New England Town Government
In Massachusetts, Vermont, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, and Maine, a different system of government is used: the New England town hall. In this region of the country, towns consist of one or more villages and the surrounding countryside.
The New England town meeting is a vestige of the area's colonial roots. It's a form of direct democracy in which all the citizens participate equally in decision-making and governance. Essentially, an annual town meeting is held, usually sometime in March. At this meeting, the voters decide on a budget, taxes, school expenditures, and other annual matters. They also elect a school board, tax collector, and road commissions, as well as a five-person “board of advisors” that manages the town on a day-to-day basis.
In some of the larger towns, direct democracy of this nature is too unwieldy and difficult. In such cases, the townspeople elect delegates to represent them at the town meeting. Increasingly, these towns are beginning to adopt weak mayor or modified council-manager plans in order to keep up with population growth and the growing complexity of governance.