Newcomers top the ballot, “Experience” falls short

By Citizen Chronicle Writers
editor@TheCitizenChronicle.com

SOUTHBRIDGE — In a crowded field of contenders that included both familiar names and new faces, three of the four winners of Town Council seats are new to the town’s governing board.

David Adams, John Daniel, and Kristen Auclair were elected to three-year terms on the Town Council, while Jack Jovan was elected to a one-year seat on the panel. The one-year term fills the seat vacated by Wallace MacKenzie earlier this year when he moved to Woodstock, Connecticut.

Of the 11,285 registered voters in Southbridge, 1,546 made their ways to the polls or cast absentee ballots. That means 14 percent of the voters came out to decide who will serve on the Town Council, as well as unopposed candidates for town clerk, school committee, redevelopment authority, and more.

Adams was the top vote-getter in the Town Council races, receiving 920 votes and endorsed by more than 59 percent of those who cast ballots on Tuesday. Daniel was second with 831 votes (53.8 percent) and Auclair rounded out the field with 689 votes (44.6 percent). Scott Lazo finished fourth with 578 votes, coming 111 votes shy of tying Auclair. The field of seven for three three-year seats was rounded out by Mike Marketti with 382 votes, David Smick with 357 votes, and Joseph Cotrona with 286 votes. Lazo, Smick, and Cotrona ran in a united effort as the “Experience Ticket,” citing the prior terms each has served on the Town Council and other boards and committees within town.

A first time candidate for a high profile office in local government, Adams credited his “out of the box thinking” along with his outreach in person, through social media, and otherwise for his victory. He noted that at the outset of the campaign he felt he was “running behind the entire time” due to the name recognition and experience of some other candidates, but that he worked hard to win the support of voters. “[I was] hoping everything I did for the last few months resonated with the people of Southbridge and I’m happy it did,” he said, later adding how he had been “humbled” by the experience and support.

Daniel, a first time political candidate who is a retired educator and school administrator in Webster, was found right against the door windows where results were being posted by poll workers. As the results came in, Daniel said his confidence grew before eventually exclaiming “Wow!” as victory seemed inevitable.

“Coming in I felt that we needed a good turnout today,” he explained. “I felt that because there was name recognition with a lot of the other candidates that I needed a lot of people to come out to support me, kind of in a quiet way.”

Daniel noted that around 4 p.m. on Tuesday, the low turnout had him worried, only to see his hopes heightened with a dinner hour rush of voters. “I felt better, I felt more confident about things,” he recalled.

Similar to Adams, Daniel knew his lack of political experience and name recognition was a significant hurdle to overcome.

“I thought I had a lot of work to do. I knew that there were people that knew me, but I think I lost contact with a lot of people [over the years],” he said. “I think I needed to renew my acquaintances, I needed to get the word out that I was running, that I was in town, and that I was a viable candidate.”

Auclair, an incumbent wrapping up her first term on the Town Council, did not hide her excitement and emotion as returns were posted.

“I’m very, very happy and very excited especially for the other people that were voted on today. We’ve put ourselves in a place to really focus on short, medium, and long term goals in Southbridge and really bring us back out to where we need to be,” Auclair said. “I’m happy that the people of Southbridge have spoken and the way that they have spoken.”

ONE-YEAR TERM

Jovan won the one-year seat with 709 votes, good for nearly 46 percent of the ballots cast. Esteban Carrasco Jr., an incumbent, fell with 583 votes (37.7 percent), while challenger John Pulawski came in third with 181 votes (11.7 percent).

“I’m looking forward to serving the one year term and try to bring some stability to Council and a different voice,” said Jovan. “I think my experience on School Committee will certainly help as we transition with all the issues with the school.”

The veteran public servant and rookie Town Councilor applauded the incumbent he defeated at the polls.

“I want to thank Esteban for his service to the town,” Jovan said. “He served the town with grace in a lot of difficult circumstances.”

For his part, Carrasco remained humble and upbeat in the wake of his defeat.

“Seeing the results was a little difficult but at the same time it was refreshing to see the citizens of the town were going to elect two fresh faces to the Council,” he said. “I thank the citizens of Southbridge for the ability to serve for five years. I will continue to serve my community because it’s the community I love and I will do it in a different capacity without political strings.”

Carrasco laid no blame for the loss, instead affirming the election day loss is attributable only to “a great candidate that was before me.”

He added: “[Jovan] is a respectable man.  He is a great man and he has also served the town for years in the school department. It was a good race and I knew going into it that it was going to be close.”

Asked what advice he would offer the new faces coming to the Town Council, Carrasco suggested: “Do your homework. Don’t make alliances. Literally serve the people of the town and don’t get involved in political agendas.”

As for his own political agenda going forward, there is none.

“I think my political career at this present time is over,” Carrasco said. “Absolutely, win or lose, that was the plan — this was going to be my final year.”

He added: “I have no regrets. I want to thank the people of Southbridge for their support. I have served with passion, with respect, with integrity. I love my community. I believe the town is in a better place than when I got on there five years ago.”

The candidates and voters had excellent weather for election day, and a steady stream of voters approached the single polling place at 153 Chestnut Street throughout the day.

Today’s ballot also included several uncontested positions. Madaline I. Bonadies will serve another three years as Town Clerk. William Bishop and Martena Shea were elected to the School Committee. Richard Clemence was elected to the Redevelopment Authority and Paul Zotos was elected to The Southbridge Housing Authority.  Michael Langevin was elected to the Southern Worcester County Vocational Technical School Committee, serving Bay Path Regional Vocational High School.

The candidates will be sworn in at a regular meeting of the Town Council in July.

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