Selectboard, Planning Board races top Charlemont ballot

  • HARKER

  • MUELLER

  • REID

  • SHULDA MERRIGAN

For the Recorder
Published: 5/20/2022 4:42:52 PM

CHARLEMONT — Residents at the town election polls on Tuesday will see contested races for Selectboard and Planning Board, as well as three new candidates looking to join the Hawlemont Regional School District School Committee following a series of resignations.

They will also decide whether to support a $231,958 Proposition 2½ levy-limit override that would meet the proposed operating assessment for Hawlemont Regional School. To be approved, the override requires a simple majority vote on the election ballot and a two-thirds majority vote of approval at Annual Town Meeting that night, beginning at 7:30 p.m.

Polls will be open at Hawlemont from noon to 7 p.m.

Selectboard race

Incumbent Selectboard member William D. Harker faces a challenge from Valentine G. Reid for a three-year seat on the board.

Valentine G. Reid

Reid and his wife moved to town in 2020 because they wanted find a good place to start a family, Reid said during Candidates’ Night earlier this week. Charlemont, with its river, hills and forests, seemed like the right place — especially when high-speed broadband became available.

“Broadband was critical for my wife and I to be able to work,” said Reid, who works as a cyber-security consultant. He also serves on the town’s Broadband Committee.

“I’m running because I believe I can bring my experience to the Selectboard,” he said. “In talking to folks, there’s a real concern about where this town is headed.”

Reid said the pandemic shutdowns have affected tourism and the town economy. The taxes are going up while the town budget is stretched thin.

Reid said he wants to learn from surrounding communities how to encourage more first-time homebuyers to come to town, while supporting those who continue to live in Charlemont — possibly through tax exemptions for the elderly or those living below a certain income. He noted a lot of property is being bought for second and third houses for affluent out-of-state residents. He would like to see more housing for younger families just starting out.

“COVID has changed a lot about where people want to live,” he said. “People are coming here and are excited to be here — excited about the school.”

William D. Harker

Harker is a lifelong resident who has served on many boards throughout his life.

“I’m pretty well-qualified,” he said of his long community service, including as a past and present member of the Selectboard. He is retired, and has served on the Board of Health and Planning Board. He is also a member of the Conservation Commission and has served on the Charlemont Fairgrounds Committee for about 30 years.

“I have no agenda — I’m just doing this for the good of the townspeople,” he said. “It’s a continuous battle to keep everything running, and we’re doing that.”

He mentioned some tasks at hand include finding a permanent highway superintendent, fixing the deck of the Long Bridge, renovating Town Hall and acquiring an elevator to make the second floor more accessible.

Harker is enthusiastic about the work of a new “flowers committee” that is beautifying the town center by planting flowers and shrubs.

“We live in a small area and get along with our neighbors,” he said. “If anything comes up, we can deal with it; nothing’s new to me.

“We’re always trying to do something to better the town,” Harker added.

Planning Board race

Two candidates have come forward for a three-year Planning Board seat: Andrew Mueller and Lori Ann Shulda Merrigan.

Lori Ann Shulda Merrigan

As a businessperson, Shulda Merrigan said she’s running for Planning Board “to help move this town in a good direction.”

Shulda Merrigan, along with another Planning Board candidate, Colleen A. Champ, were recently appointed as temporary members to the Planning Board, in seats that had gone vacant for a long while. Both are running for election to their new offices, but Champ is running unopposed for her two-year seat.

Although this is her first time running for town office, Shulda Merrigan is a long-time resident. She runs a hair salon, and told the Planning Board she gets a lot of input from her customers on issues the town is facing.

“There’s a lot here. I love my town and I want to serve,” Shulda Merrigan told an audience at Monday’s Candidates’ Night. “I have grandchildren here. I have kids that live around here. And I just want to have a say.”

Andrew Mueller

Mueller has lived in Charlemont since 1999. He has a master’s degree in landscape architecture from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and is the principal architectural designer and project manager of his own design/building firm. He also studied city planning in Hannover, Germany.

Mueller, Charlemont tree warden, said the town’s zoning bylaws have been in effect for 41 years, and he is concerned with “the lack of development and direction since the by-laws were adopted.”

If elected to the Planning Board, Mueller said he would rely on Charlemont’s sense of place “to serve as a basis for future master planning.”

“We must reinforce and revitalize our downtown, and continue to strengthen and expand our commercial base, (and guarantee) the protection of our natural resources for future generations,” Mueller wrote in an email.

“I envision encouraging an influx of young families, incentivizing business start-ups, supporting affordable elderly and family housing, while working to minimize second-home purchases as detractors from Charlemont’s sense of place,” he continued. “I see this as an opportunity to balance respect for our past while planning for our future.”

Other positions

With all Hawlemont School Committee members having resigned, three candidates are running unopposed for staggered term lengths — so that only one committee member per year will come up for re-election. Former school psychologist Anne J. Kaplan is running for a three-year seat; Cheryl L. Handsaker, who was appointed to the School Committee in April to fill Michael Walsh’s seat in an earlier resignation and who is also on the Broadband Committee, is running for the two-year seat; and Elizabeth Van Iderstine is seeking the one-year term.

Vacant positions on the ballot include a one-year seat as moderator — a position long held by Charlotte Dewey. Other openings include a three-year seat on the Board of Assessors and a two-year position on the Local Education Council.

Nominated candidates running unopposed for election or re-election are:

■Mohawk Trail Regional School District School Committee — incumbent Evelyn F. Locke (three years) and Thorne Palmer (two years).

■Tree warden Andrew Mueller (one year).

■Planning Board, Colleen A. Champ (two years).

■Board of Health, Mae Tanner (three years).

■Tyler Memorial Library trustee, incumbent Evelyn F. Locke (three years).

■Park and Recreation Commission, incumbent Neil Neuhauser (five years).

■Constable, incumbent Erwin Reynolds Jr. (three years).


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