DRACUT — In what was a race wrought with tension, Sabrina Heisey on Monday defeated incumbent Matthew Sheehan by a margin of 563 votes for the one open seat on the School Committee.
Heisey took the seat with 1,493 votes while Sheehan had 930. Nearly 12 percent of Dracut’s 21,121 registered voters went to the polls, according to the Clerk’s Office.
“I’m really excited,” a beaming Heisey said Monday night at Paddy’s Ale House, where a group of her supporters had gathered to celebrate. “This was so much work for me and my entire team of people who came out. They were out all day with me, handing me the phone to call every voter in Dracut.”
Heisey, a mother of six and research administrative supervisor at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, had promised — if elected — to be an advocate for Dracut children and had said her experience with grants and budgets would be an asset to the school committee.
Sheehan, who works for the Lowell Police Department as a lead dispatcher, touted proven, experienced leadership as a major point to re-elect him. He did not respond to a call for comment Monday night, but earlier in the day had spoken to The Sun by the entrance of the Dr. Christos Daoulas Education Complex, where he stood with a huge campaign sign.
“I feel really confident,” the incumbent said as he leaned against the white and blue sign hours before the election results were expected to pour in. “I think we got a really good, positive message out there, and I think it resonated with the voters.”
Sheehan and Heisey locked horns recently over subjects including charter schools and STEM programs in the school curriculum during a Sun-sponsored debate.
Heisey said she thinks people in Dracut wanted change.
“Even if you do a great job, four terms would just be too much,” she said. “I think people want to feel like the town is invested in the school and they felt like I could bring that to them.”
Frederick Jeffers and his wife, Rhonda Jeffers, walked out of the polling station at the Dracut Council on Aging Monday evening after casting their ballots. Frederick, 52, said the children of Dracut Public Schools are the most important to him and to many in the community.
“And Matthew Sheehan was the most important candidate out of them all,” he added.
Another resident Rick Sevigny, had a different opinion. Standing beside his wife, Paula Sevigny, he said he chose Heisey.
“The other guy’s been in there long enough,” he said of Sheehan. “It’s time for a change.”
Selectman Tony Archinski, who stood for awhile near the Daoulas Education Complex with School Committee member Allison Volpe, said he voted for Heisey.
“I think she’s in it for all the right reasons,” Archinski said. “I think that she’s a very intelligent woman and, with kids in the system, I think that she’ll be an advocate for children in our school system.”
Volpe said she felt Heisey would be an amazing asset to the school committee.
“She brings fresh ideas, she brings new perspective and she’s in it for the kids,” said Volpe, who like Heisey has children in Dracut schools. “We clearly have a vested interest. There’s nothing more important to most parents than their kids’ education.”
Follow Amaris Castillo on Twitter @AmarisCastillo.