Peirce, Willard running for Orange Selectboard seat

  • Peirce

  • Willard

Recorder Staff
Thursday, March 01, 2018

ORANGE — There is one contested race in this year’s town election for a seat on the Selectboard between veteran town officials Jane M. Peirce and George C. F. Willard.

The election, scheduled for Monday at the Orange Armory, is significant for Orange because it will transition the currently three-member Selectboard to five members, following last October’s special town meeting decision.

The seat that Willard and Peirce are racing for (one of the two that are new) is a two-year position. The other open seat, a three-year term, only has one candidate in the running, Thomas J. Smith.

Jane Peirce

Peirce, a lifelong Orange resident, graduated from the Orange Elementary School and Mahar Regional High School. She has a master’s degree in resource management and recently retired from the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection.

Initially, Peirce said she didn’t intend to run for a position on the Selectboard. Instead, she took out nomination papers for the Board of Health, of which she is currently chairwoman.

“However, as I watched the selectmen’s race come together, I realized it is a golden opportunity for me to use my skills and experience to help move the town forward during this important transition,” Peirce continued. She highlighted the upcoming budget cycle, which could require a 2.5 percent override vote, as a key issue that she’d like to help tackle.

Locally, beginning with the Conservation Commission when she was in college, Peirce has served on many town boards including a previous term on the Selectboard, Finance Committee, Capital Planning Committee, and the Board of Health.

“Assuming that I am elected to both boards, I will immediately step down as chair of the Board of Health, and I will seek and support a suitable candidate to be appointed in my place,” Peirce said.

George Willard

Willard, who also grew up in the area and attended Orange schools, is running for the same open two-year position on the Selectboard. “I felt that I still have more to give,” Willard said.

He’s running a campaign based on “common sense — trying to keep us more business friendly, and not keep putting hoops in front of them,” Willard said.

His vision for Orange is to see more businesses move in, because “we can’t afford to be just a bedroom community.”

After graduating in the third class from Mahar Regional High School in 1960, Willard joined the Marines.

Later, he returned to the area and has since been on many town boards including the Selectboard, the Cemetery Commission for the last 12, the Mobile Rent Control Board, and the Trustees of Soldiers Memorials. Willard, who is retired now, operated heavy equipment and was New Salem’s fire chief for five years.

Different viewpoints

On a few key issues facing Orange, Willard and Peirce hold different perspectives.

While both think that recreational marijuana cultivation and sales could help Orange economically, Peirce wants to revisit and potentially change the town’s marijuana zoning bylaws to include an overlay district. Right now, businesses need to get a special permit to open anywhere in town. With an overlay district, marijuana could be sold in specific places “by right” and elsewhere with a special permit.

“It represents an opportunity for the town to reap some good income. But I think we need to have appropriate zoning to encourage it, in locations that are not controversial,” Peirce said.

Willard, on the other hand, doesn’t want to change the town’s current zoning.

“I don’t think we should put a whole bunch of barriers in. We need the taxes. I think we should make it so they can come in, dispense it, and we can get business out of it,” Willard said, noting, “I’ve never done recreational drugs in my life. It’s not my choice. It was on the ballot, it passed, let’s go with it.”

Both candidates agree that the town needs to update its sewage system, but don’t agree entirely on how that might happen.

“I support having septic users contribute some percentage toward the capital costs of a new sewage treatment plan,” Peirce said.

While a new sewage system won’t directly impact everyone in town because some residents aren’t connected to the town’s infrastructure, Peirce said “it’s a benefit to the whole community to have these facilities available to help the community grow.”

In contrast, Willard doesn’t think that everyone should pay for the system upgrade, noting, “I’m on town water and sewer, but I’m not in favor of having everyone pay.”

Monday’s election will take place from 10 a.m. until 8 p.m. Voting takes place at the Orange Armory at 135 East Main St. Elsewhere on the ballot, Ryan W. Mailloux is running uncontested as incumbent for a third seat on the Selectboard.

You can reach Andy Castillo

at: acastillo@recorder.com

or 413-772-0261, ext. 263

On Twitter:@AndyCCastillo