View Full Version : Changing the name of a town

08-12-2008, 01:49 AM
In my MG story, the mayor of the town my characters live in wants to change the name of the town. While the town is entirely fictional, it's located in the state of Massachusetts (something never mentioned in the story). My question is, given that it's MA and that I'm not all aware of government policy in those parts, or even government policy in general, what's the process the mayor would go through in getting the town name changed?

Or is it actually someone else who does it?

And I don't know if this would help or not, but the mayor's plan isn't very welcome to most of the town citizens and they end up having an angry riot on the steps of the Town Hall. I guess from there they'd hold a town meeting?

It's not a large, industrial city, BTW. Population is small.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thank you! :D

08-12-2008, 11:28 AM
It can be done, and it's easy, but not necessarily a good move. Not only does it mean that new letterhead must be printed up, but a lot of new signage must be created as well. There is also a lot of things that would be needed changed at the state capital, especially if their are special bills or projects that apply to the town.

A major complication is if the town is based on an old compact or charter, especially because you are in MA; when it changes names it would have to eliminate the old paperwork and exchange it for more up to date materials.

In short, it can be done easily; however, the paperwork is a major issue....especially considering that a small town may not be able to pay for everything that needs to updated....


08-12-2008, 05:24 PM
Usually the town council would have to approve it, but for a change like that, they would probably want to put the issue before the voters.

Phil DeBlanque
08-12-2008, 06:20 PM
Slightly OT: yes, there are reasons for a town to change name, but some rather not to. Maybe you can use this real example in your work:

Kathie Freeman
08-12-2008, 08:17 PM
Changing the town name might be fairly easy in theory, but there are complications and repercussions. For instance, changing the name of a post office literally requires an act of Congress. There is also the problem of rendering all existing maps outdated, assuming you want the rest of the world to know where you are.

08-12-2008, 09:14 PM
It's hard enough to change the name of a street, let alone the whole town. I would imagine, a referendum vote would be needed and then the state legislature would have to approve it. Then, all the logistics would follow, post office, maps, letterhead, etc.

I think they did this a few times during WWII due to anti German sentiment.

08-12-2008, 11:25 PM
Hm, so it would be a bad idea. OK, I'll nix that idea, then. Actually, on second thought, I have an idea on how I could use another angle. So, it's all good.

Thanks for all of the helpful information. :D

08-13-2008, 11:48 PM
Chaning the town's motto would cause enough contraversy for your story.

08-14-2008, 03:23 AM
Towns in Massachusetts don't have mayors--they have boards of selectmen (also known as "select boards" for gender neutrality). This is a matter of state law.

If a municipality in Massachusetts has a mayor, it is legally a "city". In general, Massachusetts cities have a weak-mayor system, with the majority of the power being held by the city council.

I can't imagine a mayor in Massachusetts being legally able to change the name of a town, even if he or she wanted to. A select board might be legally able to do it, but that seems very unlikely.

08-16-2008, 09:36 AM
Thank you SO MUCH! Wow, that's really helpful information. :D