North Pole calling

Imagine you are a child answering your telephone and you find the Jolly Old Elf himself on the other end of the line, calling long-distance from the North Pole. More than 100 kids around town received such a phone call during the week before Christmas, speaking to Santa or Mrs. Claus through an event sponsored by the Andover Department of Community Services.

Santa, Mrs. Claus and 18 Andover helpers called 114 youngsters in 60 different families around town over two days, making a list and checking it twice of what local children wanted for the holidays. After the Clauses spoke to a child, they would confirm with their parents to make sure Santa had what they wanted in his North Pole workshop.

Town Manager Buzz Stapczynski even pitched in to help Santa in the phone-calling effort. This is the third year the Department of Community Services has connected Santa Claus with Andover children, said Mary Donohue, community services director.

"We had a wonderful time. Santa was very happy to call the children and find out what they wanted. A fun time was had by all," said Donohue. "It's a very special way to bring in the holidays."

Enterprise Bank allowed Santa and his helpers to use their office and phone lines to make the calls, said Donohue. DCS plans to host the event again next year, she said.

| Bethany Bray

Are you town's next leader?

The new year will give new people a chance to learn how to campaign for office and, ultimately, run the town.

Andover and North Andover League of Women Voters will present its annual seminar on How to Run for Office on Tuesday, Jan. 8, at 7 p.m. in the selectmen's meeting room at North Andover Town Offices, at 120 Main St., North Andover.

Andover Town Clerk Randy Hanson and her North Andover counterpart Joyce Bradshaw will answer people's questions concerning nomination papers and general questions on running for office.

Someone from the state Office of Campaign and Political Finance will also be present to discuss how to report campaign finances | Local elected officials will give practical advice on how to manage a campaign for municipal office.

Questions? Call Peggy Kruse of the League of Women at 978-689-3740 or Hanson at 978-623-8259.

In the Andover air, there's a feeling ...

The familiar ring of holiday giving was absent from downtown Andover on Dec. 19.

Due to a complaint from neighboring workers, Salvation Army collectors stopped ringing their trademark bells while collecting donations in front of Old Town Hall.

"I guess there was a complaint that it was too much," said Maj. Alberto Suarez, the town's Salvation Army officer. "We are so grateful to the town of Andover to let us stand there, that we don't want to create any controversy."

Out of caution following an order from the town to use "common sense" when ringing the bells, Suarez said he suggested that no bells be used on Dec. 19. He said he expected the bells would reappear if the attendants rang them sporadically and at a more moderate volume.

Local volunteers have manned the Salvation Army location in front of Old Town Hall every day since Dec. 15, said Andover Rotary Club member Steve Druth.

"People have still been generous," said Druth. "But it's kind of funny explaining to people why we have no bell."

After finding out about the complaint, Andover resident Jason Feinman was taken aback.

"Talk about the spirit of the season," he said. "Gee whiz."

| Brian Messenger

Fair warning: Need to act fast to vote for presidential finalists

Not that anyone wants to think about it yet, but once the calendar changes to 2008, residents will only have a couple of weeks to register for the presidential primary.

The state's presidential primary election date has been moved to Tuesday, Feb. 5.

That means the last day for new voters to register to vote or for voters to change party affiliation is Jan. 16. The town clerk's office at 36 Bartlet St. will be open until 8 p.m. on Feb. 5 to accommodate those who do not live up to their New Year's resolution not to procrastinate.

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