With two weeks remaining before the deadline to take out nomination papers for the annual election, a race has emerged for the three-year seat on the board of selectmen. Candidates Ed McManus and Thomas Sherry have both filed and had their papers certified by the board of registrars.
“I want to be the voice of the people and give them a place to vent,” Sherry said on Monday. “Every town has issues, but as a selectman, I'll serve at the will of the people. I do listen and taxpayers more importantly than voters need a voice on the board of selectmen. I'm passionate about this and something has to change. I can offer fresh ideas.”
Sherry has lived in Harwich for a decade, and while he has not served on any boards or committee, he emphasizes his volunteer contributions. The South Harwich resident said he and his wife Delores have been active with the Harwich Cranberry Festival, having run the festival's Beach Day in September for the past nine years.
“I like to get involved in community,” Sherry said.
Sherry served in the Coast Guard for four-and-a-half years and he has been very active in Cape Cod Cares for the Troops and the Wounded Warrior project. In other communities he has been active in museums and historical societies.
Sherry works as an electrical teacher at the Upper Cape Regional Technical High School. He came here from New Jersey where he worked as an electrician with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. He worked mostly on substations, which provided an opportunity to travel, and that was how he came to Cape Cod.
It is time for change in Harwich, he said. People in town talk to him about concerns they have for finding places to live. They are very concerned about where their kids will be able to live given the cost of housing and the number of unoccupied summer homes.
“They can't afford to live here,” Sherry said. “We have three and four generations of families living in town, but their kids have to move out.”
There is a need for affordable housing where trades people and working families can live, he said. Sherry said he would talk with the planning board about the creation of smaller lots, a quarter or one-third of an acre, so people can have a decent home to live in. One-quarter acre is almost half a football field, enough space for a home, he said.
“Try to keep these people living here, paying taxes here,” Sherry said. “Those are the people I want to represent. This is their town.”
He said he is happy with the decision to build a new Cape Cod Regional Technical High School
to train electricians and plumbers, but the graduates also have to be able to afford to live here.
Sherry said the town needs to prioritize its spending. Everything that is presented does not have to be funded. “We need to slow down the spending so we can catch up,” he said.
Speaking to the cost of sewering and addressing wastewater issues, Sherry said the town has to do it because it has been mandated by the state. He said if the town does not pursue this initiative the state will step in and force the town to address it. “If we can take it on ourselves we can do it a little cheaper,” he said. “It's the elephant in the room, but we have to do it.”
Sherry said many of the decisions related to the Saquatucket Harbor projects will be made before this election. He praised the work of Harbormaster John Rendon in getting the $1 million Seaport Economic Council grant, but added town meeting voted $3 million for the project and unless town meeting authorizes additional expenditures, the $1 million grant should be used to offset the total cost.
When asked about the $6.5 million East Harwich fire Station project, Sherry said he wants to know whether this is a maintenance issue or whether a new building is needed. He cited the many building projects facing the town or still being funded by the town, including wastewater, the Cape Tech project, Monomoy Regional High School, Saquatucket Harbor projects, a golf cart barn and the public safety building on Sisson Road.
“I'm not saying we don't need (a new East Harwich station), but do we need one right now?” asked Sherry. “We have to prioritize. It's what does the town want, not what Tom Sherry wants.”
McManus is the only other candidate to declare for the selectmen's seat left vacant after incumbent Jannell Brown decided not to seek another term.
The last day to obtain nomination papers for the annual election to be held on May 15 is Friday, March 23 and the last day to submit them for certification is Tuesday, March 27.