BRATTLEBORO -- Town Clerk Annette Cappy had low expectations going into Wednesday night's pre-Town Meeting information session.
There were a record number of empty seats for Brattleboro's Representative Town Meeting this year and Wednesday night was a chance for last-minute candidates to get involved and represent their districts on March 22.
The weather forecast called for snow and ice and temperatures falling into the single digits; not ideal conditions to get an apathetic electorate out to fill the 26 open slots for Representative Town Meeting. So Cappy was admittedly giddy Thursday when she officially certified the Brattleboro residents who showed up the night before and printed out a new list that had every single seat filled.
"We have a full house," Cappy said. "I don't know where they all came from, but it is very encouraging."
Town Meeting Representatives from Brattleboro's three districts caucus to hear from constituents before the pre-Town Meeting, which is held every year a week-and-a-half before Town Meeting.
The pre-Town Meeting gives representatives a chance to ask the Selectboard and town officials questions. The caucuses are also a chance to elect residents to fill the open seats and turn-out was so strong Wednesday that District 1 even had to hold a run-off because 16 people showed up to fill 12 open seats.
In District 2, where there were 13 open seats, 18 people showed up to serve, but five pulled out when it was apparent that there were enough district residents to fill the slate.
"It's hard to know if it was apathy or a lack of knowledge that kept people from getting their names on the ballot on Town Meeting Day," Cappy said. "It's good to know that we do have people out there who are willing to serve."
Julia Grover, from District 2, served as a Town Meeting Representative for two terms 15 years ago. When she heard there were slots open this year she decided it was time to get involved again.
"This is our form of town government," she said. "If enough people don't get involved it doesn't work."
Brattleboro is the only municipality in Vermont that has a representative form of town government. Cappy said she thinks it still works well for the town. She said she has seen a change through the years in how people relate with town government and get involved. A generation that has grown up with a strong bond to how the town is governed is getting older, but that doesn't mean the town should not try to reach younger residents who can serve, she said.
"It's a different generation. People are more in tune, globally, but I don't think their local community is as much of a priority," she said. "As a government we need to figure out a way to reach them and get people more engaged. Once we get the word out people show up. As long as we can find people to run I think this system works for us."
Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 279, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Howard on Twitter @HowardReformer.