Lee Chauvette seeks return to town government in upcoming Town Election


Chauvette Contributed photo


For the Athol Daily News

Published: 03-13-2024 3:50 PM

ATHOL – After a year’s absence, Lee Chauvette wants to re-enter the world of local politics, which he has been a part of for many years.

Chauvette, who previously served 20 years on the ARRSD School Committee and nine years on the Selectboard, is running to fill the one-year vacancy after T.J. Mallett III vacated his School Committee seat last May.

Christie Lynn Wehmeyer—who was appointed to fill the vacancy left by Mallett’s departure—has opted to run for one of the two three-year School Committee seats on the April 1 Town Election ballot.

Along with Chauvette, Jason Michael Savoy has announced his candidacy for the one-year seat. Attempts to reach Savoy for comment were not successful.

Chauvette said that after deciding not to run for re-election to the committee last year, he was content to pass the torch and focus on his health. Chauvette added that a major factor in his decision to run again was the number of messages he has received from voters and parents over the past year urging his return to the committee.

If elected to the one-year term, Chauvette said he was open to seeking a full three-year term on the committee in next year’s election.

“If the voters of Athol and Royalston do choose me for the one-year term, it will be a gauge for the future,” he said. “After my one-year absence, I have decided I don’t like the downtime. I would be open to going beyond one year if elected.”

The race for the one-year position on the School Committee is the only electoral contest on the ballot. Voters will also be asked to approve proposed changes to the Town Charter, as well as a $286,000 Proposition 2 ½ override to fund the hiring of three full-time paramedic/EMT/firefighters.

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The three issues at the top of Chauvette’s list are student performance, the budget and the condition of district buildings.

“We are still not fully where the state wishes us to be,” he said. “However, everyone is working hard to move us forward. Regarding the budget, after 20 years of budget experience, I am always cautiously optimistic regarding how to fill (budgetary) voids left after using one-time funding sources, like the ESSER grants in particular.”

Regarding the schools, Chauvette said that the district is fortunate to have two newer buildings—Athol Royalston Middle and Athol Community Elementary schools.

“Our largest and oldest building is Athol High School,” he said. “Several investments of the past few years have added some longevity to the building; new roofs, windows, doors. And the HVAC systems have been replaced. Any future investments must be made in the best interest of taxpayers.”

Chauvette was a member of the committee when it voted unanimously in May 2022 to hire Matt Ehrenworth – at the time the assistant superintendent of the Blackstone-Millville Regional School District – to replace departing ARRSD Superintendent Darcy Fernandes.

Asked about Ehrenworth’s job performance over the past 18 months,Chauvette believes the stabilization of community relationships and better communication have occurred.

“This is very important. I personally think we have to refocus our efforts regarding student performance,” Chauvette said. “I will state that everyone is working in the best interests of the students, including the superintendent.”

Chauvette, his wife Sharon, and two sons Corey and Kevin are all graduates of Athol High School. In addition to serving on the Selectboard, School Committee and others, he spent 20 years as a member of the Athol Fire Department. He took a medical billing course at Mount Wachusett Community College in Gardner in order to handle all aspects of the town ambulance service. He received his advanced EMT training at Greenfield Community College.

Greg Vine can be reached at gvineadn@gmail.com.