Earl Sweat seeks seat on Phillipston Selectboard

Earl Sweat is one of two candidates running for a one-year unexpired term on the Selectboard.

Earl Sweat is one of two candidates running for a one-year unexpired term on the Selectboard. PHOTO BY GREG VINE—


For the Athol Daily News

Published: 05-01-2024 2:15 PM

Modified: 05-06-2024 4:22 PM

PHILLIPSTON – Earl Sweat, a member of the Board of Assessors, has thrown his hat into the ring for a one-year term on the Selectboard.

He joins fellow resident Nicole Gough in the contest to serve out the remaining year of former board member Dan Sanden’s term. Sanden resigned his seat earlier this year.

Sweat, who lives on Royalston Road, has served on the Board of Assessors for two years. Sweat said his involvement with the board is his first experience in municipal government.

“I’ve been interested in town government since I was a kid,” he said. “My father and grandfather were both selectmen in the town that they grew up in.”

Sweat said it was after noting a dearth of contested races on local election ballots that he decided to look into running for office.

“I’ve always voted since the day I moved here, and prior to that, in previous communities,” he said. “The ballots were getting to the point where, in many cases in Phillipston, all the way down the ballot there was one person running for each position – either an incumbent or just one name for each office. In my mind, it was a little disturbing that we didn’t have enough people running. You didn’t really have a choice, you just picked whoever was on the ballot.”

A couple of years ago, Sweat was voting, and noticed a seat on the Board of Assessors had no one running for it. He reached out to Town Clerk Karin Foley to discuss the responsibilities of serving on the board. Sweat was ultimately appointed to fill the vacancy until the next election, at which time he was elected as one of the town’s three assessors.

Sweat said he checked with Foley and was told he could serve as both assessor and, if elected, a member of the Selectboard. Sweat said his main impetus for running is to encourage more participation in town government.

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“I think the biggest concern moving forward is finding a way to get more involvement from the residents, whether it’s getting them to show up at meetings, whether it’s establishing a better channel of communication to them,” he said. “If we’re going to move forward and govern the town, it requires getting the people of the town to understand what’s going on and get their feedback on it. Right now, there isn’t a whole of involvement on the part of the citizens. I don’t know what it’s going to take to increase that involvement, but I think there’s a great opportunity.

“Let’s get to the voters. If we’re going to spend their money, let’s find out what they want it spent on.”

A native of Keene, New Hampshire, Sweat graduated from high school in Winchester, New Hampshire. He then headed northwest to attend Rogue Valley Community College in Grants Pass, Oregon, where he majored in computer science. After a year at RVCC, he decided to return to Keene, where he began a career in the restaurant business.

“I took a job in Gardner in 1996 and after commuting to Gardner from New Hampshire for a year I decided to relocate to this area,” Sweat said. “Phillipston was one of the communities that had drawn my eye. It was a small town, which was closer to what I was used to, having grown up in one in southern New Hampshire.”

After a number of years in the restaurant business, he took a role in a human resources business for three years. For the last five years he’s been a loss prevention auditor for a New England-based restaurant chain – the same chain he used to work for.

Sweat lives in Phillipston with his wife Rebecca, whom he said encouraged his candidacy.

“She has actually told me for years that I should get more involved if I want to see changes made,” he said.

Phillipston’s annual Town Election will be held on Monday, May 20. Polls at Phillipston Town Hall will be open from noon to 8 p.m.

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