Election 2019: Voters Deliver Upsets, As Wellman-Miller, Zaroulis Win Seats
Apr 09, 2019 06:39PM
By Bill Gilman
Tewksbury voters proved "The Year of the Woman" isn't over yet.
In Saturday's Municipal Election, female challengers won seats on the Board of Selectmen and Board of Health, unseating male incumbents in both races.
In the three-way race for two, 3-year seats on the Board of Selectmen, incumbent Anne Marie Stronach topped the results with 2,352 votes (29.8 percent) with challenger Jayne Wellman-Miller claiming the second seat with 2,160 votes (27.3 percent). Four-term incumbent Todd Johnson finished third with 2,102 votes (26.7 percent).
According to former Town Clerk Liz Carey, this will mark the second time ever and first time since 1993 (Ann Looney, Joan Dunlevy) that two women have served on the Board of Selectmen at the same time.
In the four-way race for two 3-year seats on the Board of Health, incumbent Anthony Boschetti earned re-election with 1,757 votes (22.2 percent). Challenger Maria Zaroulis grabbed the second seat with 1,697 votes (21.5 percent). Challenger Kylee Perrotta came up just short, placing third with 1,549 votes (19.6 percent) in her first run for political office. First-term incumbent George Ferdinand was defeated in his bid for re-election, finishing fourth with 1,266 votes (16.0 percent).
A total of 3,949 voters took part in the election, a turnout of 17.6 percent of registered voters.
It should be noted that there were 1,236 "blanks" in the selectmen's race (15.6 percent) and 1,603 "blanks" in the Board of Health race (20.3 percent). A vast majority of those were ballots on which a voter chose just one candidate instead of two. Traditionally, this type of "bullet voting" is a strategy used by supporters of an underdog challenger to offset the power of the incumbency when multiple seats are up for grabs. However, it is impossible to determine which of the candidates these ballots favored in each race.
Stronach and Wellman-Miller both expressed gratitude to the voters of Tewksbury and said they were looking forward to continuing the work of improving the community over the next three years.
"I can't say that I'm not happy about being able to continue my work on the Board of Selectmen and working for the residents of this town," said Stronach. "I'm thrilled and humbled by the vote."
Stronach aded that she was looking forward to working alongside Wellman-Miller.
"I have actually said all throughout this race that it's anybody's game and that no matter who won tonight, Tewksbury was going to be a winner," she said. "We had three really strong candidates and we were really lucky to have three strong candidates. Only two of us could win, and while it's unfortunate that Todd did not win, I think Jayne will be a really good addition to the board, as well."
For Wellman-Miller, the victory was the latest in a string of political successes, which has included election to the School Committee and as Town Moderator.
"It was amazing to see the results were so close. Todd and Anne Marie are outstanding public servants, they've done a great job," she said. "This was really an issues-based campaign that we ran, a really positive campaign. Everybody worked really hard and I think it shows that every vote counts in every election.
Wellman-Miller said she will be consulting with the State Ethics Commission relative to her position as Town Moderator and if she should sep down from that position prior to the May 6 Annual Town Meeting. If she does, an acting Town Moderator would be elected from the floor of Town Meeting.
Johnson, who has served several years as chairman during his 12-year tenure on the Board of Selectmen, admitted he was surprised and disappointed by his 52-vote loss but remained philosophical about the results.
"I'm proud of my record in my 12 years on the board. I think we have accomplished a lot and the town is in a much better position now than it was when I was first elected," he said. "But tonight, the people chose two other candidates and chose to go in a different direction."
Johnson said he planned to take some time to focus on his family before deciding whether or not he would look to run for office again or volunteer for one of the town's appointed boards.
"It's way too early to make any decisions about things like that now," he said.
In messages to her supporters posted on her Facebook page, Zaroulis expressed gratitude to those who voted for her and singled out volunteers who had worked on her campaign.
"We did it, folks! Such a tremendous group of supporters - I am so grateful! Looking forward to getting to work!" she wrote.
In a statement posted to her Facebook page, Perrotta said she chalked up her first run for public office as a success.
"Unfortunately I did not make the cut and will not be serving on the Tewksbury Board of Health. I did have fun and met some amazing people along the way, so I will count that as a win," she wrote.
Ferdinand was gracious in defeat, congratulating Zaroulis and Boschetti and expressed gratitude for his chance to serve the community.
"I have contacted Anthony Boschetti and Maria Zaroulis with congratulationson their victories. Best wishes to you as you serve our community on the BOH. It has been my profound pleasure in serving you the people of Tewksbury for the past 3 years," he wrote. "Two very good things are that I do not have one regret on any vote that I made during the term and that Proposal 1 (the new elementary school) passed by an overwhelming landslide."
Tewksbury Election results and reactions
Interview with newly elected Tewksbury Selectman Jayne Wellman-Miller
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