Polls open Thursday for Phillipston special election



For The Athol Daily News
Published: 2/23/2021 2:54:00 PM
Modified: 2/23/2021 2:53:59 PM

PHILLIPSTON — Voters in Phillipston head to the polls this week to choose a new member for the town’s Selectboard. The winner will fill the vacancy created by the resignation of Kim Pratt last November. Two candidates, Thomas Daoust and Bernie Malouin, are running for the open seat.

Daoust, 53, spent 26 years with the Fitchburg Police Department, retiring as head of the department’s detective bureau in 2019 following open heart surgery. He holds a master’s degree in criminal justice from Anna Maria College in Paxton.

Although retired, he does occasional consulting in cyber security.

Daoust has resided in Phillipston for 10 years. His wife is a hospitalist at Athol Hospital, and they have one daughter at Templeton Elementary School.

Malouin, 64, grew up in Leominster and has lived in Phillipston since 1989. After serving in the National Guard he went to work in the construction industry, a profession in which he is still involved. He is married with two grown children.

If elected, Malouin would be returning to a board on which he previously served two consecutive terms. Currently, he serves as chair of the Planning Board. He has been a member of that board for nearly 20 years. He has also served on several other town committees over the years.

Both candidates say they want to reduce the factionalism that has grown in town in recent years and bring civility back to the operation of town government. Each cited recent Selectboard meetings that were punctuated by shouting matches and cursing.

“I really do love this town,” said Daoust in an earlier interview. “I’ve dedicated my life to public service. If you’ve watched some of the recent board meetings, you know we need to start working together and communicating much better.” Daoust, whose daughter once attended Phillipston Memorial Elementary School, said straightening out the relationship between Phillipston and Templeton — both members of the Narragansett Regional School District — is also a priority. He believes the town should explore all options, including breaking away from the district altogether, considering ties with other communities, or sticking with the existing district for middle and high school while running PMES on its own — similar to Petersham’s arrangement with the Mahar Regional School District.

“We must consider what’s best for the kids,” he said.

Malouin said it appears the town needs more direction.

“It looks like the people presently operating the town ... need some help and guidance and experience,” he said recently. “It seems like they’re not sure in which direction to go. There’s a lot of misdirection, I guess you’d call it, and I hope to bring people together.”

He also cited municipal employee morale must be addressed.

“I think that’s certainly one of the issues,” he said. “Instead of working together, there’s more arguing than solving the issues at hand.

“Having served as Selectman before, I know what’s involved, to some degree. I think sometimes people get elected and take on more than they need to. I think that could be an issue with any position in town. There may be too much that one person is trying to do. Sometimes, when we try to do too much, we get nothing done.”

Voting in Thursday’s election will take place at the Town Hall from noon to 8 p.m.

Greg Vine can be reached at gvineadn@gmail.com

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