Selectboard, Planning Board races in Monday’s New Salem election



  • LETT

Staff Writer
Published: 4/30/2021 3:51:39 PM

NEW SALEM — Monday’s election consists of two contested races.

Incumbent Jean Derderian faces a challenge from Hugh Mackay for a three-year Selectboard seat, and Susan Apteker is trying to unseat Jeff Lett from a five-year position on the Planning Board.

Polls will be open at Town Hall from 11:45 a.m. to 8 p.m.


Derderian has served New Salem in some capacity for the past 30 years. She has been a member of the Board of Assessors, the Planning Board, the Route 122 Scenic Byway Committee and the Playground Committee, among other bodies. She is also a member of the Historical Commission.

In 2019, she was elected to a partial two-year term to replace a Selectboard member who had resigned. Derderian, 56, said she ran primarily because the Town Hall and auditorium needed restoration, and the Police Department needed a new station.

“Because both of the projects share a common proximity and are both dedicated, at least in part, to community safety, it is reasonable to complete both in the same project. I also knew that the project would exponentially expand opportunities for community life,” she said in an email. “The first year, I met with our representatives and shared the need to establish a source of funds for projects like this that are not dependent on just the appropriation process. To that end, this term, Sen. Jo Comerford is sponsoring Bill SD 1035, An Act Creating a Municipal and Public Safety Building Authority, which will help fund public projects.”

Derderian, an attorney, added that she is seeking re-election to the Selectboard now for similar reasons, “but this time I am also running because my experience and careful consideration of subjects that have come before the board protect town interests, reduce liability to the town, and although I am sometimes outvoted, my participation meant that other perspectives were considered and that challenging concerns were addressed.”

She said she moved to town in 1990, after searching three years for property. She said she was drawn to New Salem’s beauty and history as well as its natural resources and proximity to Amherst and Route 2.

Growing up outside of Boston, Mackay lived on the aqueduct that carries Quabbin waters into the city and now reveres its source as his home. He moved to Western Massachusetts for work 22 years and fell in love with New Salem.

Mackay said he can bring to the Selectboard an extensive risk management background — having worked in the field for 20 years — as well as experience in human resources and in public procurement. For the past four years, he has worked at the Franklin County Regional Housing & Redevelopment Authority, having recently started a new role in project management. He had previously been the personnel coordinator and the modernization and maintenance supervisor.

“I managed a team overseeing 290 units of affordable housing throughout the county, as well as the state-compliant procurement operations for building projects,” he explained. “This expertise will allow New Salem to have me as a procurement officer at the town’s disposal as well as a team leader effective at overseeing building modernization projects.”

Mackay said his friends and neighbors have encouraged him to run for Selectboard.

“I’m humbled by my neighbors’ encouragement,” he said. “They believe I am focused and dedicated.”

Mackay, 58, spent years as chair and as a board member of the Friends of the New Salem Public Library. He now volunteers on the Personnel Board, assisting in the town’s employment aspects. He has also worked in a machine shop in Orange and at the New Salem General Store.

Planning Board

After growing up in Texas, attending the U.S. Naval Academy and serving 15 years as an F-14 Tomcat fighter pilot, Lett moved to Massachusetts in 2006 because it was the epicenter of his new career field — health care IT. He has served on the Planning Board for seven years and is running for re-election to a five-year seat against Apteker.

“It was a chance to be involved with the community,” he said this week, adding that public service is about trying to “reconcile the needs of the community and help the town move forward economically, and be sensitive to residents and abutters.”

Lett, 60, said he lives “pretty much in the shadow of one” of the town’s cell towers, which are always a conversation topic in New Salem.

Attempts to obtain information and a photo from Apteker were unsuccessful by press time.

Reach Domenic Poli at: or 413-772-0261, ext. 262.

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