In a race that can be described as “student versus teacher,” 21-year Town Clerk Nancy Oates is being opposed by her former assistant, Mary Moe McCarron, in this year’s election. In a race that can be described as “student versus teacher,” 21-year Town Clerk Nancy Oates is being opposed by her former assistant, Mary Moe McCarron, in this year’s election.

On Wednesday, the two spelled out their individual qualifications for the post and tackled topics ranging from voter registration to the landmark decision on gay marriage at this year’s candidate’s forum on Wednesday night.

In her introduction, McCarron outlined her training through Salve Regina University’s clerk’s institute and her on-the-job experiences as assistant town clerk for five-and-a-half years and her current position as an administrative clerk in the assessor’s office where she said she has “expanded her knowledge of town government.”

She also listed several changes she would make to the current way the clerk’s office is run, such as keeping the office open from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m., bringing back the sale of fishing licenses to the office and potentially selling passports as well.

“Duxbury needs an enthusiastic, cordial, team player with a fresh perspective,” said McCarron.  “I look forward to [rising to] the challenge of bringing organization, efficiency, courtesy and knowledgeable leadership to the office of town clerk.”

During Oates’ introduction, she outlined her over two decades of experience and her attendance record during both elections and town meetings, missing only one of each event over her time as town clerk.

“I love my job,” said Oates.  “I try to be pleasant to those at the counter.  I’ve never had any complaints.”

She added that she would “dearly love” to sell fishing licenses, but in a town of 15,000, there have been only two people full-time in her office since 1983.  In fact, Oates said, to keep her clerk full-time for the next fiscal year, she turned down a raise.

Concerning the office’s closure during lunch, Oates said because the office has only two people and if one is out on a particular day “the other person can’t stay there the whole time.”

“I learned early on the best thing to do was train the public we close during this time and believe me, I am behind that counter and not at lunch on many days answering the phone and everything else,” she said.

When asked how they would encourage voter registration in town, Oates said that she was proud of the town’s 98 percent of registered voters and that she works hard each election to ensure good participation through providing notices and absentee ballots.

McCarron said the state has made it easier to register to vote, especially among young people who can apply when they get their license.  She would, however, try to visit the high school and try to enlist those students eligible to vote.

Oates countered that the high school used to have a special registrar and that she used to also work with students, but the state swayed town clerks from doing this.

Both candidates were then asked about their potential role as the town body issuing marriage licenses and how they would handle gay and lesbian citizens requesting a license come the May deadline by the state’s Supreme Judicial Court for same-sex marriages.

McCarron said she would treat these citizens the same as any other, “with respect, dignity and discretion.”  Citing the court’s decision that it is unconstitutional to deny a license, she added that while the final outcome by the state has not yet been decided, everyone coming to her counter would be treated equally.

Oates said that when the powers that be tell clerks what to do, she will comply and not take it upon herself to issue licenses like others in her position in California and New York. 

When asked whether the town clerk’s position should be appointed versus elected, both candidates also agreed in their replies.  Both cited the 1998 town management study committee’s recommendation that the post be appointed and voters defeat of this suggestion at Town Meeting.

Oates added that she trusts the electorate to choose someone they know can do the job and that it is important for the town to have one elected, full-time person where selectmen are not available at all times, for example.

During rebuttals, Oates revisited the issue of experience for the job, stating that McCarron’s training at the town clerk’s institute was more of a “finishing thing” of giving speeches and other topics but not day-to-day clerk work.  Oates added that she is certified as a state municipal clerk and taken over a hundred courses related to her position.

McCarron said that while the institute’s training is not directly related to the day-to-day workings of the office, it taught a great deal about municipal government and that she does have nearly six years experience as an assistant.