By all accounts, Tuesday’s town election lived up to its billing as one of the most significant in recent years.
Voters who took the time to go to the polls had some distinct choices as they picked the elected leaders who will help guide Andover in the pivotal year ahead.
In each instance, the races for the five key elected seats — two of the five members of the Board of Selectmen and three of the five members, a majority, of the School Committee — offered contested races featuring a blend of experienced incumbents and viable challengers.
In the weeks leading up to Election Day, the candidates organized solid campaigns built largely on introducing themselves to voters and discussing the issues at hand. Transparency was a key issue for many. So was reducing debt while maintaining services and holding the line on taxes while addressing critical needs. School candidates talked of rising per pupil costs and declining test scores. And the upcoming hiring of a new town manager, the first in a quarter-century, and now a superintendent of schools weighed heavy.
Two candidates forums were held. Community TV spots were taped and aired. The Townsman published an unprecedented 58 letters from voters and other interested writers endorsing the various candidates and weighing in on the vote.
It is exactly what a local election should be.
Too often we see complacency and disinterest in local government. Andover can be proud that it showed neither this election season.
True, only around 15 percent of voters went to the polls on Tuesday — by no means an overwhelming turnout. Past elections featuring contested races have resulted in voter turnouts of upward of 20 and even 25 percent. But the numbers were respectable nonetheless.
Townspeople owe a debt of gratitude to all of the candidates on the ballot — including those who ran uncontested for positions, such as longtime Town Moderator Sheila Doherty as well as for Housing Authority, Punchard School trustees and Greater Lawrence Technical School representative.
Few seek elected office, particularly on a local level, for entirely selfish reasons. Rather, they believe, often passionately so, that they can give back to their community and make it a stronger, better place for residents to live and raise their families.
Those who succeed in winning office give countless hours of their time — sacrificing evenings, weekends and more away from their homes and loved ones to carry out their responsibilities. The nominal stipends they may receive in turn come nowhere close to covering what they provide.
To those whose bids for office fell short on Tuesday, we strongly encourage you to continue to offer your skills, knowledge and talents in other ways in town.
To the victors, we offer our congratulations, but also a reminder.
Voters had a real choice when they entered the voting booths on Tuesday. They purposely filled in the box next to your name. They believe in you and what you can offer the town. They have entrusted you to represent their interests and the interests of the community. Don’t lose sight of that as you proceed to carry out your terms of office.