Clemence falls short in bid to return

📸 Joseph Daou, at left, received the most votes in the Town of Southbridge’s Town Council race.

SOUTHBRIDGE — A five-person race for three at large seats was narrowly decided at the polls today, with the second through fourth place finishes separated by just 18 votes.

Local businessman Joseph Daou was the top vote-getter in the election, collecting 627 votes. He will be joined by incumbent Gus Steeves and Jacquelyn Ryan, who also currently serves on the Southbridge School Committee and the Southern Worcester County Regional Vocational Technical School Committee (SWCRVTSC). Steeves received 516 votes, narrowly beating out Ryan’s 509 votes.

Denise Clemence, who served three consecutive terms on the Town Council, was defeated in her effort to return to public office. Clemence received 498 votes, just 11 shy of tying Ryan for the third and final open seat.

Michael Segarra, a first-time candidate, rounded out the field with 321 votes.

Steeves thanked the voters for returning him for another three-year term to the Town Council, despite some of his own initial indecision on seeking it.

“First off, I want to thank all the people who had enough confidence in me to send me back to the Council,” Steeves said the day after the election. “I wasn’t entirely sure I wanted to re-up when I took papers out; I was thinking of switching to Planning or Conservation for a while. So I collected signatures, but sat on them until the last day to submit, after a few people said they thought I should go for another term. I’m glad the people at large thought so, too, and I will continue to do my best for our community.”

In accordance with the Town of Southbridge’s charter, Ryan will have to resign her seat on the SWCRVTSC, the elected board that oversees Bay Path Regional Vocational Technical High School in Charlton. Ryan’s term with the Southbridge School Committee was expiring and she did not seek re-election to that panel.

Ryan thanked voters for their trust and support, as well as the other candidates for endeavoring to serve the community.

“I am so thankful to Southbridge for electing me a councilor tonight,” she said. “I look forward to moving Southbridge forward and congratulate both Joseph Daou and Gus Steeves on their victories; I thank Denise for her continued willingness to serve our community and I thank Michael Segarra for running a campaign on issues he believes in so strongly.”

For his part, Segarra said he was disappointed with the results and hopes voters will be more progressive in the future.

“It was a very exciting an eye opening experience. I remain hopeful for the future of the town but I fear that this year will be most telling as people’s allegiances will be made very clear,” he told The Citizen Chronicle the day after the election. “I’m a little disappointed at coming dead last and really thought my message of hope and a better brighter future for Southbridge with actual plans on how we all were going to get there were completely rejected save the 300+ people who like me can see the need for this town to adopt a more progressive stance for the future or risk being left behind to only watch the town further succumb to what’s been eating at it for years.”

He added: “The standard I was taught by this town to hold myself to the highest and to strive for excellence is what this town needs more than ever now. Removing those responsible for putting the town in this position with people that can take upon themselves the torch of responsibility of running the town correctly for the benefit for all is what needs to happen. There needs to be a changing of the guard and with it will come better times for everyone. Not more of the same.”

Steeves also said the immediate future will be of importance to the success of the town.

“The next few years will be interesting times, maybe in the Confucian sense. We have a lot to deal with, and a lot to look forward to if we handle the issues well. Among other things, I’ll keep advocating for local agricultural, economic and energy self-sufficiency and ecological preparedness (including for climate change), and continue to be a councilor who asks questions and brings in ideas from elsewhere,” Steeves said. “I look forward to working with a new town manager, new Councilors Daou and Ryan, and the existing town team, and I hope to see many new faces become part of helping Southbridge prove it is a resilient and adaptable community.”

This article was last updated at 9:50 p.m. on June 10, 2020.

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