It was a good day to be an incumbent in Whitman and Hanson as voters cast ballots in the annual town elections Saturday, May 16, and both towns may benefit in the future from losing candidates who ran positive, issues-based challenges and indicated a willingness to run for office again.
In Hanson, where 17 percent of voters turned out, incumbent selectmen Don Howard (493) and James McGahan (681) were re-elected despite a respectable showing by challengers Annmarie Bouzan (403) and Joseph R. Weeks III (371). Whitman Town Clerk Dawn Varley (618) also bested challenger Catherine Gage (236) in a contest that saw 9 percent of the town’s 9,491 voters cast ballots.
Arlene Dias, LPN won Hanson’s other contested race — for an open seat on the Board of Health over Plymouth County Mosquito Control Commissioner Kimberley King, 646-406.
The ballot question concerning technology upgrades for the schools passed in both towns [see related story].
“No change in the board — that tells me that people of Hanson are happy with the direction we’re moving and I’m really excited about it,” McGahan said as supporters congratulated him. “But I really think we should thank Annmarie and Joe Weeks for stepping up and trying their best. I have a lot of respect for both of them.”
“I’m pleased,” Howard said of his re-election. “I wanted the people to vote and I got the opinion that they wanted me back in as selectman so I’ll do everything I can to work for them.”
McGahan and Howard both said continuing to push for solutions to school issues will remain on the board’s front burner, as well as some of the ideas fostered by the other candidates.
“I would love sidewalks in this town, I really mean that. We’ve talked about it,” McGahan said, echoing a major issue put forth by Weeks.
“Anything for the kids has got to be it,” Howard said. “Adults in Hanson, or any town, are responsible for the children … they’ve got to have good schools and equipment.”
Bouzan, while disappointed said she tried her hardest and will likely run for office again.
“I ran a really fair and great race and I feel like I’ll be back,” she said. “The voters chose the right two candidates for them and it was a learning experience for me and I’m happy to have taken part in that.”
She said she will not lose sight of what she stands for or what goes on in town as she becomes involved in different areas of the town government.
Weeks, too, is leaving that door open saying if he can contribute to the town in anyway he will.
“I’m obviously a little disappointed that I didn’t win, but I think the town has spoken and Don and Jim are the right men for the job,” he said. “I wish them nothing but success.”
Dias said she was excited by her win and pledged to make education and emergency preparedness the first orders of business.
“I’m going to look forward to doing a lot of things,” she said. “There’s so much information that’s available that people aren’t aware of, and I think we should be a resource for people in the town.”
King said she is happy to see a new face on the Board of Health.
“Arlene is a good addition to the board and I congratulate her,” she said. “I’ll be staying active nothing’s going to change.”
In fact, King will be holding her annual public meeting on mosquito-borne diseases and control practices at 6:30 p.m., Thursday, May 28 at Hanson Middle School.
King’s young son asked her if she had won over “the bad guys.”
“There’s no bad guys,” she told him.
Both Whitman Town Clerk candidates expressed appreciation for one another’s campaigns and voter support.
“I’m proud,” Varley said. “The townspeople believed in me. That makes me feel good — it would make anybody feel good — and I promised them that I’d do a fantastic job for the next three years, like I’ve done in the first three.”
She said Gage gave her a hug and congratulations after the votes were announced, which Varley appreciated.
“I was not surprised that I had an opponent,” Varley said. “I think it makes you stronger, especially when you win and you’re doing a good job.”
Gage, who stressed her run was an effort to use her customer-service experience to become involved in her town, said she would most likely run for office again.
“I am so appreciative of the people and the support that I did have, and I was very happy in the end,” Gage said. “This was my first time running and I felt good at the end. I was a little disappointed I didn’t get in, but I’m very happy with what I did do in the past months.”
Varley said that, while she ran the election as the job requires, she recused herself from handling absentee ballots and the vote-counting Saturday night.
Write-in campaigns were also waged for offices in both towns, as James Arena III garnered 70 write-in votes for Hanson Cemetery Commissioner, a position he sought after no other candidates came forward.
In Whitman, Conservation Commission member Joshua Kimball was less successful with his write-in effort for a seat on the Planning Board, which he began shortly after he missed the filing deadline because he was out of town. Wayne Andrews won the four-year term with 596 votes to Kimball’s 87.
A landscape operations manager for a Walpole company, said he had been confident of his chances in light of support he’d seen on Facebook, as he held his signs across the street from Town Hall.