BARRE TOWN — The abrupt resignation of one Select Board member has created an unexpected wrinkle in the run-up to the town’s May 13 elections.
Selectman Jeff Newton emailed his letter of resignation — effective immediately — to Town Clerk Donna Kelty on Tuesday afternoon. The letter arrived hours before the board was scheduled to approve the warning for next month’s municipal elections and less than 24 hours after Monday’s deadline for filing nominating petitions.
Town Manager Carl Rogers said Kelty contacted the town’s attorney, Mike Monte, to determine what to do about the newly created vacancy.
According to Rogers, Monte’s advice was to let voters select Newton’s replacement even though there are no announced candidates for the year remaining on his three-year term.
“It’s going to have to be a write-in,” Rogers said, explaining that whoever receives the most write-in votes — provided that person receives at least 30 of them — will earn the right to serve out the balance of Newton’s term.
Had Newton resigned a day or two earlier, a prospective candidate might have been able to collect enough signatures to appear on next month’s ballot. If his resignation had arrived a day later the warning would already have been finalized and his replacement would have been appointed by the four remaining board members to serve until the next election, which would have been May 12, 2015.
However, Rogers said that after consulting the town charter, Monte concluded that the next election in this case is next month and, because the warning wasn’t signed, the year remaining of Newton’s term should be added to the short list of other offices that voters will fill next month.
None of those races is contested, and two of the candidates whose names will appear on the ballot — Tom White and Jack Mitchell — are running unopposed for separate seats on the Select Board.
Mitchell, a former board member, is running for the seat held by Greg Donahue. Donahue announced weeks ago he would be stepping down when his two-year term expires next month.
White, a local justice of the peace and former member of the town’s budget committee, is running for the three-year seat held by the board’s chairman, Jay Perkins. Perkins didn’t announce his intentions and did not file nominating petitions before Monday’s deadline.
Unless Perkins is written in and agrees to serve out the balance of Newton’s term, the five-member board will have three new members a month from now. Mitchell, White and a successful write-in candidate, if there is one, will join Jeff Blow and Rob LaClair.
Timing aside, Newton’s resignation came as a surprise to most board members, who learned that he had stepped down when they arrived for Tuesday night’s meeting.
In a letter he emailed to Kelty and Rogers informing them of his decision, Newton cited time constraints and a busy work schedule.
“I cannot fully execute the position of selectman at this time with the other commitments in my life — both personal and professional,” he wrote. “As you know, working an hour out of town, running two businesses of my own, and trying to have some sort of personal life has taken its toll on me, and unfortunately I feel the need to re-prioritize things in my life.”
Newton, who indicated his resignation was effective immediately, did not attend Tuesday’s meeting.
The board accepted his resignation and finalized the warning for the May 13 elections. That warning includes a $2,608,900 highway fund budget, a $3,296,086 general fund budget, and an additional $20,730 appropriation for the operation of the town cemeteries.
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