Politics and Law majors Connor Henderson ’20 and Andrew McCotter ’21 have been working with the Town of Smithfield’s Charter Review Commission to help research and update the town’s charter.
A city or town charter is the establishing document for a municipality and formally defines the ways in which it will be governed, including the form of government, the elected and administrative officials, election specifics, public services, and financial management city or town.
Rhode Island state law requires cities and towns to form a commission every five years to examine existing charters and make recommendations for changes to the appropriate town council or other governing body. This is the second time Bryant University Politics and Law students have been tapped to assist with the effort in Bryant’s hometown.
McCotter and Henderson have been researching charters from other towns as benchmarks, as well as interviewing officials to learn about important new issues that may need to be incorporated or changed in Smithfield’s governing document. They report their findings back to the Review Commission, which then takes appropriate action for recommendation to the Smithfield Town Council.
“The level of passion and commitment this group of citizens has for the Town of Smithfield is impressive. The Commission takes its job very seriously. It’s been a privilege to be a part of the process.”
The 12-member Commission usually meets every two weeks. McCotter says he may soon be helping to get the body set up for online video meetings to accommodate current safe “social distancing” and stay-in-place orders.
“It’s been very interesting looking at the ways in which so many different towns are run,” McCotter says of the research he’s been doing since the end of last semester.
“People can have very strong opinions!” he observes. “But it’s inspiring – these people really care about how their government functions.”
Henderson agrees: “The level of passion and commitment this group of citizens has for the Town of Smithfield is impressive. The Commission takes its job very seriously. It’s been a privilege to be a part of the process.”