Published in the May 5, 2016 edition
By BOB TUROSZ
NORTH READING — Incumbents prevailed, although narrowly, in the contested races for Selectmen and School Committee on Tuesday’s town election ballot. At only 12 percent, the voter turnout was a decidedly modest 12 percent, which was nothing to write home about given the spirited contests for Selectmen and school board. But it was double last May’s measly voter participation of 6 percent in an election that had little competition.
Michael Prisco and Robert Mauceri were re–elected to three–year terms as Selectmen with 682 and 638 votes respectively, but challengers Liane Gonzalez (552) and Richard Wallner (474) posted strong showings, particularly for first time candidate.
The race for School Committee was even closer. Incumbent Janene Imbriano topped the race with 737 votes, with fellow incumbent Mel Webster close behind with 726. But challenger Laina Simone was only 14 votes off the pace with 712, another strong showing by a first–time candidate.
Voter turnout was light but steady all day. At 10 a.m., 227 people had voted, By 12 noon, it was 391. At 6 p.m. the number reached 1,065 and when the polls finally closed at 8 p.m., 1,327 had cast their ballots.
In other positions on the ballot, candidates were unopposed. Incumbent John J. Murphy won re–election as Moderator with 995 votes. There were two seats up for renewal on the Community Planning Commission. Incumbent Warren Pearce was the top vote getter with 889, followed by Jonathan Cody with 774. Cody stepped up to replace 23–year veteran Planner Patricia Romeo, who decided not to seek re–election.
Unsuccessful candidates Wallner, Gonzalez and Simone were at the St. Theresa Church Parish Hall when the results were announced and all three recognized they ran strong races.
Gonzalez, who finished only 86 votes behind Mauceri, acknowledged feeling disappointed, but felt she did well for a first time candidate and didn’t rule out running again. “I’m going to hold on to my signs,” she said.
“I feel like I ran a good race. It’s tough to beat an incumbent because of the name recognition, but I’m glad I ran,” she said.
“Disappointed? Not at all,” said Wallner. “I’m feeling fine with the whole thing. I have plenty to do as it is, (Wallner is also a member of the Economic Development Committee and the Senior Action Team). I’m happy for Bob and Mike, they do a good job and deserve to hold onto their seats.”
Simone acknowledged her race was much closer than the others — she lost by only 14 votes. “I’m disappointed, but I feel I got myself out there. I’m going to be the exact same outspoken advocate for our kids that I was yesterday. I’m not going to change who I am.”
Webster congratulated Imbriano for topping the ticket and Simone for running a strong race.
“I am thrilled to be able to serve as a member of the North Reading School Committee for three more years and thank those who gave me their vote. There continues to be lots of work to do to strengthen public education, the most important of which is solving the annual funding dilemma. The state must begin implementing the recommendations of the Foundation Budget Review Commission, which found that Chapter 70 is under funded by $2 billion. Until this problem is fixed, school districts will continue to struggle to raise the funds required to appropriately educate all of its students.
“The North Reading school system is strong and vibrant and its students continue to excel in the classroom, on the athletic fields, and in other extracurricular areas such as drama and music. I look forward to working with Superintendent Bernard and his team to make North Reading schools the best that they can be,” Webster said.
Mauceri also thanked his supporters and said he’s energized and ready to focus on the board’s future business.
“It’s time for the board to sit down and organize our focus for the coming year,” he said. For the last year, board member Jeff Yull and Town Administrator Michael Gilleberto followed the Kinder Morgan pipeline project, which has been put on the shelf. Now they can devote their energies to other responsibilities, he said.
The areas where Mauceri and the rest of the board want to continue making progress are the areas of MWRA water supply and economic development, he said. Then there’s always the struggle to balance the town budget in view of limited resources and rebuilding the DPW and hiring a new director after the drug arrests and resignations in March.
“I thank all my supporters and those who have stuck by me through these years and I commit to work even harder for the next three years to achieve our goals.”
Election day started early and ended late for Prisco, but he said it was all worth it when he saw how he topped the Selectmen’s ticket in a four–way race.
“I’m blessed and grateful to have such a great support group. I don’t take any of it for granted, especially in this particular race. It was sort of an in–and–out for me. I was fighting against a Mauceri–O’Leary– Yull– Gonzalez base of supporters against my one base. When I saw I came out on top, that’s a strong statement when it’s four against one.” Prisco said he’s looking forward to Thursday night’s meeting when the board elects new officers for the coming year.
“I hope my board members take a deep breath and think about it. This isn’t personal, I would like an opportunity to be in a leadership role. I think I can do good things and I think the people in town want this. But I’m not sure that’s going to happen.
“Sooner or later they have to put aside their distaste for me and do what’s right for the town, not their personal gain. I think I’ve proven I can be an effective leader and an effective worker. I can get things done,” Prisco said.
Poll workers read the unofficial results in the lobby of the church hall about 10 minutes after the polls closed at 8 p.m. and those results varied little from the official numbers posted on the town website around 10 p.m. All in all, a smooth election day and an early night for the candidates and their supporters.