Swampscott races nearing the finish line

April 23, 2017

By GAYLA CAWLEY

SWAMPSCOTT — Three contested races highlight Tuesday’s Town Election.

Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. at three locations: Precincts 1 & 2 at Swampscott Senior Center, 200 Rear Essex St.; Precincts 3 & 4 at First Church Congregational, 40 Monument Ave.; and Precincts 5 & 6 at Swampscott Middle School, 207 Forest Ave.

Voters will see three contested races on their ballots, School Committee, Board of Health and Trustee of the Public Library. Other uncontested races are for Board of Selectmen, Planning Board and Moderator.

There is an empty slot for Board of Assessors. William Sullivan is a candidate for re-election, but did not return nomination papers, so he would have had to run a write-in campaign, along with anyone else vying for the position.

For School Committee, there are two open seats and three candidates. Incumbents Suzanne Wright and Gargi Cooper will face off against newcomer, Melissa Camire. Wright and Cooper are each running for a second, three-year term.

Wright and Cooper have stressed the importance of continuity and consistency on the board, citing past leadership turnover. Camire has said there needs to be more transparency and communication from the committee.

Cooper and Wright both said they want to see the mental health initiatives (SWIFT and Harbor) programs that started at Swampscott High School this year expand to the middle school.

Wright wants to continue work on a district-wide technology plan to benefit students. She stated previously she is looking forward to some new projects, including seeing a new school get built. Superintendent Pamela Angelakis has submitted two statements of interest to the Massachusetts School Building Authority, one for replacement of Hadley Elementary School and the other with the intent to renovate Swampscott Middle School.

Cooper said as chairwoman of the Joint Facilities Task Force, she led the school system to work with town administration to strengthen Swampscott’s infrastructure and improve efficiencies. She highlighted the hiring of a joint facilities director, a shared position between town government and the school department.

Camire said the schools are crumbling and some are not ADA compliant, and there seems to be no technology budget. She is for school consolidation for the lower grades, rather than smaller neighborhood schools. She wants to see more transparency on the committee, and if elected, said she would do more investigation into the budget, and more specifically, why certain cuts were made.

For Board of Health, Martha Dansdill, chairwoman, is running for a fourth, three-year term against Emily Cilley.

Dansdill, is the former executive director of HealthLink, a North Shore environmental nonprofit organization, and is now on its Board of Directors. She cited her experience from serving three terms and stated previously that she has been a proponent of reaching out to educate the community on new health issues as they arise.

She said the three-member board implemented a waste reduction program that increased recycling and saved the town $90,000 annually over the pre-waste reduction program. She said the board also works to keep the town’s beaches and oceans clean, citing work done to make the waters from Swampscott to Revere a “no discharge zone.” She highlighted opioid abuse and addiction as a problem many communities are dealing with.

Cilley, a registered nurse, works for Northeast Clinical Services and with people in their homes. She also works as a substitute nurse in town. She stated previously that she would focus on the youth and elderly in town, and also on the opioid crisis.

Cilley said she thinks the board can do better on a number of health issues, including rising opioid casualties, storm-water and sewage contamination, trash and recycling pick-up costs and the need for open space to accommodate residents.

For Library Trustees, Herrick Wales, chairman, is running for a second, three-year term against Ellen Winkler, an attorney in Marblehead, and president of Friends of the Swampscott Public Library.

Both candidates have said it’s an exciting time for the library, which is in the midst of its yearlong centennial celebration. The building on Burrill Street turned 100 on Jan. 20. The Friends group finances library programs and is funding the celebrations.

Wales, a schoolteacher in Marblehead, has said previously that the three members of the library trustees meet monthly with Library Director Alyce Deveau to talk about expanding programs and events for the community. Ways to expand the library and how to redesign library space are discussed, with a long-term goal of renovation and expansion. He said the goal is to make the library a vibrant community center, rather than just a way to gather information.

Winkler has said there needs to be a focus on how library space is used and how to improve on that to get the most community benefit. She said the focus should also be on the library in the future, now that people read ebooks more. She said it’s important to focus on getting the most out of the library, which she called a true community center.

For Board of Selectmen, Naomi Dreeben and Laura Spathanas, chair and vice-chair respectively, are running unopposed for what would be a second, three-year term for each. Both said they want to continue to see town projects move forward, as part of their reason for running.

Angela Ippolito, chairwoman of the Planning Board, is running unopposed for a second, five-year term. She stated she wants to continue to work on spearheading (with Dreeben) the town’s effort to develop a feasibility study/business plan to pursue the acquisition (through fundraising or other means) of White Court, the former Marian Court College, and utilize the property for a public use. The 6.2 acre site is owned by the Sisters of Mercy.

Michael McClung is running unopposed for a second, one-year term as Town Moderator.

Town Clerk Susan Duplin said there are 10,694 registered voters and expects turnout for the election to be between 25 to 30 percent.


Gayla Cawley can be reached at gcawley@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter @GaylaCawley.