Jack Attridge reflects on his first Town Meeting as moderator

Jack Attridge attended his first Town Meeting in Marblehead 40 years ago. Now, he has just wrapped up his first one as town moderator, and he couldn’t have been more excited to be a part of it.

“It was another great year for Marblehead democracy,” he said. “Marbleheaders certainly showed up to do the business of the town and I feel very fortunate that I was able to lead Town Meeting through the business.”

Town Meeting spanned the course of three nights this year with 54 articles on the warrant. From multiple late nights, to tense moments, laughter, and even an error in an article, Attridge’s first Town Meeting as moderator certainly did not lack excitement. He said that with two town moderators spanning the course of 60 years, there was an immense amount of preparation required to do the job right. 

“A lot of that work was with the help and support of our Massachusetts Moderators Association and the collective brainstorming that we all do to help each other out.”

There were many moments throughout the three nights that stood out to those in attendance.

When asked which was the most memorable to him, Attridge said, “The most gratifying part of Town Meeting was that when the meeting began to get a little unruly, or I needed a little bit of help in processing different requests, that the town was more than gracious and supportive of … the moderator through the process.”

Attridge, whose family name predates Marblehead’s first Town Meeting in 1649, has repeatedly referred to the meeting as “the purest form of democracy,” and said that with everything the town has been through in history, he is fortunate to have been a part of it.

“It’s humbling to think that our town has been through poverty, through fires, through hardship,” Attridge said. “To put today’s challenges into perspective, it’s not just the purest form of democracy, but it’s the making of democracy when we stand up at Town Meeting. Sometimes its not pretty, but it’s something that I would never trade anything for.”

Attridge took over town moderator responsibilities from Gary Speiss, who passed away on Nov. 25, 2022, after serving as town moderator for 16 years and assistant town moderator for 30 years. Attridge said both Speiss and his predecessor, Steve Howe, were huge role models for him.

“Certainly, their command of Town Meeting was something that I looked up to,” he said.

He added that surprisingly, standing before hundreds of people was not as nerve-racking as he expected it to be. Attridge said that his preparation, understanding, and knowledge of Town Meeting — which he said is all thanks to watching Speiss and Howe all those years — helped settle his nerves.

“I had confidence and a strong understanding of the process,” he said. “I credit them for the work that they’ve done and the work that they did to instill order in Marblehead’s Town Meeting, which in the end, they were great role models to follow.”