DRACUT -- Selectman John Zimini's announcement Tuesday night that he will not seek re-election to a fourth term prompted two prominent town residents to pick up nominating papers to run for his seat soon after Town Hall opened on Wednesday.
Michael McNamara, who is currently the Dracut School Committee's chairman, and Tami Dristiliaris, a family law attorney who made her first run for selectman last May, plan to submit more than the required 50 signatures to place their names on the 2014 town-election ballot, both said on Friday.
McNamara' and Dristiliaris' candidacies will make it a four-way race for two seats on the board, including incumbent Selectman Bob Cox, who is seeking reelection to a fourth term, and three-time selectman candidate Ted Kosiavelon, a lifelong town resident and owner of a home-improvement contracting business for 42 years.
McNamara, 66, views his attempt to go from the School Committee to a seat on the Board of Selectmen as a natural progression for someone whose adult lifetime has been spent serving the public.
"We need to improve our schools, absolutely, but we also need to add firefighters, add police officers, and get things done to improve the town overall," said McNamara, who completed five years of service on the School Committee this month. "We can do better in Dracut. We have a lo of great infrastructure in place, now we have to concentrate on using our available dollars for properly manning these departments that we have. As I have fought on the School Committee for the schools and for my constituents, the Dracut schoolchildren, as a selectman I will fight for every department -- without exception. "
If successful in May in winning election to a selectman's seat, McNamara plans to step down from the School Committee immediately with two years remaining in his term. This, despite the dual-role precedent that was set by former Selectman and School Committee member Dennis Williams who once served simultaneously on both boards, McNamara recalled.
McNamara expects his existing reputation among town residents and track record on the School Committee will prove to be assets in the coming campaign.
"People know me, not just the school community, and my record as a School Committee person is out there for people to examine, if they wish," McNamara said. "I've always considered myself a servant of the public, rather than being labeled as a 'politician.' Throughout my life, as a teacher, a 17-year school principal, teaching at the graduate level, serving on the school board, and Permanent Building Committee, and being active in DATV, I've always tried to be of service to people. Being retired, I have time to devote. I work well with others. I have always prided myself on working well with groups of adults to better or improve whatever the issue is."
McNamara received over 3,000 votes last year to return to the School Committee. He is hoping to earn at least that number, or more in this year's election, he said.
In her first foray into the political arena last spring, Dristiliaris received 2,008 votes, finishing fourth behind seat-winners Tony Archinski and Cathy Richardson, and former Selectman George Malliaros in third place. While encouraged by last year's showing, Dristiliaris fully intends to win this time, she said Friday.
"We need new blood, new life on the board, and anybody who knows me knows that I have lots of energy to give. I never stop working," Dristiliaris said.
McNamara has seven grandchildren and one great grandson. Dristiliaris, who hesitated to state her age publicly, has four grandchildren.
"I am considered a senior, so you can tell my age is above 50; I have a lot of life experience, and a lot of professional experience," Dristiliaris said.
Her background makes her ideally suited to serving as a selectmen, she believes.
"I'm a family law attorney and meet with people on a daily basis to talk about their private, family issues. I mediate disputes as part of my job all the time, and I feel I could bring boards together," said Dristiliaris, who was newly appointed by Gov. Deval Patrick to serve on the Middlesex Community College board of trustees in the past year. "I'm a nurse, attorney mother, wife, a grandmother, an educator, what other qualifications do you need?
"I'm the human person the voters are looking for, I believe in giving back, and I have a lot to offer, and wish to devote all of my extra time to public service," she said.
The filing deadline for Dracut candidates to place their names on the spring election ballot is March 17.
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