Two vie for Selectboard seat in Heath

Staff Writer
Published: 6/10/2020 1:23:44 PM

HEATH — Friday’s election will have three contested races on the ballot.

Two candidates are running for one three-year term on the Selectboard, said Town Clerk Hilma Sumner, and two candidates are vying for one three-year term on the Finance Committee. Additionally, two candidates are in the race for a three-year term as constable.

Polls will be open from noon to 6 p.m. at the former elementary school at 18 Jacobs Road. The election comes as the town has postponed its Special Town Meeting to 9 a.m. on July 11 at the same location, and has indefinitely postponed its Annual Town Meeting.

In the race for Selectboard, Bob Bourke is challenging incumbent Brian DeVriese.


Bourke, who has lived in Heath for 12 years, has served on the board of the Heath Fair, and as chair of both the Parks and Recreation Committee, and the Veterans Committee. He is also a lifetime member of the Heath Historical Society, and has worked for the town as a firefighter and plowing roads.

“I’ve had my hat in very different areas,” he said. “I think being involved in a lot of different facets of the town enables me to understand the town as a whole rather than a very secular ‘one piece of the pie,’ as it were.”

This week, Bourke emailed voters a list of 10 proposals that he would offer as a member of the Selectboard.

Some of those include suggesting an independent, outside auditor to determine all revenues and expenses of the town; creating a committee dedicated to writing grants for the town; ensuring town department hours are clearly posted on the town website and at Town Hall; assigning board members as a liaison to each town committee; suggesting Annual Town Meetings occur a few days before elections to offer voters a chance to get to know the candidates; and offering a page on the town website for residents to barter goods and services.

Bourke said small towns like Heath are struggling to get residents involved in town government.

“The Board of Selectmen are the head of the town … and they need to promote a sense of inclusiveness and a sense of trust and wanting to have people get involved in the town,” he said. “And I think I can do that.”

Acknowledging the tenure of his opponent, Bourke said change is good.

“I have new ideas … and I’m eager to put them to work,” he said. “I also think I’ve served on so many different committees in town that I can understand where different people are coming from.”


Meanwhile, DeVriese, who has served on the Selectboard for 21 years, said his years of experience are an asset.

“I have a track record of helping the town,” DeVriese said. “After 21 years you pick up a few tricks, and I know people from the state and county and other communities that are helpful in meeting our challenges and figuring out ways forward.”

DeVriese said that even before his time on the board, he was involved in getting the school on Jacobs Road built, and he supported the school even when there was pressure to close it.

He’s also a member of the Conservation Commission and the Energy Advisory Committee.

DeVriese has a number of issues he said he would address if re-elected. Those include implementing Green Communities grant projects to reduce reliance on fossil fuels and cut energy costs; supporting completion of the broadband program and engaging residents to sign up; regionalizing with the Hawlemont Regional School District; and providing safe and adequate facilities for first responders. DeVriese also said he aims to continue working on restoring the town center.

“I believe I’ll be helpful in meeting the challenges that we face, and those include the COVID-19 emergency that we don’t know the full impact of yet,” DeVriese said.

In a letter to voters, DeVriese said he has worked with the board closely the past year to continue using the old school building in a way that he said keeps its operation and maintenance at a minimum cost to tax payers.

The issue of how to move forward with the old school building is one that has the candidates at odds.

“We’re only a town of 700 people, so there’s a lot of divisiveness over (the old school building),” said Bourke, who has concerns about the financial implications of using the building for town business.

Other candidates

Also on the ballot, William Emmet is challenging incumbent Kathryn Inman for a seat on the Finance Committee. In the race for the role of constable, Emmet is challenging Bourke, who currently holds the title.

There is one declared write-in for the upcoming election, Sumner said. Emily Cross, who currently holds a seat on the library Board of Trustees, would like to continue on the board, but didn’t get her papers in on time due to COVID-19 restrictions.

An earlier version of this article incorrectly attributed the quote on the divisiveness of the former school building. Also, the race between William Emmett and Kathryn Inman has been updated to reflect that they are in the race for a seat on the Finance Board.

Mary Byrne can be reached at or 413- 772-0261, ext. 263. Twitter: @MaryEByrne


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