By Amaris Castillo
With just three until the town election, the race for one seat on the Board of Selectmen has heated up between incumbent Selectman Joseph DiRocco and challengers Phil Thibault and John Joyce.
Ask each why he’s running, and he’ll give you a slightly different answer than the others. One thing they can all agree on, though, is furthering the town’s economic development, which, in the past year, has advanced with several major projects, including the still-in-the-works Circle Health Dracut.
That project consists of a new outpatient center and the next addition to the nonprofit’s expanding network.
“I just find that it’s my constitutional right to be able to represent the people and to get out there and talk about the different issues and meet people who have concerns about the town and moving the town forward,” said Joyce, a U.S. Navy Seabee veteran and comedian.
DiRocco said he’s seeking re-election because there’s work he’d like to see completed, including the fire station in Collinsville and the development of senior housing.
Thibault, who chairs the town’s Master Plan Committee and sits on the Permanent Building Committee, said he’s running because most of his ideas are used within the town.
“I think the guy who promotes the ideas and comes up with the ideas might be better suited for the person in that seat to keep the ideas going,” he said. “Certainly, the fire station, that’s number one. We have an article in Town Meeting that’s coming forward to fund it.”
Thibault said he didn’t bring the article forward but has talked to Town Manager Jim Duggan about it.
Thibault has suggested that the fire station in Collinsville was his idea. Selectman DiRocco disagreed, saying plans to build a fire station in that section of town have been in the works for a long time.
On the subject of economic development, Thibault said he’s interested in the smaller shops in town, such as those in the Navy Yard and Collinsville sections.
If elected, Joyce said his first priority would be to work toward bringing “big business” to Dracut.
“Bring in a Target,” he said. “Bring in a huge corporation.”
Of the town’s economic development, DiRocco said it’s going “pretty well, but I’d like to see that going a little bit further.”
The race has not been without jabs between the opponents on social media and in interviews with The Valley Dispatch.
“There is a distinct difference between candidates,” Thibault posted on his campaign Facebook page on March 23, with two accompanying photos — one of a room full of light bulbs and another of a candle with a dwindling flame.
On March 27, DiRocco wrote on his Selectman Facebook page that Thibault “has already resigned one position in town government over concerns of conflict of interest because of his work for contractors in town.” DiRocco told The Valley Dispatch that he has no conflicts. Thibault, an architect in town, said he doesn’t see any conflicts were he to get elected.
Thibault said Joyce (who was defeated last year by incumbents Alison Hughes and Tami M. Dristiliaris) “says he wants to be involved, but he hasn’t been.”
In response, Joyce said, “I’m not on the Planning Board. I’m not out to shake hands and kiss babies at Town Hall. I don’t have to sit on any type of board to be part of the process. I think people miss that.”
Follow Amaris Castillo on Twitter @AmarisCastillo. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.