AYER — As the window closed at 5 p.m. Monday afternoon at the Ayer Town Clerk’s office, a bevy of contested races materialized for the April 25 Town Election.
There’s a three-way race for two selectman’s seats. Nomination papers for incumbent Jim Fay and former selectman Pauline Conley had been in for weeks. On Monday, nomination papers were submitted, too, for Finance Committee Vice Chairman Jesse Reich, who’s seeking a selectman seat. Reich’s signatures were submitted by his wife, Alene.
Alene Reich, who is the chairman of the Community Preservation Committee, turned in her own nomination papers for a vacant seat with a 2-year balance remaining to be served on the Planning Board. That vacancy occurred when Jennifer Gibbons resigned in December. Glenn Garber also resigned the board at that time. To fill the remaining 4-year balance of that vacant seat, Ayer developer Richard Roper Sr. has secured that ballot spot. Reich and Roper are running uncontested for the 2- and 4-year seats, respectively.
It became clear on Monday that the Planning Board Chairman, Stephen Wentzell, will not seek another turn on the board when his 5-year term lapses in April. Instead, Wentzell will challenge incumbent Town Clerk and Tax Collector John Canney.
The Clerk and Collector posts are separate. While in theory a different person could be elected to the separate offices, tradition has been for one person to wear both the Clerk and Collector hats simultaneously.
Canney has worn both hats for the past year since his April 2010 election win. Canney took over both offices following the retirement of 18-year dual office veteran Ann Callahan. Callahan resigned with one year left remaining on her 3-year term. April’s election will be for a fresh 3-year term for both the clerk and collector positions.
It appeared Canney was going to be unchallenged until midafternoon on Friday, March 4. That’s when Wentzell visited the clerk’s office a few hours before the 5 p.m. deadline to pull nomination papers. Wentzell said of Canney, “he’s a very well liked guy, a nice guy, but everyone deserves a challenger.”
Over the weekend, Wentzell obtained the signatures needed and turned the nomination papers into the town clerk’s office on Monday. Wentzell said it was not a snap decision.
“I started thinking about it two weeks ago and I found it hard to believe that no one was running against the incumbent. It got real close and I said I think I can do better,” said Wentzell. “I waited until two to three hours before the deadline and I saw that no one’s running so I threw my hat in the ring. It wasn’t a spontaneous thing. I thought about it a lot.”
Wentzell had previously hoped aloud that another candidate would surface to seek the seat he occupies on the Planning Board. One did. Jeremy Callahan, Ann Callahan’s son, gathered the signatures needed to become the sole candidate on the printed ballot for the 5-year Planning Board seat.
In response to Wentzell’s challenge, Canney said: “I’m thankful for the opportunity to serve the people of Ayer for one year. I’ve worked hard in the position and have been open minded in what I’ve done. I hope that’s a good jumping off point for the voters.”
In another ballot matter, Canney said though the Ayer School Committee is to dissolve on June 30 to make way for the Ayer Shirley Regional School Committee on July 1, there was question as to how two Ayer School Committee members would remain aboard through June. That’s because the 3-year terms for Daniel Gleason and Patrick Kelly are technically to expire with the spring election. Canney said Town Administrator Robert Pontbriand consulted with town counsel, Kopelman and Paige, who stated the two should appear on the ballot as seeking full fresh 3-year terms. Neither is opposed on the printed ballot.
Kelly and Gleason, meanwhile, were already elected last year to serve on the regional school committee. Kelly was elected to a 3-year term, and Gleason to a 2-year term last May. So the Ayer ballot matter is, in some ways, a formality in handing the baton to themselves to govern the blended districts this summer.
There is also a three way race for one constable post. John Cerulli, Henry Pare and Richard Skoczylas have secured ballot posts. It would have been a four way race but Bertrand Kushinsky was short three signatures of the minimum 26 necessary to earn a ballot position.
The ballot spots are as follows, according to the Town Clerk’s Office:
BOARD OF ASSESSORS – (3 member board)
one 3-year term – C. Edward Cornellier (incumbent)
one 1-year term – Paul D. Bresnahan, currently a selectmen appointee following resignation of the Sandy Jones, since deceased.
AYER SHIRLEY REGIONAL SCHOOL COMMITTEE – one 3-year term available (3 Ayer and 3 Shirley representatives on the 6 member board)
Michele L. Granger
AYER SCHOOL COMMITTEE – two 3-year terms available (a 5 member board which is to disband on 6/30/3011)
Daniel W. Gleason (incumbent)
Patrick William Kelly (incumbent)
BOARD OF HEALTH – one 3-year term available (3 member board)
Marilyn C. McMillan (incumbent)
COMMISSIONER OF TRUST FUNDS – one 3-year term available (3 member board)
Francis P. Callahan (incumbent)
CONSTABLE – one 3-year term available (There are presently 3 elected constables)
John J. Cerulli (incumbent)
Richard W. Skoczylas
Henry L. Pare
HOUSING AUTHORITY – one 5-year term available (5 member board)
Karin D. Dynice-Swanfeldt (incumbent)
LIBRARY TRUSTEES – one 3-year term available (2 elected on 8 member board)
Louise A. Bresnahan (incumbent)
PARK COMMISSION – two 3-year terms available (5 member board)
PLANNING BOARD – (5 member board)
5 year term – Jeremy T. Callahan
4 year term – Richard D. Roper Sr.
2-year term – Alene Wilmoth Reich
SELECTMEN, BOARD OF – two 3-year terms available (5 member board)
James M. Fay (incumbent)
TAX COLLECTOR – one 3-year term available
John C. Canney II (incumbent)
Stephen C. Wentzell
TOWN CLERK – one 3-year term available
John C. Canney II (incumbent)
Stephen C. Wentzell
TREE WARDEN – one 3-year term available
Mark A. Dixon (incumbent)
The last day to register to vote for either the Town Election or the Annual Town Meeting is Tuesday, April 5, at 8 p.m. at the Ayer town clerk’s office.
The Town Election will be held Monday, April 25, with polls open in the Great Hall of Ayer Town Hall from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
The Annual Town Meeting will be held Monday, May 9, at 7 p.m. at Ayer High School auditorium.