Harker secures Charlemont Selectboard seat with six-vote lead

By BELLA LEVAVI

Staff Writer

Published: 01-12-2023 4:34 PM

CHARLEMONT — William Harker won a five-month term on the Selectboard during Tuesday’s special election, earning six more votes than challenger Robert Handsaker.

“I’ve been in this town since 1944. I’m just trying to help the board out,” Harker, 86, said in a phone interview. “I appreciate the win.”

Harker, a longtime contractor who previously served on the Conservation Commission and the Selectboard, received 91 votes compared to Handsaker’s 85. Handsaker, 62, has served as town moderator, representative to the Franklin County Solid Waste Management District, on the Conservation Commission and on the Broadband Committee during his 31 years in town.

“I never had an agenda,” Harker noted. “Whatever the majority of people want, that’s what I’ll work for.”

The election was called after two members of the Selectboard announced in late November that they would be resigning. Marguerite Willis resigned after a life-threatening car accident that will require months of rehabilitation and Dan Girard resigned due to his decision to move out of Charlemont. The remaining member is Valentine Reid, who was elected last year.

The rest of Willis’ five-month term will be filled by Harker. Meanwhile, Jared Bellows was elected to fill the rest of Girard’s term, which is one and a half years. Bellows faced no opposition in the election.

Of Charlemont’s 949 registered voters, 183 cast their ballots on Tuesday, according to Town Clerk Kathy Reynolds, making for a 19.3% turnout.

Harker said he plans to help the board out during this time of transition, since all members are new to the position. However, he does not plan to run again during the next election cycle in May.

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As for Bellows, he said he hopes he can figure out a way to make the budget work for the town and its residents. He also wants to support the town administrator and town clerk.

Bellows retired as police chief last July, but said he has worked for Charlemont in some capacity for 25 years.

“I’ve worked with the Board of Selectmen and other boards before,” Bellows said in a phone interview. “There were two vacancies so I thought I would give this a try and help my community in a different way.”

Bella Levavi can be reached at 413-930-4579 or blevavi@recorder.com.

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