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Durham, Pownal and Freeport have few candidates for local seats

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Posted: Tuesday, October 2, 2012 1:11 pm | Updated: 9:20 am, Wed Oct 3, 2012.

The November presidential race has drawn a lot of national attention, but that hasn’t necessarily trickled down to the local races.

While the national and statewide ballots are heavily contested, the local ballots are a different story. In Durham, where there is one seat open on the Board of Selectmen, only one candidate has stepped forward to run.

It’s much the same case in Freeport, where there are two open seats on the Town Council, but only one contested race. Pownal has no local races on the ballot this November.

Durham saw two potential candidates take out nomination papers to finish the term of Philip Gilikson on the Board of Selectmen. The seat became open at the end of June when Gilikson resigned for personal reasons, and the term will expire in April 2014. However, when the deadline for nominations passed last week, only one candidate, Sarah Hill of Cedar Pond Road, returned the papers, and will be the only candidate on the ballot on Nov. 6.

Janet Smith, Durham’s administrative assistant, said it isn’t unusual for there to be a dearth of candidates for open seats in Durham’s elections.

“There hasn’t been an overwhelming number of people coming in to take out papers,” Smith said, adding that there were no candidates on the ballot for an open seat on the Board of Selectmen during last year’s regular municipal election, and a write-in candidate, Joshua Libby, ended up winning the seat in the April 2012 election.

Smith said she felt that the time commitment required of a selectman is the main reason why there is little interest in running for the seat. She said that members of the board are asked to give up at least two evenings a month and often more, and that, combined with the fact that it is a position that requires making decisions that may be unpopular with neighbors and friends, could lead some people to shy away from running.

“It’s a very intense position,” agreed Durham Town Clerk Shannon Plourde.

In Freeport, where there are two seats on the Town Council up for grabs, there is only one contested race. Council Chairman Jim Cassida will be facing off against Andrew Wellen for the District 4 seat on the council. However, in the race for the at-large seat being vacated by Charlotte Bishop, only one candidate, Melanie Sachs, is on the ballot.

There are several other local races in Freeport this fall. No other contested race, and no candidate stepped forward for a seat on the Freeport Water District board, and a write-in candidate will likely fill that seat.

“Everybody who took out papers returned them. We didn’t have anybody take out papers for the water district at all,” Freeport Town Clerk Tracey Stevens said.

“Every year, it seems to be like pulling teeth (to get people to fill out all the slots on the ballot),” Cassida said. “There are people out there who are interested, they just need coaxing.”

Last November, there were contests for an at-large, District 2 and District 3 selectmen’s seats.  

There were three candidates for one seat on the RSU 5 board last November. This year, no one stepped up to run against incumbents John Morang and Karin VanNostrand, who, barring a strong write-in candidate, will be returning to the board.

Stevens said she believed that at least part of the reason why there are so few candidates is that residents are satisfied with the way the town is being run.

“I think when people see that things are running fairly smoothly in town, there’s not a lot of interest (in running),” she said.

Sachs, who said she was excited to take a seat on the Town Council, said while it didn’t matter to her if she had an opponent this November, said she would like to see more interest in town government.

 “When no one had come forward, I thought that was too bad,” she said. “I would just hope anybody would want to run. There’s so much good happening in Freeport.”

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