeting.   

Concord’s open Town Meeting is a direct form of participatory government that allows registered voters to consider, debate and even make their own proposals on major decisions such as spending, land purchases and local bylaws. The next one is scheduled for April 29, 2024.  

Since the last major analysis of the meeting in the mid-90’s, “There’s certainly been huge changes in technology; Covid really changed how we deal with each other in meetings and how the community gathers,” Reiss said. “We are hearing lots of folks who are not sure that Town Meeting in its current form, how it is carried out, is really as responsive to the community’s needs and desires as it might be.” 

The town is now searching for members of a nine-person study group made up of registered voters who have a history of attending Town Meeting and who understand local government and issues related to voting, remote participation technology and social media.  

The group would present its findings to the 2025 Town Meeting. 

As times have changed, new questions have sprung up around the meeting, such as whether the marathon evening sessions inhibit participation by swaths of the public, including older voters, people with childcare obligations and night-shift workers.  

There are also debates about the traditional public nature of the vote versus secret balloting, as well as whether residents should (or could) be able to not only watch the proceedings online but cast their votes electronically from afar.  

Reiss told the board she’s got some other ideas kicking around, such as a potential experiment with holding Town Meeting simultaneously at two venues — one being Concord-Carlisle High School, as usual, but possibly also at a West Concord satellite location, such as the Harvey Wheeler Community Center or the Thoreau School.  

To volunteer to get involved in the Town Meeting study group, go to or inquire at the Town House.