An override question failed in Hanson and some new faces will join the W-H School Committee from both communities in the wake of a municipal election day that saw incumbents rule the day in most races.
Despite a coronavirus pandemic, Hanson polls were busy all day, according to Town Clerk Elizabeth Sloan. As of about noon there had been some 500 voters walk in to cast ballots — roughly equivalent to the total number or people voting early or by absentee ballot. In Whitman, 1,067 — 10 percent — of the town’s 10,711 registered voters cast ballots.
“We are doing our best to keep everyone social distanced,” she said. “They’re doing a great job and our police officers are outstanding.”
The $800,000 Proposition 2 ½ override failed by a vote of 1,121 against to 712 in favor. Opponent Mark Vess argued there were three reasons for that result.
Vess said the override is now “dead in the water.”
“We’re in the middle of a coronavirus and people are not working,” Vess said. “Number two, this article was so unfair to the town of Hanson — completely unfair to the town of Hanson. Shame on Whitman for not getting their facts straight, because as we know, their numbers were wildly inaccurate and not following the correct legal pathway to post an article.”
Opponents of the article argue the School Committee did not have the necessary two-thirds vote to post the article in the first place.
Hanson write-in candidate Hillary Kniffen has been elected to the Whitman-Hanson School Committee with 428 votes with Deana Hill also received 49 votes.
“While it was a sad day for the students of Whitman-Hanson, I am excited to have the opportunity to be a part of brighter days ahead as a member of the Whitman- Hanson Regional School Committee,” she said, noting that failure of the override question.
In Whitman, School Committee incumbent Steven Bois was re-elected with 585 votes, while W-H graduate David Forth Jr. edged out incumbent Alexandria Taylor by 19 votes — 465 to 446. Candidate Randy Hill garnered 376 votes.
Hanson Selectmen Chairman Laura FitzGerald-Kemmett was the top vote-getter with 1,365 votes to 1,116 for fellow incumbent Jim Hickey and 749 for challenger Paul Benenato.
“I’d like to express my heartfelt thanks to everyone who voted,” FitzGerald-Kemmett said. “I’m extremely grateful that I earned your vote to serve on the Hanson Board of Selectmen for the next three years.”
She noted that, in the past year, our Board was faced with the sudden departure of our Town Administrator, COVID19 and the WHRSD assessment issue.
“It’s clear that our primary focus must be on resolving the school funding issue,” she said. “With school set to reopen in September, whether in-person or virtually, we have a lot of work to do in a very short period of time.”
FitzGerald-Kemmett said the ongoing assessment issue with Whitman has created a divide that will be difficult to bridge. In addition, they must now contend with the costs for complying with the recent school reopening guidance issued by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and the projected cuts to Chapter 70 money of 20 percent.
“But, this issue is not Hanson’s problem alone to solve nor is it the Hanson Board of Selectmen’s problem alone to solve,” she added. “Instead, solving this issue will require that the community of Hanson to work together to seek solutions. It will also require that Whitman, Whitman Hanson Regional School District, the Whitman Hanson Regional School Committee and Hanson all continue to work together towards an equitable compromise that will help heal the deep divide between Whitman and Hanson and ensure that our partnership is preserved with minimal collateral damage.”
Hickey also alluded to the work ahead.
“I have unfinished business,” Hickey said of his run as he held signs outside the polling place at Hanson Middle School. “I want to thank the people of Hanson for giving me the opportunity to serve three more years.”
In Whitman, Selectman Randy LaMattina was the top vote-getter on the board, with 736 votes. Selectmen Chairman Dr. Carl Kowalski garnered 591 and Finance Committee member Rosemary Connolly received 526 votes in her quest for a seat on the Select Board.
“It was an interesting day,” Kowalski said. “I’m thankful to be elected and happy for the people that voted for me.”
Kowalski said he was also happy to see LaMattina re-elected, as well as new people becoming involved in town politics.
“He’s proven to be a very hard-working and thoughtful selectman,” Kowalski said of LaMattina.
“I would like to thank the voters of Whitman for giving me the opportunity to serve three more years on the Board of Selectman,” LaMattina said. “I am humbled by the overwhelming support I received this election. Undoubtedly, it shows running a clean campaign pays off in the end.”
Kowalski said he was disappointed that the Hanson override failed, and expressed hope that Whitman’s Town Meeting July 27 voters take the advice of Selectmen and vote for the school budget, with the hope something similar happens in Hanson.
Also spending time at the polls for visibility ahead of their Sept. 1 primary election were state Sen. Mike Brady, D-Brockton, and his challenger Moises Rodrigues.
“The most important thing is to be involved,” said Rodrigues, a former Brockton City Councilor who served as interim mayor after the death of Bill Carpenter. “Sitting around, doing nothing in hopes that something will miraculously happen isn’t working. We feel it’s time to do better in terms of getting more bang for the buck from Beacon Hill.”
Brady said he wanted to thank his supporters and remind them that the Sept. 1 primary is two months away.
“A lot of people didn’t even know I had an opponent this year,” Brady said. “I don’t take anything for granted.”
He touted legislation he is backing for mail-in voting from July 15 to mid-August, with the state paying for return postage. That is followed by early voting.