Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

Opinion

March 27, 2014

Andover deserves better than lackluster election day

Seemingly with little notice, Mary O’Donoghue sailed to victory as the town’s newly elected selectwoman Tuesday night.

It was without much notice because just 5 percent of the town’s registered voters came to the polls to weigh in on a contest that pitted O’Donoghue against Jodi Oberto for the one open seat on the Board of Selectmen.

True, the race — the only one on the town election ballot — was not exactly a hotly contested one. Both candidates did some campaigning and meeting with residents, but as elections go, there wasn’t a lot of fire behind this one.

From the start, O’Donoghue, a longtime Finance Committee member who is widely known in town as a Realtor, had considerable support behind her. Oberto was admittedly the newcomer to town affairs and while she promised to bring a fresh set of eyes to local government, her campaign never really got off the ground.

On Tuesday, the stage was set for O’Donoghue to be the eventual winner. And that likely kept voters from venturing out to the polls.

But at a time when residents seem to be more concerned than ever at the fiscal state of the town, on spending on projects and on how the town is being run, the voter apathy — for a second year in a row — is somewhat disappointing. Last year, turnout was no different — with just under 5 percent of voters again showing up to exercise their civic duty.

While it may not be case, the lack of election day activity sends a message to town officials that residents are either wholly pleased with the way things are going or they don’t care. We think neither is 100 percent the case.

There is much at stake in the months ahead as officials work to balance the growing needs in town with limited funds. We wish O’Donoghue luck as she settles into her role and have every reason to believe she will look to use her experience on the Finance Committee to be the voice of the people in scrutinizing budgets and making sure their every dollar is carefully spent.

But it’s up to residents to hold her and every other elected official accountable. Now is not the time for complacency. And we hope Andover holds O’Donoghue to her promise to seek fiscal restraint as she takes on some of the most critical tasks ahead.

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