×

Surprise: three write-in votes propel Hadley resident to School Committee

  • KEITH SHANNON KEITH SHANNON



@JackSuntrup
Saturday, April 22, 2017

HADLEY — In politics, sometimes a handful of votes makes the difference.

In this case, all it took to propel 38-year-old Keith Shannon to the School Committee were three write-in votes — from himself, his wife Geri Labay and a family friend. He said his candidacy was intentional.

“I wasn’t sure that three was going to be enough to get on the School Committee,” Shannon said April 12, a day after the annual town election. He said he found out he won by reading the Daily Hampshire Gazette Wednesday that morning.

“I saw that I got in with three write-in votes,” Shannon said. “It’s a little daunting because there is a time commitment” but, he added, “it’s very exciting.”

There were two open seats on the five-member School Committee this year and because only Tara Brugger filed as a candidate, one seat remained open. So the person who received the most write-in votes would also get a seat.

Town Clerk Jessica Spanknebel said she has never seen a successful write-in effort with only three votes. Typically, write-in candidates mount publicized campaigns, she said.

“I was just surprised that there was no campaign run when only one person turned in (candidate) papers,” she said.

Shannon is a digital media strategist who works for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and has one child in the school district. He said his major motivation to join the School Committee was to provide a greater voice for students receiving special education services.

He said he feels there is a certain group of students that are often “overlooked,” adding that the problems are not unique to Hadley schools and that he will advocate for the needs of all students in general.

He said he does have to read up on the district’s budget situation and other issues, though he has attended School Committee meetings in the past.

Shannon and Brugger will be taking the seats of current chairwoman Linda Dunlavy and Robie Grant, who both opted not to run again. Grant said the committee was surprised there was not more interest in what has historically been a high-profile public office.

“I don’t have an explanation for why there isn’t at this time,” she said of candidate interest.

Grant said the No. 1 issue the district faces is funding.

“I think Hadley faces some of the same issues as other districts in western Massachusetts,” she said, saying the district is grappling with declining enrollment and is facing more competition with charter schools.

According to Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education figures, the Hadley School District had 606 students last school year, down from 714 students during the 2009-10 school year.

She added that new School Committee members receive training from the Massachusetts Association of School Committees.

Following his surprise election, Shannon said, he will also clean up his social media presence. On Twitter, he is a frequent critic of President Donald Trump, sometimes using curse words to express himself.

He said he won’t “sanitize” his political beliefs, but will delete some tweets that aren’t “family-friendly.”

“I do social media for a living so I do understand that everything we do on social media is public,” he said. “Now, after this, I will probably spend some time tonight going into Twitter and deleting some stuff that is not family-friendly.”

Jack Suntrup can be reached at jsuntrup@gazettenet.com.