AYER — The Board of Selectmen is whole again, as Shaun Copeland won Tuesday night’s Special Election for a vacant seat on the board.
Copeland defeated former Selectman Pauline Conley, former Conservation Commissioner David Bodurtha and local resident Ruth Maxant-Schulz in a race to complete the three-year term of Christopher Hillman, who resigned in August. Hillman’s term was set to expire in 2022.
Out of 514 total votes combined from Ayer’s two precincts, Copeland earned 372 votes to claim the victory. Conley garnered 100 votes, Bodurtha took in 29 votes and Maxant-Schulz brought in 12 votes, with one write-in vote added from Precinct 1.
“I’m very excited,” Copeland said at Town Hall where the results were announced. “One way or another for me, it was an exciting opportunity. I’m glad it went this way, but either way I’m glad to be of service to the town.”
“It was a good race,” Bodurtha said after the results were announced. “I think all four people were good alternatives for the board. I wish I made it but hey, there’s another election in April so I’ll run again. I’m glad to see we got some new blood.”
Maxant-Schulz, who gathered signatures from town residents to have the town hold the Special Election to begin with, said she was feeling “fine” with the results that she described as “not unexpected the way the town is being run.”
“My goal when I started collecting signatures was to make sure that we had a fully-functioning board,” she added.
Though Copeland, 45, has only lived in Ayer since August, he grew up on Fort Devens when it was still a working military base and even graduated from Ayer High School before it merged with Shirley in 2011.
Town Clerk Susan Copeland is his sister-in-law.
Copeland spent the last five years living in Shirley, but waited tables at Tiny’s restaurant for the last six years while attending graduate school at Salem State University. He’s currently a social worker in the Leominster office of the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families.
With his first Board of Selectmen meeting scheduled for Wednesday, Copeland said he’s looking to focus on working collaboratively with other town boards, continuing the success of the local school system, supporting the “thriving economic development community” and establishing affordable housing opportunities.
“In 1996, they thought Ayer was no longer going to exist once the Army base closed,” he added. “To see where it is now, it’s amazing. I would like to work towards ways to make sure that there’s housing available to starting-out nurses, our firemen, our Police Department, our teachers and our service industry workers. Those are the people who help make a community a community.”