LITTLETON -- Some residents want elected officials to make sure the town won't grow too fast. Others hope taxes won't go up too much.
For many voters, though, Saturday's special election to choose a new selectman came down to the candidates' past records and reputations rather than their stances on issues.
"There are tons of issues" that selectmen will have to deal with, King Street resident Tom Dugan said as he left the polls on Saturday afternoon. But he has always known candidate Paul Avella as "an honest and hardworking guy," Dugan said. Regardless of the issues, "I would trust him," he said.
"He is a stand-up guy," School Committee member Chuck Decoste said of fellow committee member Avella, adding that he believes Avella would handle with any issue with a common-sense approach.
After serving on the School Committee for the past eight years, Avella, of Grist Mill Road, glided to victory, securing 69.2 percent of the votes cast. Avella received 800 votes while Jennifer Stach, a political newcomer from Bulkeley Road, gathered 355 votes.
Avella fills the vacancy created in March when Selectman Jenna Brownson abruptly resigned, citing illness in family. Avella said he will resign from the School Committee and his vacancy will be filled by a joint appointment of selectmen and the School Committee. That appointment will run through the next town election, which coincides with the expiration of Avella's three-year term.
"It's the right thing to do," Avella said of resigning from the School Committee.
Avella will serve the remaining two years of Brownson's term.
"I'm happy that folks think I'm the right person," Avella said moments after Town Clerk Diane Crory announced the results. "We worked hard, had a very good team. We kept a consistent message across the board. We talk a lot about wanting to work with people. It's easy to say those words, but I have a track record on the School Committee of doing that. I think folks saw that message."
Avella thanked his campaign manager, Paul Glavey, and treasurer, Mike Fontanella, for their help, as well as his wife and his opponent.
"A contested race is the only way to do this. It's not supposed to be easy," Avella said. "I never think we deserve it. It's never anybody's turn. You earn it. That's the way it has to be. Having a good, solid competitor in the race makes you work for it. Anything I did was better because Jen was in the race. I thank her for that. Ultimately, what she wanted to accomplish, how do we make the town better than it is already, she did an admirable job of helping us do that."
Stach was pleased with the turnout, even if she wasn't thrilled with the result.
"Clearly, I'm disappointed," she said moments after the results were posted. "I didn't run because I wanted to lose, I ran because I wanted to win. I'm pleased to have run a race that made people start talking about issues in town and I look forward to getting involved in other ways in taking Littleton forward into the next 300 years.
Although she said she has no plans right now to run again for elected office, she did enjoy the experience as a first-time candidate.
"It was a real trip," she said. "I crossed the run for public office off my bucket list. That's good news. It's a process where you spend a lot of time thinking about why you want to do this. What are my reasons for doing this and can I stay true to those reasons? I'm proud of the race we ran. I ran the race I wanted to run and I was not the candidate the voters were looking for clearly, but I wish Paul the best of luck in the two years left in his term."
Sun correspondent Ed Hannan contributed to this report.