PEPPERELL — One challenger is talking recount, but the early returns show North Middlesex Regional School Committee Chairman Arnie Silva Jr. winning re-election by a margin of 13 votes.
Results posted shortly after the polls closed Monday night showed Silva with 709 votes, placing him ahead of challengers Jonna Clermont (696) and James Burson (206).
Speaking afterwards, Silva was subdued, but happy with the outcome.
“It was a tough campaign,” he said. “I would have felt better if I’d won by more, but it is an election and you win by what you win by.”
“I’ll do the best I can to keep the things moving forward, working hard for bettering the district,” he added.
The campaign for School Committee included both Clermont and Burson leveling sharp criticism of recent trends at North Middlesex, most notably the arrangement that has Superintendent of Schools Maureen Marshall splitting time between two districts, along with accusations the schools have become top heavy with administrators.
Clermont, who said several times she’d likely request a recount, suggested the results likely would have been different, had it been a two-way race.
“I think that with three people in the race, I think there was a bit of a spoiler,” she said. “I think Jim and I thought a lot alike and had he not been in the race I probably could have won.”
Town Clerk Lois Libby said a written petition would be required for any recount request. She added that all absentee ballots were counted that night.
Elsewhere, freelance writer and town webmaster Jeff Sauer prevailed in the seven-way race to become Pepperell’s next Town Clerk, earning 658 votes, some 311 more than runner-up, Deb Carney.
Sauer, who was endorsed by Libby for the job, said he intends to continue his largely volunteer webmaster duties for the town, saying one of the main reasons he got involved with local government was to help disseminate information to the public.
“I guess I’d like to thank people for getting involved,” he said. “This is a great turnout and that’s the reason I’m doing it.”
The town clerk position was opened by the retirement of Libby after 24 years at the post.
The field of candidates to succeed Libby also included Assistant Town Treasurer Debbie Nutter (189), medical billing specialist Emilie Presnall (180), recent college graduate Meagan Colburn (160), teacher Bonnie Shattuck (134) , and local business owner Deborah Simard (85).
The only other contested race on the ballot was between a pair of newcomers for Planning Board, where environmental consultant Matthew Nesbit bested Shirley Planning Board Clerk Anna Macdonald by a tally of 720 to 692.
The election marked Nesbit’s first foray into elected office, though he has served for the past two years on the town committee dedicated to promoting reuse of the old mill complex just off Route 113 and the Nashua River.
Asked about the win, Nesbit acknowledged it was a close race, but he added his pair of campaign signs — made by his second-grade daughter and one of her classmates — likely gave him the winning edge.
“I think the signs are what did it,” he said.
All told, 1,762 ballots were cast, putting voter participation at nearly 22 percent of Pepperell’s 8,075 registered voters. Libby said figure was slightly higher than average, adding no complaints or other voting related hitches were reported during the day.
In the unopposed races, Board of Selectmen Chairman Joe Sergi earned another three-year term with 1,052 votes, versus 288 write-in votes for other candidates. Other candidates were re-elected by the following tallies:
* Assessor, Michael Coffey, 1,344 votes.
* Board of Public Works, Gregory Rice 1,332 votes.
* Recreation Commissioner David Priddle, 1,319 votes.
* Board of Health, John Marriner, 1,325 votes.
* Board of Health Alfred Buckley 1,263 votes.
* Housing Authority, Katherine Harris, 1,311 votes.
* Housing Authority, James Triehy, 1,294 votes.
* Library Trustees Charles Burnham, 1,309 votes.
* Library Trustees Schulyer Minckler, 1,128 votes.