Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

March 28, 2013

Incumbents Vispoli, Salafia reelected

By Dustin Luca and
Judy Wakefield

---- — Fewer than 5 percent of Andover’s voters turned out to return selectmen incumbents Alex Vispoli and Paul Salafia back to the board for three years.

Voter apathy was the largest conversation piece following yesterday’s annual town elections.

Vispoli took 843 votes in the race with 1,054 cards cast, awarding him a fourth term. Salafia took second with 646 votes, earning him his first three-year term. He joined the board two years ago to finish off a term vacated by former member Jerry Stabile.

Larry Bruce, the third candidate in the race, received 305 votes.

With 22,862 registered voters in Andover, only 4.61 percent of them voted yesterday.

Candidates, officials disappointed with turnout

Standing at the high school’s field house moments before the polls closed, Bruce said of the 4.6 percent turnout: “I wouldn’t interpret it as a positive. The first question is, ‘Why?’”

Bruce said the town’s charter needs an update.

“If anything, this should be a signal that voters aren’t involved at the local level,” he said. “We should be looking at our charter and our form of town government.”

Town Clerk Larry Murphy said he “didn’t expect a big turnout, but I frankly hoped for something better than this.”

“There was only one race, and you had two incumbent selectmen against a non-incumbent challenger,” he said. “That didn’t seem to draw a lot of public attention.”

There were no challengers for School Committee, Housing Authority, moderator or Punchard Free School trustee.

Even those who won the selectmen’s race didn’t seem enthusiastic about the turnout.

“I believe the selectmen race is one of the most important races to every citizen, because it is so direct,” Salafia said. “When is the last time a U.S. senator had a direct effect on every citizen? This vote should be very important to them, and I’m discouraged that the turnout is so low.”

“When we talk about what could have been, I would say there are people that didn’t even know there was an election today,” Vispoli said. “How do we notify [the public of the election] or get the word out?”

Vispoli said local media was partially to blame for that. Salafia extended his concerns to a lack of candidate forums that, in previous years, were key avenues for those in the race to project their platforms.

While there are normally three or four forums before a town election, only the League of Women Voters hosted the candidates this year, according to Salafia.

Even the voters who came out to the polls had something to say about the turnout.

“There is only one contested race, so it’s not that surprising that people didn’t turn out,” Peach Tree Path resident Dan Ossoff said, “but I wish people would turn out to vote.”

Winners talk of future progress

But that isn’t to say Vispoli and Salafia were disappointed with the outcome of the election.

Both said they were humbled by the voter confidence they received, and they’re eager to continue the work they’ve done on the board in previous years and continuing the initiatives they’ve championed while on the board.

“We’ve got some very significant challenges ahead of us,” Vispoli said. “One is to finally solve the Town Yard issue at a reasonable coast. We’ve got several facilities that need attention.”

Salafia said he plans to help the town arrive at a Town Yard solution and to be there as the Cormier Family Youth Center begins construction.

He also hopes to “re-energize the I-93 project,” he said, calling attention to the tri-town effort to build a new Interstate-93 interchange on the corner of Andover. “If we can re-energize that, that would be great.”

Marilyn Fitzgerald, Andover representative for the Greater Lawrence Technical School’s school board, said she voted for Vispoli and Salafia because “I feel the two incumbents have done a very good job.”

Ossoff also supported the incumbents, saying “they’re well-intentioned people that are trying to do the best they can for the town.”

Ballardvale Road resident Linda Lecomte said she voted for Bruce “just to shake things up a bit. He has run a couple times. He is just not the status quo.”

Speaking to the 305 votes he received, Bruce said he was “fine with that number votes. And, I’d like to thank those voters.”

Yesterday marked the fourth time Bruce has run, and he plans to return for a fifth shot at the board next year.

“I think the board has a lack of intent. It’s self-serving and about special interests,” he said.

Colby-Clements leads school race

Of the other four races on the ballot, School Committee incumbent Paula Colby-Clements led the two-seat contest for the committee with 748 votes. Candidate Barbara L’Italien, the lone challenger in the race, took the second seat with 657 votes.

Three other races were on the ballot, each for one seat and each with one candidate. Sheila Doherty, an incumbent for moderator, received 823 votes to return to her position for this year. Under the Housing Authority, candidate Janice Burkholder received 787 votes. For the Trustees of Punchard Free School, candidate Randall Hanson received 811 votes.