At annual town meetings in April and May, Martha’s Vineyard voters will take up the political arguments and questions that have steamed all winter like a pot of thick chowder. Town leaders know that victory, defeat or truce must be achieved before summer when Islanders begin working nonstop, or travel to Nova Scotia and anywhere else as far from Five Corners as they can get in August.

For about 20 years, I reported on three of the Island’s six annual town meetings. My circuit began with Edgartown in early April, almost always on the same night voters gathered in Oak Bluffs, Tisbury and West Tisbury. The Chilmark annual followed, and perhaps because spring comes late up-Island, Gay Head, renamed Aquinnah, concluded its annual business in May.

I wrote about what voters decided to spend their tax dollars on — and the dollars of all those seasonal folks who pay a hefty share of the freight but don’t get much say in it. And I distilled a bit of each town’s character from the give and take. It was mostly fun.

The Edgartown annual was Thanksgiving dinner at the house of a decorous relative. An air of seriousness was reinforced by the uncomfortable wooden benches of the Whaling Church, which may have been what 19th century Methodists intended.

At the other end of the spectrum was boisterous Gay Head (more fun before the name change). Attending town meeting was to be in a noisy diner where there is shouting from the kitchen, and an occasional food fight.

Chilmark was a grange meeting, an impression formed due to an abundance of wool sweaters and the barn wood of the Community Center. Chilmarkers were diligent and devoted to the ephemeral qualities of what is, or is not Chilmark when discussing any new bylaw designed to rein in newcomers.

The moderator set the pace and the rhythm of each annual meeting. Over the course of my tenure, all the moderators remained the same. Each brought a distinctive style to the job.

Walter Delaney held the Aquinnah town gavel for 36 years in his adopted town. He stepped down in 2010 and died in August 2014.

One memorable night, Mr. Delaney was struggling to control a running budget battle. A Gay Head voter, if he or she had something to say, seldom asked to be recognized. And those that did wait to be recognized were seldom identified except by first names and nicknames, because most everyone knew each other and if they didn’t know the person speaking, well... so what.

It was a warm spring night. As Mr. Delaney tried to fend off outbursts and read through the budget a large buzzing hornet flew through the meeting room to the front table. In the firmest use of his gavel that night, Mr. Delaney clobbered the insect.

Chilmark moderator Everett Poole, who will mark 41 years at the podium this spring, did not need to rely on a gavel to clobber anything or anyone. He could do it with a look.

At one meeting, Burton Engley stood up to talk about why town maps were not accurate. Details are hazy, but as I recall his issue was that Peaked Hill was named but not the adjoining bump he insisted was named Radar Hill. Voters had heard it all before many times.

As the groans began to rise, Mr. Poole spoke up. Town meeting was the one time of the year when voters could have their say and he intended to allow Mr. Engley his say. The voters listened, if not intently, at least politely.

Philip (Jeff) Norton Jr. presided over Edgartown annuals with a confidence built on an intimate knowledge of his town. He was respectful and at times humorous, a master of the offhand quip. He allowed enough debate, but knew when voters were getting restless and it was time to call the question. Town business almost always concluded in one night.

This year Mr. Norton has announced that after 43 years he will not seek another term. The baton will be passed. Edgartown will move forward without its maestro. But Mr. Norton will leave big, scuffed wingtips to fill, and a disarming, comfortable style deeply rooted in the soil of his hometown that will be difficult to replicate.

At the 2007 annual, Janet Hathaway, chairman of the town homesite committee, stood and provided a lengthy explanation of a request to use $300,000 from the community preservation fund for the Jenney Way affordable housing project. When she had finished, she asked if there were any questions. Reading the mood of the voters, Mr. Norton peered over the top of his glasses and told Ms. Hathaway, “You’re snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.”

Eliciting a laugh, he asked the voters, “You don’t want to talk about this, do you?”

Voters approved the article unanimously.

Nelson Sigelman lives in Vineyard Haven and writes the Outdoors column for the Martha’s Vineyard Magazine.