By Dustin Luca
---- — Brooks Street resident Sal Tabit has dropped out of the School Committee race, leaving only two candidates for two open seats.
His decision to withdraw leaves race uncontested, with incumbent Paula Colby-Clements and former state Rep. Barbara L'Italien guaranteed to be School Committee members for the next three years.
Tabit was the second of four people to pull nomination papers to run for School Committee. Three returned the papers.
"After talking to several people and looking at some of the critical issues that are going to be facing the town and School Committee, I just realized that I wouldn't have the time, given my law practice, to fully develop the necessary time and resources to the School Committee," he said.
Tabit is an attorney with Broadhurst Tabit LLP, a Methuen-based law firm. He ran unsuccessfully for state representative in 1998 and 2010.
Colby-Clements pulled nomination papers to run for reelection early in the process, and Tabit pulled his soon after news broke that schools veteran Dick Collins wasn't running for re-election. L'Italien, on the other hand, both pulled papers on the final possible day and filed them with around 100 signatures within a window of just a few hours – only a couple hours before the deadline, she said.
She effectively went from barely entering the race to being a sure-fire member of the committee, which makes her "excited and eager to serve the town of Andover in this capacity," she said.
This election season is "unusual for me" given that she doesn't have to fight for a seat, she said.
Since she doesn't have to focus her energy running a campaign, "I go into this wanting to really listen and learn from the folks that are currently sitting on the School Committee," she said. "I want to find a way to be helpful to them and sort of compliment what they offer."
Recognizing that she has a lot to learn, L'Italien will spend the time meeting with teachers, parents and others in the school community.
"I know some of the local issues, but there's a lot I need to learn to be effective and helpful to my town," she said.
Though Colby-Clements and L'Italien are the only two names that will appear on the ballot, it's conceivable, if unlikely, they could still face some opposition on election day in the form of a write-in candidate.
Town Clerk Larry Murphy said he saw it happen once before, when an incumbent for office in his old town of West Newbury was upset by someone who wasn't even on the ballot. In Andover, former School Committee member Deb Silberstein ran an effective write-in campaign.
"It certainly happens," Murphy said. "There's no question about it."
The election will be held at the high school field house on March 26 from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. The deadline to register to vote is this co Wednesday, March 6. For more information, call the town clerk's office at 623-8255.