Elected Offices

The following descriptions have been prepared by the League of Women Voters from the General Laws of Massachusetts and other sources. The summaries are not all-inclusive descriptions but are summaries of the responsibilities each office carries with it, as traditionally filled in Harvard.

Each board listing contains a link to the page for that board or committee on the town’s website, which includes the official descriptions. Those pages also list the current members of each board and the years of their terms.

Unless otherwise noted, board members are elected to terms on a staggered basis.

Board Number of
Term Summary of Responsibilities
Board of Health 3 3 years  The Board of Health is responsible for permit approvals for well and septic systems, for monitoring wells and septic systems, for monitoring water at the town beach and supervision of the town nurses. The Nashoba Boards of Health are the agents of the Board of Health in sanitary matters.
Board of Selectmen 5 3 years Between Town Meetings, which vote the budget and town direction through warrant articles as presented for discussion, the executive powers of the town are vested in the Board of Selectmen to be exercised by them or through the town agencies and officers under their general supervision and control. The Board of Selectmen oversees Police, Fire and Highway Departments and is the town's licensing authority. It is also responsible for areas of local government not specifically controlled by other elected or appointed Town officials. 
Cemetery Commission 3 3 years The Cemetery Commission has sole care, superintendence, and management of all public burial grounds, including all aspects of cemetery layout and improvements. With town approval, the commission may make any regulation regarding cemeteries, consistent with law, it deems necessary.
Community Preservation Committee  9 3 years  Harvard’s Community Preservation Committee was established in 2001 subsequent to the Massachusetts Legislature’s enactment of The Community Preservation Act along with the Community Preservation Fund. The Committee disperses the funds for town projects whose purposes are stipulated in the act, namely for open space, historic preservation, recreational use, and community housing
Constable 1 1 year The Constable is responsible for posting the Town Meeting warrant and for serving any other processes as directed by the Board of Selectman. The Constable may also serve demands, notices, and citations and returns of service. It is the Constable who is responsible for prosecuting all violations of the "Blue Laws," profane swearing, and gaming.
Library Trustees 6 3 years The Library Trustees determine library policies, study needs and problems, present and recommend the library budget to the Finance Committee, approve expenditure of library funds, administer trust funds, and appoint the head librarian and other members of the professional staff.
Moderator 1 1 year The Moderator conducts with full authority all town meetings, presiding and regulating the proceedings, deciding questions of order, and making public declaration of votes. In addition, the Moderator has the power of appointment of personnel to the Finance Committee and to all committees voted by Town Meeting that are not specifically delegated to other town authorities
Parks and Recreation Commission 5 3 years The Parks and Recreation Commission organized and directs summer and winter recreational programs, including swimming and boating lessons at the Town Beach. It is responsible for maintaining the Town Beach, the playing fields, and the Common. It is also responsible for hiring lifeguards and other safety-related personnel. No sign may be placed on the Common without the permission of the Parks and Recreation Commission.
Planning Board 5 3 years The Planning Board is responsible for preparation of a master plan of the Town, or any part thereof as it deems advisable, and may from time to time extend or perfect such plan. The board may also direct the preparation of a map of the town and present it to Town Meeting for adoption as an official map. The Planning Board has control of the subdivision of land. It recommends zoning bylaws for Town Meeting approval after holding hearings on the proposals. It adopts the rules and regulations for such development in the town and may change such rules and regulations following public hearing. A consultant is hired to advise the Planning Board on these matters.
School Committee 5 3 years The School Committee's duties approves and presents the budget of the School Department; establishes policies for the school system in accordance with state requirements; sets the policies in regard to the hiring of all school personnel, wages, curriculum; and acts on any other recommendations made by the Superintendent. The School Committee may enter into agreements with other towns in expending federal and state funds for supplementary and innovative educational programs.
Town Clerk 1 3 years The Town Clerk is responsible for registering voters; for recording the results of all elections and Town Meetings; for maintaining these and other Town records; for issuing certain licenses; and recording marriages, births and deaths. Certain other statutory tasks may be required by the state. The Town Clerk is a member of the Board of Registrars.
Tree Warden 1 1 year The Tree Warden has absolute power over the setting out, care, maintenance, removal, and control of all public shade trees, shrubs, and growths in the town (except those within a state highway right-of-way or those under the jurisdiction of the Parks and Recreation Commission). Permits and public hearings are required for the removal of public shade trees.
Warner Free Lecture Trustees 6   The Warner Free Lecture Fund was established in 1890 by the bequest of Henry Warner. His intention was to provide the townspeople with "free public lectures of an educational bearing" on a variety of subjects, avoiding "partisan politics and religious sectarianism." The board of three women and three men are elected to provide programs of "combined entertainment and instruction " In 1978, the trustees instituted a subseries, the Harvard Chair, talks by Harvard residents who have expertise in particular fields to share with the townspeople. Each year, at least one program is presented especially for children.