AMESBURY — For all the noise surrounding the upcoming mayoral and City Council elections, the races for Amesbury’s other elected bodies have been remarkably quiet.
The School Committee, Planning Board, Library Board of Trustees and Housing Authority each have multiple seats up for grabs in the Nov. 5 election, but since only a handful of candidates will be on the ballot to fill them, the majority of the seats will have to be filled through write-in votes or City Council appointments.
The situation on these boards and committees stands in stark contrast to the heavily contested races for mayor and City Council. Fifteen candidates have stepped forward seeking nine seats on the City Council, and prior to September’s preliminary election, there were four candidates for mayor.
In the School Committee race, incumbents Peter Hoyt and Thomas McGee are both seeking re-election to the committee, but earlier this year Gale Hanshaw announced that she would be stepping down at the end of her term, and no candidate ever pulled nomination papers to take her place.
As a result, Hoyt and McGee are all but assured re-election, and a write-in candidate will likely fill Hanshaw’s seat.
While the School Committee will largely maintain its current complexion, the other three boards are expected to see heavy turnover, particularly the Planning Board and Library Board of Trustees, which could see more than half their current members move on.
On the Planning Board, Karen Solstad is the only incumbent to seek re-election out of the four whose terms are set to expire. Incumbents David Dragonas, Ted Semesnyei and chairman Howard Dalton are not on the ballot and won’t return to the board unless they are voted in as write-ins, and Stephen Dunford will depart as well to serve on the Library Board of Trustees.
In addition to Solstad, newcomer Scott Mandeville of Kimball Road is also on the ballot, but the remaining three openings will need to be filled by write-ins or an appointment by the council. Two of the openings are for four-year terms, and the other is for Dunford’s unexpired two-year term.
The Library Board of Trustees is facing a similar situation, as all six current members whose terms are set to expire have indicated they will not return for the next session. The board members have expressed varied reasons for stepping down, such as Jonathan Sherwood deciding to run for District 6 City Council seat and Jane Ward saying she believes that once the new library director is hired, that person should have a clean slate and a fresh new board.
“I’ve done six years, and I just thought it was a good time now, with a new director coming in, that that person will get to have a new board,” Ward said.
Philip Merrill had previously resigned from the board due to his family’s move. Peter Sheridan, Roger Deschenes and David Pressley could not be reached for comment on their reasons for resigning.
Dunford is the sole candidate for Deschenes’ unexpired two-year term, while Gretchen Marinopoulos of Sanborn Terrace is the only candidate running for one of the five available four-year terms. The remaining four seats will be filled by write-ins or an appointment by the City Council.
While there hasn’t been much interest in the other races, at least some candidates have stepped forward. The same can’t be said for the Housing Authority, which has two openings on the ballot and no candidates to fill them.
According to assistant clerk Sharon Dunning, incumbent David Hildt did pull papers from City Hall, but he didn’t collect a sufficient number of signatures before the deadline to appear on the ballot. Hildt will instead try to win re-election as a write-in candidate, according to his wife.
The other incumbent, Raymond Shockey, did not return nomination papers and will not appear on the ballot either.
With all of the vacancies that will be filled by write-ins, City Clerk Bonnijo Kitchin is expecting a very late election night. All of the ballots will need to be counted by hand after the polls close, but because each of these races has at least one vacancy, write-in candidates won’t need to meet any vote threshold to become eligible, meaning whoever gets the most votes will win election.
“Whoever has the most votes after the election, I will send them a letter telling them that they’ve received the most votes and ask them if they’re willing to accept the position,” Kitchin said.
Dunning added that they plan on posting the names of the winning write-in candidates online along with the results of the city’s other races, even if it does take until late into the night.