One of my favorite stories in the past couple of weeks comes out of Tyngsboro, where Rick Reault is running unopposed for the Board of Selectmen.
Reault, a commercial beekeeper, took out nomination papers in March after incumbent Karen Puleo announced she wouldn’t seek re-election. Before Reault decided to put his name on the ballot, nobody had come forward with a desire to be a town father, or in Puleo’s case, a town mother.
Contrast that with Tyngsboro races gone by, which were knock-down, drag-out affairs. For the first time in many years, there are 16 positions on this year’s ballot. None of them is contested. Gone are the days, it seems, when Kevin O’Connor and Jackie Schnackertz had to defend challenges from Mark Pease and Corey Lambert. Gone are the days of the $2 million overrides.
Tewksbury and Wilmington recently held town elections. Three people were up for two seats on the Tewksbury School Committee. None was an incumbent. There were no challengers in the selectmen’s race and two people ran to fill a one-year vacancy on the Planning Board. Yawn.
In Wilmington, both incumbents cruised to victory in a race that saw 3 1/2 people running for two seats. One candidate managed to return his nomination papers but did little else during the campaign. He didn’t return phone calls from The Sun. He had no signs around town. He couldn’t even be reached after losing the election, which saw a meager 12 percent voter turnout.
Which brings us to Dracut, my hometown. Politics in Dracut continues to be a blood sport. No holds barred and hitting below the belt are not only encouraged and applauded, it is sometimes rewarded.
There is a back story behind every back story. There are more alliances, blindsided maneuvers and cases of betrayal than any episode of Survivor. And speaking of Survivor, a good title for some candidates’ campaigns could well be “Heroes Vs. Villains.”
As the May 3 election ears, there’s a lot of finger-pointing and factions intent on toppling the incumbents. Conspiracy theorists who see black helicopters everywhere. Everybody is scheming except them. Former Dracut selectman Dennis Williams used to refer to this group of naysayers and forelock tuggers as “the dark side.” I often ask myself how somebody could want a job so badly that they’d be willing to sacrifice their integrity to win?
In Dracut we also have elected and appointed office-holders who hold no qualms about campaigning for a colleague’s opponent. How would you like to be elected to a board or committee when you know that none of your colleagues supported your campaign and actually worked against you? I’ve long held the position that sitting members of boards and committees should do just that during the campaign season — sit.
As a reporter who happens to live in Dracut, I will not put a campaign sign on my front lawn, although it’s my right to do so. I did it once and thought better of the idea, taking the sign down less than 48 hours later. And on another occasion I allowed the aforementioned Dennis Williams to place a sign in front of my house — but he was running unopposed.
Wow, a Dracut selectman running unopposed? That was a long, long time ago.
Dennis Shaughnessey’s e-mail address is email@example.com.