Three of our local towns will hold annual town elections next Monday. Pepperell has no contests but Ayer and Townsend do.
In Ayer, our choices are Gary Luca and Carolyn McCreary for selectman.
In the case of candidate Mark Coulter, we did sense a sincere desire to get involved with community governance but we would have preferred more experience in elected/appointed capacity.
In Faye Morrison, we saw experience but not the type that will benefit the town. While Mrs. Morrison is meticulous in observing certain forms of etiquette (such as the use of “Mr.” and “Mrs.” in addressing people), she’s had some serious lapses on important matters.
A brief sampling: She seconded a motion for an illegal secret ballot vote at a public meeting last year, tried to force an employee complaint against a fellow selectman into executive session by withholding all information, and her handling of the Ayer train station issue reveals a stance that favors a friend who is seeking office by riding that very issue.
The question of favoritism is one worth expanding on. It’s clear Morrison treats those on her “team” differently than those who are not. Anyone who doubts that can watch a board meeting and note how certain people can speak out at will while those less favored are rigorously expected to channel all comments through Chairman Morrison, that is if she recognizes them at all.
That double standard also feeds into the meeting agenda, specifically what makes it and what does not. We are still waiting for the selectmen to address a letter from the Department of Environmental Protection about boards that were “stolen” by “vandals” from a town dam. Though the removal of the boards created a potential public safety hazard, it was not pursued by the chairman. A “team” member was allowed to speak, those non-team members with questions were not.
Carolyn McCreary has not served as an elected official in Ayer, but has been involved with a number of civic organizations including the Comprehensive Plan Implementation Committee and the town Capital Planning Committee. These activities signify a commitment to working for the community and a body of shared experience in town governance that can benefit a member sitting on the board.
Though the Board of Selectmen is seemingly unique among town boards regarding both the diversity of issues tackled and the intensity with which they are debated, McCreary appears to have a fair and rational approach, which are attributes the board could use more of.
In the case of Gary Luca, his r sum for public service is more slight, but we give the nod in appreciation of the interest he’s shown in the position as well as his potential.
Luca has served as a town official and has been attending a variety of public meetings, including regular attendance at selectmen’s meetings. In all cases, and long before he announced his candidacy, he’s come across as approachable — someone you could bring your concerns to. That’s an important quality for a small-town selectman to have.
Perhaps just as important, Luca appears to have no alliances with other board members, which could help break up the 3-2 lockstep voting pattern in the upcoming year and open matters up for serious discussion. Coupled with the management experience in his professional life, we feel he’d be a good bet as a selectman.
In Townsend, two-term incumbent Selectman Dan Murphy is being challenged by Maureen Denig. Both bring experience of varying kinds to the office, but the choice for us is clear.
Townsend’s town government has experienced some rough times in the last decade. These bad years would have gone on if Murphy had continued to be outvoted at every turn by two other members. Not until Bob Plamondon joined the board last year did things start to turn around. Some tough but necessary decisions have been made.
While many candidates will claim to be fiscal conservatives, Murphy, an accountant by trade, truly is one. He spends the town’s funds as though they were his own. Also the town’s elected town clerk, Murphy is present in Memorial Hall on a daily basis and is available when needed. He brings stability to the office.
Challenger Maureen Denig has served the town well in many capacities, but the stakes are far higher here. A selectman has significant power and the alliances of potential members should be well understood before the ballot box is checked.
A ride through Townsend’s neighborhoods brings a rather frightening specter. While there is no question that Denig has supporters, some of the lawns that sport signs for Denig belong to personalities whose service to Townsend has proven costly and destructive.
These anti-Murphy votes are also anti-Townsend.
The vast majority of townspeople pretty much ignore what goes on in a Town Hall. Though the demands of everyday life are understood and shared by all, to ignore the seat of your town’s government is done at your peril.
Townsend taxpayers have spent huge sums of money in payment for the bad behaviors of some town officials. A group of those same people are working hard in their lust to rid Memorial Hall of the straight-laced and unshakable Murphy. Don’t let them do it.
Dan Murphy for selectman.