DRACUT -- It's a four-candidate race for the Board of Selectmen again.
Alison Hughes, a former six-year member of the Finance Committee, picked up nominating papers at Town Hall on Thursday morning to place her name on the May 5 town-election ballot.
Hughes, 44, is a 12-year Dracut resident and Cape Cod native, who works full-time as a marketing-communications manager for Cambridge Technology, Inc., of Bedford. She joins previously announced selectmen candidates Ted Kosiavelon, Tami Dristiliaris and incumbent Selectman Bob Cox in the race for two open seats.
"I decided to run because I believe I can offer a fresh perspective to some of the challenges facing Dracut," Hughes stated. "For over 12 years, I have watched as this town has continued to grow from a quiet rural town to a larger, more active suburb of Lowell and Boston, and I am concerned about how those changes have and will continue to affect our quality of life here in Dracut."
The fact that Hughes pulled papers the day after School Committee Chairman Michael McNamara announced his withdrawal from the selectmen's race was sheer coincidence, according to Hughes, who made up her mind to run only after three-term Selectman John Zimini declared last week that he would not seek re-election, she said.
"As much as John (Zimini) and I differ politically, I did vote for him because we are on the same page as far as economic development, which is my key issue," Hughes said.
After looking at the remaining candidates who planned to run, "I didn't really have one that I would support," said Hughes. "This isn't some master plan to keep people off the board. I am running for the Board of Selectmen. I am not running against any one."
In a prepared statement announcing her candidacy, Hughes listed her concerns about Dracut's fiscal situation as a top priority of her campaign.
"We have been fortunate in that our town departments and the services they provide our residents are some of the best in the Merrimack Valley," she wrote. "As a result of years of continued residential growth, combined with the current economic downturn of the nation, we continue to see a strain on the finances of the town, which are jeopardizing all the town's services, including the school system and its budget.
"We as a town must face the reality that for at least the near future, state aid and other sources of revenue are going to be tight, requiring us to balance the needs and wants of our community with our current and future fiscal situation," Hughes wrote. "I believe strong economic development can and will be a solution for Dracut."
Hughes said Thursday she intended to meet with supporters in the coming days to choose a campaign manager and plan strategy. Former Selectmen Chairman Warren Shaw is a leading supporter and top adviser to her campaign, she said.
Cox, who is seeking his fourth term as selectman, phoned Hughes on Thursday to welcome her to the race. Cox also enthusiastically endorsed Hughes' candidacy in advance during a phone interview with The Sun.
"A wonderful lady who would do a fantastic job," said Cox of Hughes. "Once you meet her, you'll understand what I'm saying. She's the real deal, not a phony. A real person who will be there for only one reason -- and that's to do the right thing."
If both Hughes and he are "lucky enough to win, she will be a welcome addition to the board," Cox said.
The filing deadline for candidates to submit nominating papers to run for office is March 17.
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