GROTON -- With the town's election day approaching fast and the deadline for filing nomination papers past, the field of candidates seeking office has firmed up, and while there will be a number of familiar faces on the campaign trail, there will also be a few new ones as well.
Unfortunately for residents in general and municipal government in particular, however, there are also a handful of open seats on various boards and committees that have no candidates in the offing -- not a good thing for the committees and the smooth execution of their duties.
For instance, the Groton Housing Authority has one seat open with a five-year term and no takers while the Parks Commission has two seats of three-year terms each available with only incumbent Robert Flynn seeking re-election.
There, longtime members Don Black and Jeffrey Ohringer have decided not to seek re-election.
Although the deadline has passed for submitting nomination papers, last-minute candidates for the open seats might still emerge as write-in candidates.
According to Town Clerk Michael Bouchard, a write-in candidate could win with as little as a single vote. However, the winner need not accept it.
But if a write-in campaign is contemplated, Bouchard said it would be best to inform him of the effort to ensure a smooth process.
In the meantime, by a quirk of fate, two seats on the Board of Selectmen have suddenly become competitive, with incumbents Joshua Degen and Stuart Schulman each seeking re-election to new three-year terms while newcomer Justin Halleran will seek an upset.
Early on, Schulman, who has already served two terms as selectman, was uncertain whether he was going to run again, but when candidates failed to emerge, he decided to go for a third term after all. Soon after, Halleran submitted papers to the town clerk.
Halleran's appearance on the scene prompted questions whether Schulman would pull out of the race, but the current board chairman said he intended to stay in. Once having decided on something, he said, his inclination is to see it through.
There will be one other contested race this election day -- that of the Water Commission, for which a single open seat with a three-year term will be vied over by Mark Deuger and David Crocker.
On the Groton-Dunstable Regional School Committee, incumbents John Giger and Leslie Lathrop will each run for another three-year term while newcomer Thomas Steinfeld will seek two years on the committee to fill out the unexpired term of Berta Erickson, who resigned recently due to illness.
Other races with at least two open seats involve incumbents seeking re-election with no challengers: Giger again will seek re-election to the Planning Board along with fellow incumbent George Barringer, each for three-year terms, while Mark Gerath and Nancy Foley Wilder will each seek re-election for three-year terms as trustees of the Groton Public Library.
Newcomer Leslie Wickfield will seek a three-year term on the Commission of Trust Funds.
Also open with no one to challenge incumbents are one seat on the Board of Assessors for a term of three years currently occupied by Rena Swezey; one seat on the Sewer Commission for a term of three years currently occupied by James Gmeiner; one seat on the Electric Light Commission for a term of three years currently occupied by Rodney Hersh; one seat on the Board of Health for a term of three years currently occupied by Robert Fleischer.
To help guide candidates, the town clerk's office will make available information from the state's Office of Campaign and Political Finance regarding campaign-finance regulations and practices. Candidates are reminded that before incurring any expenses or receiving any campaign funds, they must first file a statement of organization.
The deadline for registering to vote at the annual election and town meeting is April 9.
Spring Town Meeting is scheduled for April 22.
Election day and the special state primary for candidates seeking the U.S. Senate seat recently vacated by Secretary of State John Kerry will both be held on April 30.