Town Meeting is the oldest form of government in the United States and is practiced today primarily in New England. Essentially, it is the voice of the people voting on what they want in their town, how they will raise and spend money and set policies that define the character of the town. For example, Town Meeting approves the proposed budgets for all town departments, approves voting by-law changes, changes to town policies, including land-use policies, spending from special funds (like the Community Preservation Act), and citizen-sponsored initiatives.
The roles, relationships, and processes for Town Meeting, the Select Board, town departments and committees are defined in a town’s charter. As towns become very large, they may opt for different forms of governance, for instance having a Mayor and/or a City Council. Plymouth’s charter, voted on by all residents in 2021 maintains the Town Meeting form, but as a representative town meeting. This means that each precinct (politically-defined sections of the town) elects neighbors to represent them at the Town Meeting. At present, each precinct has nine town meeting members. Typically, they are elected for three-year terms, with the terms staggered so that only three member slots need to be voted on each year.
Each precinct elects a chair each year, who manages the caucus, and participates in the Committee of Precinct Chairs, whose role is also defined in the charter.