No Contest: Select Board Remains Unchallenged, Interest High For Library Board

by Ryan Bray
The four candidates seeking three seats on the Snow Library board of trustees represent the lone contested race in this year’s annual town election in Orleans. FILE PHOTO The four candidates seeking three seats on the Snow Library board of trustees represent the lone contested race in this year’s annual town election in Orleans. FILE PHOTO

ORLEANS – Kevin Galligan was quick to take out nomination papers for a third term on the select board in February. Two months later, he is running uncontested for the seat.

This year marks the fourth consecutive town election in which the select board race has been uncontested. It’s also the second uncontested race for Galligan, who didn’t face a challenger when he last sought reelection in 2021.

More broadly, there have only been two contested races in Orleans since 2021. That includes four candidates seeking three seats this spring on the Snow Library board of trustees.

Opposition or no, Galligan said last week that he will campaign for his seat heading into the May 21 election. As a sitting select board member and candidate for re-election, he said it’s important to make himself available to the town’s voters.

“I kind of enjoy using this to tell people again I am campaigning,” he said. “There’s not a competitor, but at the same time it’s a great opportunity to let people know that their vote is important, and hopefully I will earn it.”

Galligan said the recent run of uncontested races for the town’s top board isn’t necessarily cause for concern. In fact, he said he takes it as a sign that voters are happy with the way in which the current board and local government are working.

“It is a desire of mine actually to see candidates running,” he said. “But I don’t take our present situation as totally negative.”

The current board works well together, Galligan said. More importantly, he said he and his fellow board members are responsive to residents. But that hasn’t always been the case, he said. Prior to being elected, he recalled bringing petition articles forward to the board for consideration that were ultimately ignored.

“When you do that, that generates some interest in people wanting to run,” he said.

Select Board chair Michael Herman said he’s happy to see Galligan run for another term, and agreed that the recent lack of competition for seats on the board could be a sign that people are happy with the board’s current makeup.

“I think the public for the most part in Orleans is appreciative of their select board and the work we do, and that there are different voices on the select board and diversity, for the most part,” he said. “And I hope they're happy.”

But he also suggested there could be broader factors at play. He said the increasingly divisive tenor of national politics might have a hand in discouraging participation in elections at the local level, even if the two operate very differently from one another.

“Later people are going to have to step up,” he said. “So is it a problem in the future? I might be naive, but I hope our politics become less divisive at all levels.”

Herman also said the lack of challengers could also be a reflection of the amount of work that goes into serving on the board. Beyond regular Wednesday night meetings, select board members also share the responsibility of liaising with dozens of other boards and committees.

While town board and committee members are volunteers, Herman said he puts more than 40 hours a week into his role as a select board member.

“The fact is working as a select board [member] is a lot of hard work and dedication,” he said. “You see it. This is not just meetings on Wednesday night. We have 51 boards and committees.”

For his part, Galligan said he’s ready for a third term on the select board if elected next month, and he hasn’t ruled out the potential of seeking a fourth if the opportunity presents itself. But the board has focused in recent months on developing a system for driving turnover and welcoming new members to boards and committees. And while select board members are elected and not appointed, he said turnover would also be good for the board.

“I think that’s our obligation,” he said.

But what if the current trend of uncontested races persists? Galligan said that board members may be left to put in the work of trying to recruit and encourage other residents or committee members to run ahead of future elections, especially if sitting members have already made the decision not to seek new terms.

Elsewhere on the ballot, only one candidate, Katherine Tonwry-McNamara, has returned signed papers to seek one of the two seats up for grabs on the Orleans Elementary School committee. Town Clerk Kelly Darling said the second seat would be filled by a write-in candidate if one appears on the ballot.

There are no candidates for a five-year seat on the Orleans Housing Authority. That seat could similarly be filled by a write-in candidate. On the board of health, incumbent member Joe Hartung is seeking re-election for one of two available seats, while Asa Nadeau will also seek his first full term on the board.

Meanwhile, there’s no lack of interest for seats on the Snow Library board of trustees this spring. In this year’s only contested local race, incumbent trustees Jamie Balliett and Mark Ziomek are seeking re-election to new three-year terms, while challengers Betsy Sorensen and Cheryl Bryan are also contesting for a seat.

Discussion and planning round a new Snow Library is likely driving interest this year in the trustees race. But trustees chair Joan Francolini also acknowledged that the contested race ultimately will leave one candidate on the outside looking in.

“I think it’s hard,” she said. “We love to have interest in the library. I mean it’s amazing to have interest. I wish there were enough seats so that more people can participate, because you want community involvement. But we only have three spots, and two incumbents have done a knockout job.”

Balliett and Ziomek are both seeking second terms. Balliett is currently the board’s vice chair, while Ziomek recently helped the board review all of the library’s existing policies. Bryan, meanwhile, is a former trustee and current member of the Snow Library feasibility task force.

“And you have a new person (Sorensen) who’s interested,” Francolini said. “Someone suggested ‘Let’s increase the number of trustees.’ You just can’t do that.”

The nonprofit Friends of the Snow Library provides a way for people to become involved with the library apart from serving as a trustee, Francolini noted. And if an upcoming town meeting article seeking $180,000 in support of the task force’s pursuit of a state construction grant for a new library passes ahead of the election, there will also be an opportunity to serve on a yet-to-be-formed capital campaign committee, she added.

On April 24, the Friends will host a candidates forum in the library’s Marion Craine room, where a moderator will ask questions of the four candidates. There also will be an opportunity for attendees to ask questions, Francolini said.

For trustees, the hope is the forum will help carry local interest about the library into the election and help to better inform voters about the candidates as they head out to the polls.

“When we look at last year, there were 700 people who didn’t even vote for a library spot,” Francolini said. “Because if I don’t know someone, I don’t vote for them.”

Polls for the annual town election will be open May 21 from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Orleans Senior Center on Rock Harbor Road. In-person early voting will take place at town hall May 13 through 17 during normal business hours. The last day for Orleans residents to register to vote for the spring election is May 10.

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