Voters will choose library curators, a testamentary voter in November, but what do they do?
NORTHAMPTON – In the November election, voters will be asked to choose two directors under the will of Charles E. Forbes and one voter under the will of Oliver Smith.
But what exactly will these chosen ones do?
Massachusetts Supreme Court Justice Charles Forbes’ will, dated 1876, left $ 220,000 to establish the Forbes Library, stressing that “the importance of educating the people cannot be overstated.” Forbes administrators oversee the library, hire and evaluate the director, monitor finances, and approve changes to library policies.
Elector Oliver Smith is Northampton’s representative to an organization called Smith Charities, which donates money to widows and trades apprentices, among others, in accordance with the 1845 will of a wealthy Hatfield resident .
In most municipal elections, these positions receive relatively little interest from voters and the media, said Marjorie Hess, a Forbes administrator not seeking re-election for a fourth term. This was not the case in 2019, however, when the city had a rather robust run.
Two years ago, Emily Prabhaker – one of five candidates for three seats – was elected to the board, and Joseph Twarog and Katy Wight were re-elected. The three challengers received more than 1,400 votes, with the last two candidates each falling within 172 votes of victory, according to official election results.
“We serve everyone in the community, and everyone should be concerned about directors,” said Hess, who is vice chairman of the board.
The five Forbes directors serve four-year terms and the elections are staggered, meaning two seats are on the ballot this year, while the other three seats will appear on the 2023 ballot.
A year-long court battle, resolved in 2017, determined that the library is not a city service and its employees are not city employees, and an agreement between the city and the library said the two parties would work together “in a spirit of collaboration and partnership” on maintenance and renovations.
Anti-racism is a major concern for administrators right now, Hess said. The Board of Trustees established a new Racial and Social Justice Committee and an Anti-Racism Advisory Group made up of library and community members.
Trustees approved library director Lisa Downing’s plan to eliminate overdue book fines. Hess said fines can be discriminatory and getting rid of them is a matter of social justice.
“A lot of libraries do. We did it for the kids’ room first, then we did it all over the library, ”Hess said. “Those who cannot pay for it are the ones who are affected the most. … It is so necessary that children get out of books.
Trustees present the annual Gertrude P. Smith Award to “a member of the community who has provided outstanding volunteer service to the Forbes Library,” according to the board’s website.
Hess said the best person to serve as an administrator is “someone who loves the library”.
“It has been a wonderful experience. I loved being a director, ”Hess said.
Board chairman Russell Carrier is running for re-election and two people – Deborah Sue Bruce and Stanley E. Sherer – have released nomination papers, according to the city clerk’s office. If all three candidates stand for election on November 2, the two who receive the most votes will win the seats.
Additionally, if five candidates are certified for the ballot, the city will hold a preliminary election on September 28 to narrow the field.
Directors of Forbes are not remunerated. The elector under Oliver Smith’s will earns $ 10 per year.
Oliver Smith was a wealthy Hatfield resident who died in 1845. Instead of bequeathing his fortune to his family, he used most of it to establish a charitable trust and divided the money among eight communities.
Smith’s family sued, claiming he was insane, and a sensational trial in Northampton determined the will to be legitimate.
Smith Charities, a private non-profit, administers up to 12 mortgages and uses interest from its $ 3.5 million portfolio to give gifts to newlyweds, widows with children, nursing students , trades students and apprentices in the eight communities. The organization also donates to Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School each year, and its website says mortgage applicants must have “very good credit” to ensure donations keep coming in.
“We are operating as a mortgage bank on very conservative terms,” said Smith Charities chairman David A. Murphy, the incumbent Northampton voter for 20 years. “We are very easy to manage. It is much simpler than a bank. There is no application fee; very often there is no evaluation fee.
In addition to Northampton and Hatfield, voters in Amherst, Deerfield, Greenfield, Hadley, Whately and Williamsburg choose an elector under the will of Oliver Smith. The children of Easthampton may be beneficiaries of the trust, but voters do not choose a voter.
Murphy said business students can sign up for a giveaway before the age of 19 and they don’t get the money until they’re 22; they have to submit an annual document showing they’re still in the trades, and the money, Murphy said, is paid to “keep up.”
“If you want to be an electrician, we can give you money. If you’re going to UMass to get an electrical engineering degree, we can’t help you, ”Murphy said. “That’s the distinction.”
Tradespeople can receive $ 600 once they start working in the trade of their choice. Murphy said the money is designed to cover expenses such as tools that employers don’t provide. Nursing students can also receive $ 600 upon graduation.
First-time brides are eligible to receive $ 100 within 90 days of the wedding. A widow with children under the age of 18 can receive $ 300 per year, plus $ 100 for each child, until the youngest child is 18 or the widow remarries or leaves an eligible community.
Full applications and eligibility conditions are available at TheSmithCharities.org. During the school year, Murphy said, Smith Charities holds information sessions at Smith Vocational to inform students of the freebies.
Two candidates on Wednesday withdrew nomination papers to run for office. Murphy is running for re-election and faces a potential challenge from Mary “Mimi” Odgers, who has taken papers.
Murphy, a former Ward 5 city councilor, is certified to appear on the November ballot for election to a general seat on city council. During his tenure as Ward Councilor, he also served as Smith’s voter, thanks to a decision by the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office that found it not to be a conflict of interest because Smith Charities never interacts with a government agency.
Murphy said the Attorney General’s determination allows him to return to city council while still remaining a voter. Smith Charities never holds public hearings and is not subject to the state’s open meetings law.
The voters meet once a year; they take turns choosing two voters to serve as trustees, and the trustees meet monthly with the president to monitor real estate trends and administer mortgages. The president is chosen every two years. For electors who do not exercise a fiduciary mandate, the sole responsibility is to attend the annual meeting.
” This is a good thing. It’s old, it’s moving forward and people don’t really know what we’re doing, ”Murphy said.
Three certified candidates would trigger a preliminary election. Election candidates and Forbes directors must collect 50 signatures from Northampton voters to appear on the ballot.
Even though the city’s charter says the voter is paid $ 10 a year, Murphy said the only stipend he ever received was for his two-year term as president.
“I’ve never been paid $ 10, never,” he said with a laugh. “The charter says it happens, but it doesn’t. If anyone wants this job for the 10 bucks? To hang up.”
Brian Steele can be reached at [email protected]