Whitman voters signaled they are ready for youthful change tempered with experience, as they elected 29-year-old Justin Evans, and re-elected incumbent Brian Bezanson, to the Board of Selectmen Saturday, May 18.
The debt exclusion question passed 746 to 522. More than 1,400 Whitman voters — 13.65-percent of the town’s 10,420 eligible voters — cast ballots in the Town Election.
In Hanson, where there were no contested races on the ballot, and some offices had no listed candidates, turnout was extremely light, with only 228 registered voters casting ballots Saturday.
Evans, a member of Whitman’s Finance Committee who had been campaigning hard both door-to-door and on social media since January, was the runaway top vote-getter in the race for Selectman, receiving more than 200 votes in all four precincts — for a total of 1,024 votes.
“I think it’s a direct result of that,” Evans said of his campaigning, saying he got the feeling people were craving change.
He garnered 266 votes in Precinct 1; 248 in Precinct 2; 253 in Precinct 3 and 255 in Precinct 4. Bezanson received 604 votes — 158 in Precinct 1; 157 in Precinct 2; 155 in Precinct 3 and 132 in Precinct 4.
“It’s a crazy-good feeling,” Evans told reporters after the votes were announced by Town Clerk Dawn Varley. “I had never run for anything before, not student council — nothing. To have the confidence of voters really means a lot.”
Finance Committee member Chris DiOrio finished in third place, receiving 453 votes — 110 in Precinct 1; 114 in Precinct 2; 117 in Precinct 3 and 109 in Precinct 4. Incumbent Selectman Scott Lambiase received 434 votes — 133 in Precinct 1; 101 in Precinct 2; 96 in Precinct 3 and 104 in Precinct 4.
“Justin ran a tremendous race and I think the numbers bear it out,” DiOrio said of the four-way race for two seats on the Select Board. “I think [the vote margin] speaks volumes about his campaign and what he did. … I think the change in composition will do the board well.”
Evans pointed to a wish by voters to see new faces serving on the Board of Selectmen for his ballot-topping win. He expressed gratitude to the voters for passing the debt exclusion as well, as it helps free up funds for police, DPW and school department vehicles as well as badly-needed road repairs.
Evans wants to see some new approaches to zoning, especially with an eye toward development around the MBTA station.
“I’m happy for the debt exclusion,” said Finance Committee member Chris DiOrio, who fell short in his race for Selectman, arguing that a Proposition 2 ½ override probably should have been sought first. “I hope that we’ll be able to use it correctly.”
Bezanson, who had expressed cautious optimism about his chances earlier in the afternoon, said he was not completely surprised at the outcome.
“Mr. Evans ran an incredible race,” Bezanson said. “He did the leg-work, because he was out there. … I’m thrilled to be back on the board.”
The next step for the town is to complete Town Meeting, adjourned until June 17 after the face of the debt exclusion on Saturday’s ballot was clear.
“This vote with the debt exclusion helps that, and then we have to start preparations for a possible fall Town Meeting,” Bezanson said. “I’m very happy that it passed. I’m not one for raising taxes, but this was the right time for the right reasons.”
Earlier in the day, DiOrio indicated he would look on a third-place finish with a degree of satisfaction, but he also said elections should be about issues and expressed bitter disappointment that that was not always the case in this election.
“I would have gladly engaged any candidate on the issues here, but frankly, it wasn’t allowed to happen,” he said, noting that the range of votes cast for himself, Bezanson and Lambiase was indicative of uncertainty on the part of voters.
“I think the [decision] on the second spot was hard for people to make,” DiOrio said. “I think there might have been a little bit of a turn over the last two weeks. People may have been going back and forth about what they wanted to do and where they wanted to go.”
A relative newcomer in town, DiOrio said his finish could be viewed positively and he has not yet decided whether he will seek elective office again.
“I’m not from this town, but I am for this town, and that’s why I stood up and ran,” he said. “Perhaps it gives me a foundation for the future.”
“I think they were looking for some change, but, yet, they wanted stability, so I was thinking Evans — where he’s got some new ideas — and Brian — where he’s got some stability — I think that’s how it went,” said Selectmen Vice Chairman Dan Salvucci, who backed Bezanson in the race.
The remaining races on the Whitman ballot were uncontested. For School committee in Whitman, — with two seats being filled — incumbent Dan Cullity received 875 votes and newcomer Dawn Byers garnered 1,036 votes. Incumbent Carol O’Brien received 1,115 votes as assessor. The two DPW Commissioner seats went to incumbent Kevin Cleary, with 986 votes and Bruce Varley with 965 votes. Incumbents Roberta Ellis-Drews, with 1,019 votes, and Lauren Kelley was elected with 1,111 votes, were re-elected to the Board of Library Trustees.
Katherine A. Kelleher was re-elected to the Housing Authority wit 1,043 votes. A one-year seat on the Planning Board went to Adam Somerville, who received 1,091 votes and a two-year seat went to Elaine Bergeron with 1,098 votes. Eric Joubert was re-elected to the Board of Health with 1,086 votes.
Hanson officials receiving votes to return to office were: Moderator Sean Kealy — 204; Selectman Kenneth Mitchell — 197; Town Clerk Elizabeth Sloan — 215; Cemetery Commissioner Kelly Woerdman — 180; Planning Board member Don Ellis — 175; Housing Authority member Teresa Santalucia — 200; Tree Warden Davis Hanlon — 192; Public Library Trustee (vote two) Dianna McDevitt — 192 — and Pamela Fager — 153; W-H School Committee members (vote two) Christopher Howard — 189 — and Michael Jones — 190; Water Commissioners (vote two) Donald Howard — 191 — and Gilbert Amado — 186. Scattered write-in votes were cast for a four-year seat on the Housing Authority, the Board of Health and assessor — races for which no candidate took out papers.