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In a curious and unusual turn of events, a candidate who had seemingly withdrawn from the May 2 race, won a seat on the Planning Board anyway.
Gary Lavelle was a certified candidate for the three-year seat also being sought by Tom Spuhler. But on April 18, Lavelle issued a written statement saying he was withdrawing from the election.
“Unfortunately, due to unforeseen circumstances, I will be removing myself from the race for the three-year term on the Planning Board…” Lavelle wrote. “…at this time I have some personal matters that require much attention.”
On April 26, Spuhler was seated in the audience at the Westford League of Women Voters Candidates Night. After the candidates in contested races completed their presentations, Spuhler introduced himself to the crowd as the sole candidate for the seat.
But when the election results came in, Lavelle received 1,718 votes to Spuhler’s 1,614.
Town Clerk Kaari Mai Tari stated Lavelle was sworn in as a voting member of the Planning Board on May 4.
“The candidate with the most votes wins and Gary Lavelle received the most votes,” she wrote in response to an emailed question.
Tari said Lavelle had had until March 30 to officially withdraw and remove his name from the ballot, according to state law. Because he missed the deadline, his name appeared on the ballot with no explanation of his withdrawal announcement from mid April.
Lavelle did not return a call seeking comment.
With Dylan O’Connor elected to a five-year seat on the Planning Board, the election brings two new members to the town governing body. Dennis Galvin, who had served for 12 years, did not seek re-election as a Planning Board member. The unexpired term he vacated paved the way for Lavelle and Spuhler to seek election for the remaining three years. After serving one term, Matt Lewin also opted not to seek re-election to the five-member Planning Board.
Galvin was one of three candidates vying for two seats on the Board of Selectmen. He was not successful in his bid.
Spuhler, who made an unsuccessful run for the Planning Board in 2008, is still coming to terms with the outcome.
“Seems like a curious way to engender the public’s trust,” he said.