PEPPERELL — She was not born in Pepperell, but after having lived in the town for 35 years, Nandee Willets feels close enough to the community to represent it.
“I decided to run for selectman because I know a lot of people in town… I’m running for the town, to represent the people,” she said.
Willets, 57, took out nomination papers for the soon-to-be expired seat on the Board of Selectmen. As of last week she is the only candidate to have pulled papers. Selectman Patrick McNabb is stepping down from the position this spring.
The candidate elected during the annual spring election in April will join Joseph Sergi and Michael Green on the board, and will serve for a term of three years.
“I think I am very different than Joe Sergi and Mike Green,” said Willets. “The people that I tend to speak with are — it sounds like a funny word — but the common people, who have been here for a while; people who are the taxpayers, but that don’t have children in the school system or have never had children in the school system.”
According to Willets, most of the residents she spoke with regarding her candidacy are excited that a “regular” person is running for a town position. She said the term “regular” has been thrown around a lot in discussions.
“You know, people know I’m just a regular person who hasn’t been involved in government before. I’m a very fair person, I’m a good listener and I wouldn’t be making emotional decisions. I’d be making decisions based on the facts presented.”
Willets believes that if elected, she could better involve those in town who otherwise do not involve themselves in town politics.
“There are a lot of boards that people don’t approach because they feel that some of the people who sit on the boards are unapproachable. Well, I’m a very approachable person. I’m very downtown; I live downtown.”
The longtime resident was born in Marlboro and grew up in West Groton as the second oldest of six children. She moved to Pepperell in 1976 and opened up a farm that is still in business.
“I’m a little bit different because I’m in the farm world. I’ve been in the agriculture business my whole life,” said Willets. “Pepperell has been known as an agricultural community. That’s something that’s so important to me in Pepperell — that we have a rural flavor.”
The farm is called the Rivers Edge Farm because it is down by the Pepperell covered bridge, between the Nashua and Nissitissit rivers.
“I do a lot of volunteer work and I’ve been in the animal rescuing world all of my life, which is probably my driving force,” said Willets. “I actually have a mentoring program and I sponsor children in 4-H. I like to do a lot of philanthropist-type work, too.”
As a horse-riding instructor, Willets teaches children how to saddle up and mentors them in life skills and problem-solving. She claims that by working hands-on with the animals, children are able to see and learn things differently.
Aside from horse, the farm also raises animals such as cattle, pigs, rabbits, goats, and chicken. As part of a 4-H project, they are also currently raising a steer.
Willets worked in retail for some time, which she believes helped make her so comfortable talking with other people. She worked for a farm-based business, Agway on Route 119 in Littleton, until she was forced to leave permanently in 1997.
“I’m a Stage 4 cancer survivor and after my last treatment, which was in December 1986, I had to have my right leg amputated above the knee,” she said.
Surviving cancer gave Willets a new outlook on life.
“I really learned a lot about the world and about what’s important to me in life. I really have a theory that I’m a lemonade-maker, and I truly believe that everyday is a gift, that’s why they call it the present,” she said.
Being disabled allots her more time to spend on town issues.
“I want to make myself available to people because I don’t have a 9-to-5 job. I really feel I have a lot of time to be able to spend on the job of being the town’s selectman,” assured Willets. “If I’m elected, I would like to make myself available to anybody with questions and do the best job I can to try and answer their questions and address their concerns.”