Board and Committee Guidance

I would like to volunteer my time to a Town board or committee.  What should I do?


The successful operation of Canton’s Town government, which is overseen by various elected officials, depends on many municipal employees, the paid professionals who carry out the policies enacted by elected officials, as well as the advice, counsel and hard work of numerous volunteer town boards and committees.

Following is a link to the entire list of town boards/committees and a brief description of their responsibilities.

Some boards and committees are appointed by the Town Moderator

Most boards and committees are appointed by the Select Board. 

If you are interested in learning more about a board/committee, including its specific activities as well as the expected time commitment, feel free to contact its chair. Contact information can be found under each board or committee webpage.  

To determine the committees which have current vacancies, click on the following:  Volunteer Opportunities

To apply for membership on a Moderator appointed committee, contact the Town Moderator directly. 

To apply for membership on a Select Board appointed committee, complete the application and forward it to the Select Board for consideration.   If there is a current vacancy on the committee that interests you, you will be contacted by the Select Board chair and/or vice-chair to arrange an interview.   Any appointment must be approved by a majority vote of the Select Board at a public meeting.  All appointments are for a specific term of years, which may differ from committee to committee.  

I’ve been appointed to a Town board/committee.  What should I know?

 Training & Orientation

The best source of information about how the committee works, including expectations about meeting schedules, communication protocols and work to be accomplished, is the committee chair.  Some committees have dedicated administrative staff (for example, the Finance Committee, Community Preservation Committee, Conservation Commission, and Recreation Commission) who are also excellent sources of information.  In addition, review minutes of prior meetings or better yet, watch recordings of prior meetings obtainable on the CCTV website.  

 Generally, a committee will elect the following leaders annually, during a public meeting, by majority vote.

 Chair: Sets the agenda, facilitates committee meetings, is the point of contact and speaks for the committee.

 Vice Chair: Consults with the chair, and acts in place of the chair in his/her absence.

 Clerk: Assures that public meetings are posted properly, minutes are taken and filed, and may sign public documents.  

 Treasurer: Necessary if the committee controls funds.  Assures that documentation of revenues and expenses is prepared and reported properly.   Assists the committee in preparing an annual budget.  Signs checks or public reports, as required.

 Some committees may benefit from having temporary, ad-hoc sub committees with a chair for that subcommittee, usually appointed by the committee chair.

Virtually any adult member of the public who is a resident of the Town is qualified to serve on one or more committees, though some professional experiences or skills are helpful to some committees. For example, financial skills or acumen are a plus when serving on the Finance Committee and construction expertise is helpful when serving on the Buildings Renovation Committee.  

Most committees do not require special training before appointment, but all committee members need at least some training after appointment to be sure they understand their obligations.  

All committee members must annually certify their understanding of and compliance to the Massachusetts Open Meeting Law , as well as the state laws pertaining to Conflicts of Interests.   And all committee members should be generally familiar with Roberts Rules of Order. These trainings can be accomplished on-line at your convenience.

Committee members should also be sure they understand Canton’s policies, rules and regulations including the Town of Canton By-Laws , the Administrative Code.  The Town's financial information can be found in the most recent Comprehensive Annual Financial Report.  

Members of certain committees may also benefit enormously from trainings on technical subject matter, which will enhance their ability to make good decisions. These can be on-line courses or resources, webinars or in-person meetings or workshops. Please check with the committee chair for any specific training you may need.   Here are two helpful websites for more information on your responsibilities as a board or committee member for a municipal board.  

Guide for Members of Public Boards and Commissions

Open Meeting Law Training 

Operational Governance

Though each committee may rely on different kinds of documents to describe their operations, each committee should have one or more documents that describe the following, which should be discussed and agreed by committee members annually to determine if changes are warranted:

 Committee Mission: What is the main purpose of the committee?

  • Goals & Objectives: What does the committee hope to accomplish over the near and longer terms?
  • Strategies & Tactics : How generally will the committee accomplish its goals and objectives?
  • Activities & Deliverables: What specifically will the committee do in the next year, and who is responsible and accountable for what actions?

Sources of Revenue/Expenses

Some committees are charged with management or oversight of revenue, whether from local taxes (for example, the Finance Committee and Community Preservation Committee), fees (for example, the Conservation Commission and Recreation Commission), town meeting approved funds (for example, the Sustainability Committee and the Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Committee) or private or public grants (for example, the Canton Cultural Council and the Paul Revere & Sons Heritage Trust Corp).  In such cases where committees receive revenue, they likely incur expenses.  In all such cases, committee members must understand and comply with state and local laws and policies regarding expenditure approvals and documentation, as well as record keeping.

If you don’t understand how or why funds are received or money is being spent, ask questions!  You play a critical role in assuring that public funds are received, spent and accounted for fully, properly and in the best interests of your community.  

 Communications and Transparency

An excellent way to communicate your committee’s accomplishments to town leadership as well as the public, is through an annual report or presentation to the Select Board.   Such a presentation should describe the prior year’s accomplishments, the next year’s goals and identify any support that may be needed from the Select Board or any other town board or committee to accomplish the committee objectives.  Such a presentation can be scheduled for a Select Board meeting during any time of the calendar year, but if operational funds will be requested, the timing should be well in advance of any such request to make sure that the Select Board has a good understanding of the committee’s work.  

Succession Planning and New Members

It is the responsibility of the committee chair to drive the process for succession planning for leadership in advance of the next year’s leadership votes.  This may involve a formal nominating sub-committee or may be informal discussions to solicit interest and recruit new leadership.

 If there is a vacancy in a committee, either because a member’s term has ended or a member resigns mid-term, the committee chair should immediately notify the Select Board so that the vacancy may be advertised and new applicants recruited.

I would like to start a new town committee.  How do I do this?

Contact a Select Board member or the Town Administrator for guidance.   There may already be a town committee which is, or could be, charged with the role you have in mind.  If not, you may present your case to the full Select Board for why a new committee is needed, whether it will meet a temporary or ongoing need, which community stakeholders should be represented on the committee, and how it will serve the best interests of the community.  

The Select Board will vote whether to approve a new committee, and who to appoint as its first members.  If you believe a new committee would be helpful to the town, be prepared to volunteer to serve!