Low turnouts for annual Town Elections are nothing new, but — while an override question in Hanson brought out voters — a nail-biting four-way School Committee contest in Whitman was not enough to boost turnout, according to results.
Only 9 percent — 914 — of Whitman’s 10,900 registered voters cast ballots. In Hanson 1,766 —about 22 percent — of the town’s 7,969 registered voters, cast ballots, according to Town Clerk Elizabeth Sloan.
She attributed the difference in turnout to the $1.8 million override question, which Hanson voters passed, in a break with tradition, by a vote of 1,072 to 677.
“First of all, I’m relieved,” Hanson Police Chief Michael Miksch said of the override result. “The thought of losing seven positions would have been detrimental to our ability to support the town.”
Six officers would have been cut and another position unfilled if the override had failed.
I am pleased that the override passed,” Fire Chief Jerome Thompson Jr. said. “This will allow us to continue to provide fire and EMS services at our current level. I would like to thank all the residents that came out to vote. The men and women of the Hanson Fire Department appreciate the continued support.”
The Fire Department had faced the prospect of losing four firefighters had the override failed.
“I’m very grateful to the residents and we look forward to serving them as we have in the past,” Miksch said.
Anti-override resident Mark Vess called it “a most tragic day” for the town of Hanson.
“The town of Hanson has been pitted against the Whitman School Committee and I’m very disappointed that the people that are recovering from Coronavirus, that have been put out of work, that are marginally of income are going to take this in the neck if it passes.”
Election results made official by Whitman Town Clerk Dawn Varley, show two races in the Saturday, May 15 Town Election were decided by six votes.
Incumbent Selectman Dan Salvucci received 443 votes to Rosemary Connolly’s 497.
“Every vote counts,” Salvucci said while sign-holding Satuday morning.
“You’re always a winner when you vote and you speak up,” Connolly said a sshe waved to motorists. “You’re always a winner when you have a voice — you change things. You make change just by running.”
There were 31 blanks and three write-ins. Incumbent School Committee member Fred Small returned for another term with a 406 to 400-vote margin over challenger Heather Clough.
“I’m hoping that my background with education advocacy really speaks to the voters and that they realize that I will do whatever I can to help all of their kids recover from the pandemic,” Clough said, expressing cautious optimism about her campaign.
Incumbent Christopher Scriven coasted to re-election with 525 votes.
He noted that he had a good support system as he commented the School Committee needed more solidarity.
“We need some leadership that’s going to take us in that direction,” Scriven said, also taking note of the number of candidates running for School Committee. “You’ve got to love the interest. It can’t be a bad thing.”
Another of those challengers, William Haran, 21, who is an education major in college received 231 votes.
“Either way, I’ve won by getting information out there and starting conversations,” Haran said of his campaign while holding a sign across the street from Whitman Town Hall Saturday morning. He said he got involved in politics last year when he supported School Committee member David Forth’s campaign.
“Most of the people I’ve walked up to with fliers had already heard of my campaign or were already leaning toward voting for me,” Haran said.
While Connolly put out a letter to constituents over the weekend indicating she would seek a recount, Varley said she has heard nothing yet. Connolly has 10 days — or until May 25 — to request a recount.
“Anybody can ask for a recount — even if it’s 100 votes,” Varley said, noting that it won’t be apparent until 5 p.m., Tuesday, May 25 if there will be a recount.
“With such a narrow margin of only 6 votes, I am moving forward to initiate the process of a recount of ballots, by hand,” Connolly posted online in a message to supporters. “This process is formally outlined by the Secretary of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts with timelines and requirements to collect 10 signatures from registered voters from each of the four precincts in Whitman.”
She asked voters to contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 617-872-7751 if they wished to support a recount.
For his part, Salvucci thanked the voters for their support.
“Both Rosemary Connolly, and I kept our race for the Board of Selectman above board, with class and energy,” he said. “Winning by such a close amount of votes shows that voters considered both of us as valid candidates.”
That’s her right,” Salvucci said when contacted for comment on Connolly’s interest in a recount. “I’ll be there when it’s done if she get the signatures that are required.”
Small said, in a letter to the Express [see page 10] that he had heard some of his campaign efforts were “a bit much” for a School Committee race.
“While I can understand that sentiment that is not me, if something is worth doing it should be done to the best of your ability,” he stated. “If I am in it, I’m in it to win it!”
Hanson incumbent Selectman Matt Dyer was re-elected with 1,012 votes and Joe Weeks was elected to fill the vacancy left by Selectman Wes Blauss’ decision not to run again — “It’s not my thing,” Blauss said. “I’m done with politics.”
“I think I’ll do alright,” Weeks said about his chances.
Weeks received 903 votes. Write-in candidate Jessica Keegan received 362 votes.
Dyer and Weeks expressed optimism in their chances as they held signs and Dyer said he felt the override would pass as the town saw it’s promise.
For School Committee, Michelle Bourgelas won in the race to fill former Committee Chairman Bob Hayes’ seat, with Daniel Stautman garnering 534 votes.
“I’m thrilled to be elected to the W-H school committee,” she said Saturday evening. “I look forward serving the citizens of Hanson and can’t wait to get started. Thank you to the town for the overwhelming support.”
She had expressed optimism earlier in the day as she held a sign outside Hanson Middle School.
There were nine write-ins and 216 blank ballots returned in that contest.
“I feel pretty good about it,” Strautman said, noting he had been frequently stopped during canvassing by people wanting to talk to him about his campaign.
“I always say, when I meet people, they’re meeting me,” he said, noting his job as a pharmacist gave him some facial recognition with people, even when it didn’t click right away. “It’s great to see those people that I really haven’thad a nonprofessional interaction with recognize me as an individual.”
He said he doesn’t plan on going anywhere win or lose.
Hayes opted to retire from the School Committee after 18 years — 15 of them as chairman [see story page one].