3-way race shaping up for Select Board post in Amherst

  • Amherst Town Hall

Staff Writer
Thursday, February 08, 2018

AMHERST — A three-way race for a three-year seat on the Select Board, which could be the last election for the board if a change in the government structure is approved by voters, is one of three townwide contests that will be decided March 27.

In addition to the Select Board race, the other contests will be for two seats on the Amherst School Committee and two seats as trustees for the Jones Library. Candidates had until Tuesday at 5 p.m. to get signatures from 50 registered voters to have their names printed on the ballot.

Select Board incumbent Douglas W. Slaughter, 5 Dwight Circle, who hasn’t publicly stated his view on the Charter Commission proposal to replace the Select Board and Town Meeting with a 13-member council, is being challenged by Ivan Babian, 187 Colonial Village, and Robert E. Greeney, 76 McClellan St., who both oppose the charter.

The winner will serve three years, unless residents decide to change the form of government, in which case councilors would be elected in November and be seated in December.

With School Committee incumbents Viraphanh Douangmany Cage and Phoebe F. Hazzard opting against seeking re-election, three residents pulled papers for the committee: Benjamin Herrington, 99J Southpoint Apartments, Allison Bleyler McDonald, 43 Hop Brook Drive, and Kerry A. Spitzer, 56 Berkshire Terrace.

Spitzer, a health services researcher at Baystate Medical Center an budget and former policy analyst in New York City government, is the mother of two children, ages 5 and 1.

“Having grown up in Amherst, I know how strong our schools are,” Spitzer said. “I’m eager to work to ensure that the schools continue to serve all students and respond to the challenges and opportunities ahead.”

McDonald, who handles communications and marketing at VentureWell, a Hadley nonprofit, is the mother of a fifth-grader at Fort River and seventh-grader at the middle school.

She hopes to use skills at listening and finding solutions to keep the schools a cornerstone of Amherst.

“Today, we face multiple challenges with our schools, including providing high-quality learning environments and ensuring equal access for all students and families,” said McDonald, who moved to Amherst 15 years ago.

Herrington, who is employed on the custodial team for Wildwood and Fort River schools and previously served as a combat engineer in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, is the father of children in third grade at Crocker Farm School and at the high school.

“My proven ability to communicate across a diverse spectrum of people will allow me to act as a bridge among educators, students, caregivers and the School Committee, and to provide proactive outreach to everyone involved in the path of our children’s education and future,” Herrington said.

Library trustees incumbents Tamson M. Ely, 26 Middle St., and Austin D. Sarat, 76 Snell St., are facing challenges from Cathy L. “Kitty” Axelson-Berry, 89 Stony Hill Road, and Sigurd Nilsen, 27 Teaberry Lane.

Both Axelson-Berry, who ran unsuccessfully last year, and Nilsen have expressed concerns about the project to expand and renovate the Jones Library, a project that Sarat and Ely support.

The only other townwide contest is for a one-year term as elector under the Oliver Smith Will between Carol J. Gray, 815 South East St., and Barry L. Roberts, 200 Bay Road.

Incumbents seeking reelection include James W. Pistrang, 41 High Point Drive, moderator for one year, and David W. Williams, 158 Rolling Ridge Road, for Amherst Housing Authority for five years. The other newcomer is Jeffrey C. Lee, 815 South East St., for a five-year term on the Amherst Redevelopment Authority.

For Town Meeting, there will be contests for three-year seats in seven of the 10 precincts, with the most running in Precinct 6, where 19 are competing for the eight slots. But in Precinct 4, just three people are running for the eight three-year seats.

In total, with one- and two-year terms also available for vacant positions, there are 119 candidates for 92 slots.

Town Meeting will meet this spring and in the fall, even if the charter passes.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.