The Town of Orleans is governed by open Town Meeting, meaning that all of the town's registered voters, so gathered, may vote on all matters. Town Meeting is Orleans’ legislative body, and as such has the authority to raise and appropriate money and to approve the town's bylaws.
Orleans holds one regular Town Meeting per year, the second Monday in May, and may also hold additional Special Town Meetings as needed. For more information, see the publication by the Secretary of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, "A Citizen's Guide to Town Meetings."
The five members of the Board of Selectmen serve as Orleans’ chief executive officers, elected at large by the town's voters at the Annual May Election. The Board of Selectmen serves as the chief policy making agency of the town, and its core powers and duties include promulgation and formulation of town guidelines, directives, and bylaws, serving as the licensing authority, and serving as the appointing authority, which includes appointment of members of the majority of the town's boards, committees and commissions. The Board of Selectmen is also responsible for the appointment of a Town Administrator, who serves as the chief administrative officer of the town.
The structure and conduct of town government operations is set forth in the Orleans Home Rule Charter, which was initially adopted by voters in the May, 1987 town election. At least every five years, a Bylaw Review Committee (appointed by the Board of Selectmen) is required by the Charter to review and revise the by-laws of the town and report its findings at Town Meeting.