Write-in candidates fill seats in Petersham Election


For the Athol Daily News

Published: 03-07-2023 4:10 PM

PETERSHAM – Voters going to the polls for the annual Town Election Monday had to do a bit of writing to complete their ballots.

Because no one had taken out nomination papers by the deadline to be included on the ballot, voters wrote in the names of candidates for three very important positions.

As a result, Susan Dougherty received 83 write-in votes to earn a three-year term on the town’s Selectboard. Lynne Feldman collected 77 votes for a three-year term on the Petersham School Committee, and Aaron Kessman garnered 59 write-ins to fill the year left on the unexpired term of Tina Leslie, who had to resign from the School Committee after being hired for a position at the Center School.

Incumbents who ran unopposed for re-election included Moderator Bart Wendell – 111 votes; Treasurer Dana Robinson – 113; Board of Assessors, Ellen Anderson – 102; Board of Health, Stephen Loring – 109; Planning Board, John Lawson – 110; Planning Board, Fraser Sinclair – 112; Trustees of the Public Library, Kent Byron – 114. All terms are for three years.

A total of 123 voters—11 percent of those registered—showed up at the polls. There were no contested races.

Two years ago, with questions regarding how best to respond to the COVID pandemic and the future of the now-razed Nichewaug Inn and Academy foremost in voters minds, three people stepped forward to seek one open seat on the Selectboard. Last year, enough candidates stepped forward to fill all town offices, albeit in uncontested elections.

In a previous story published in the Athol Daily News, Selectboard Chair Nancy Allen said the lack of people running in the election could be due to no issues facing the town.

“I would say the typical answer – if you look at both boards, which are very distinct boards – I think the connection is people’s time and personal workloads making it harder for them to be able to step forward, or think they can step forward,” said Allen in late January. “I do think that probably outweighs the idea of special issues.”

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“For the Selectboard two years ago, even those (three candidates), they all ended up being from the Nichewaug Inn area but at least two of them were coming forward for reasons not related to the Nichewaug. They just happened to live there. One was a parent concerned with the perception of where the Center School was going in that particular time frame, and the other, how ultimately won – Annette Irmini – she’s been invested in town governance for several years now, so it was kind of a natural fit for her.”

Allen said that most small towns find themselves dealing with the problem of finding qualified candidates to run for office.

“People’s lives are just so busy, particularly for the younger people – let’s say the 40-somethings and 30-somethings – they’re still parenting,” she said. “Most of them are two-income households. There are issues of commuting taking up time. So I think therefore it’s much harder for them run and commit, as much as they might want to in their hearts. They get it, the Millennials definitely get that they’re needed and that we want them…but I also see how hard it is for them.”

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