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In the 22 years since she began working for the town, Patty Dubey has never seen so many candidates lining up to run for office in the local election.
“This is the most that’s ever been,” she said at the March 31 Select Board meeting, “especially for the School Committee — quite popular.”
But with COVID-19, also known as the coronavirus, hovering over this year’s elections, Dubey and her staff are faced with challenges never before experienced in recent memory. That prompted the select board members, at Dubey’s recommendation, to push back the date of the town-wide election from May 5 to June 30 in the hope that things would be back to normal. As it stands, no one knows if Gov. Charlie Baker’s March 10 state of emergency order will still be in effect. Voters may be casting absentee ballots instead of heading to the polls. For Dubey and her staff, however, that could mean wearing protective gear when handling the ballots to avoid being exposed to the virus.
“There’s a lot of moving parts here,” said Dubey.
In all, there are 11 open seats for various boards and committees, and 17 certified candidates.
There are two open seats on the Board of Health and two incumbents. They are Zac Cataldo and Michele Pitoniak-Crawford who are each seeking to serve another three-years.
On the Select Board, incumbent Tom Clay is seeking another three-year term, while Elizabeth Almeida is not running again. Vying for the seats are Anita Tonakarn Nguyen and Andrew M. Spanos.
On the Board of Library Trustees, Hajo Koester is not seeking re-election, dissolving any competition for incumbent Robert Price, who is seeking to serve another three-year term. Lynn Clermont will run for Koester’s open seat.
Angela Harkness is competing with incumbent Susan Spuhler for the town moderator’s three-year term.
Gary Lavelle’s three-year term on the Planning Board is ending. He is seeking the open five-year term along with challenger Robert Shaffer.
But the race that’s drawing all the attention is the School Committee, with two open seats and six candidates. Incumbent Megan Eckroth, who served a three-year term and is not running again, did not reply to an email seeking comment.
The two openings inspired the following figures to jump into the race:
Jannelle Cioffi, Paul Kravitz, Arthur Benoit, Valery Young, and Terry Ryan. Benoit and Ryan have each served on the Committee before. Incumbent Gloria Miller is also in the race.
Despite the unknown challenges that may be in store, Dubey expressed enthusiasm for the democratic election process.
“Personally, I find the town elections the most fun because you know the cast of characters involved,” Dubey said.
UPDATE: – Corrected — With Elizabeth Almeida not seeking another term, there are two open seats on the Select Board and three candidates, including incumbent Tom Clay.