Published in the December 28, 2017 edition

This is the first of two parts.


WAKEFIELD – January marks the beginning of the local election season, and if 2018 is anything like 2017, things could start getting interesting around here beginning next week.

Last Jan. 3, Selectman Phyllis Hull was at Town Hall early in the morning pulling papers for re-election. Selectman candidate Dan Benjamin was also taking out nomination papers on the first day that they were available at the Town Clerk Betsy Sheeran’s office.

Speaking of whom, Sheeran also pulled her own nomination papers on Jan. 3 to run for re-election, as did John Ruehrein for the position of Constable. School Committeeman Chris Callanan grabbed his nomination papers for re-election, along with veteran Planning Board member Bill Damore.

Soon, everyone was getting into the act. Alison Mehlman pulled papers for re-election to the Board of Health on Jan. 5, and Anne Fortier took out papers for School Committee. Mehreen Butt pulled nomination papers for selectman on Jan. 6 and Susan Wetmore took out papers for Board of Library Trustees.

Meanwhile, the town dodged a bullet on Saturday, Jan. 7, when a winter storm that clobbered some areas dumped a paltry 7.5 inches on Wakefield.

But a few inches of snow didn’t slow the parade of candidates coming forward to run in the Town Election: Jack Warchol took out papers for MGLD Board on Jan. 9. Joseph Tringale pull papers for Board of Library Trustees on Jan. 11, followed by Robert Stewart (Constable), and Ashley Shae Chase (School Committee) on Jan 12.

Meanwhile, veteran selectman Pat Glynn announced that he would not seek a fourth term. Long seen as a level-headed, voice of reason on the board, Glynn retired as chairman.

Icy conditions on the highway on Feb. 8 resulted in a massive early morning crash on Route 128 in front of the Comverse Building involving up to 50 vehicles. Eight people were taken to area hospitals with injuries and traffic on the highway was tied up for hours.

Two days later, on Feb. 10, residents were digging out from 13 inches of wind-driven snow, with more forecast in the coming days.

At its meeting on Valentine’s Day, the School Committee signaled its love of a $6 million plan to renovate the Walton School.

On Feb. 28, the School Committee announced that it would seek a 4.84 percent increase in its budget. That figure would prove controversial as some residents remembered an implicit promise from the School Department to limit its requested increase to 4 percent.

Ed Dombroski pulled papers for Board of Selectman as February turned to March and the election ballot was pretty much set, at least in terms of the two major contested races.

For two seats on the Board of Selectmen, it was Hull, Dan Benjamin, Mehreen Butt, Stephan Chase, Ed Dombroski and Jim Lapery. After incumbent Anne Danehy announced that she was not running for re-election, the race for School Committee came down to Callanan, Ashley Shae Chase, Anne Fortier, Evan Kenney and Greg Powers. John Ruehrwein, Kevin Lopes and Robert Stewart were in the race for on Constable slot.

On March 7, the Wakefield Co-operative Bank celebrated its 130th birthday with ceremonies at the bank.

On March 11, an oil tanker spill on Route 128 in Wakefield shut down the highway for four hours.

On March 14, a late-winter storm dumped an unwelcome 9 inches of heavy, wet snow on the town, which promptly froze solid as overnight temperatures plummeted to 15 degrees.

In late March Caitlin Bracken, a 15-year-old high school student, presented to the Board of Selectmen her petition for a Town Meeting article to ban thin film, single use plastic bags in Wakefield

The Quannapowitt Players produced the Lion in Winter.

On March 29, WCAT hosted debates for Board of Selectmen and School Committee.

After defending the requested 4.84 percent hike in the School Department Budget, School Committee members voted on April 11 to endorse the increase. Committee members Rob Tiro and Kate Morgan dissented and opposed the budget hike.

The April 25 Town Election saw two new members voted to the Board of Selectmen: Ed Dombroski and Mehreen Butt. In the School Committee election, incumbent Chris Callanan prevailed, with new member Anne Fortier claiming the other seat.

On April 26, the Wakefield-Lynnfield Chamber of Commerce came out against the proposed plastic bag ban, pointing out that no one had discussed it with the local merchants.

Annual Town Meeting approved the requested $6 million renovation of the Walton School.

Town Meeting voters also voted to ban any recreational marijuana business from locating in Wakefield, but voters at Town Meeting decided to punt on the plastic bag ban, sending the measure back to the Board of Selectmen for further study.

In May, the town installed a new Word War I Memorial on the common, mounting the cleaned-up original plaque with the names if the war dead on a new granite pillar to match the World War II Monument.

In mid-May, the Main Street program announced its intention to install new benches on the sidewalks throughout Wakefield Square.

On Friday, May 20, Armed Forces Day, the Wakefield Center Neighborhood Association oversaw the replacement of two missing plaques on the Rockery honoring those who served in the Spanish-American War.

On May 22, Caryn’s Sports bar & Restaurant on Main Street had its liquor license suspended by the Board of Selectmen after two episodes of patrons being overserved alcohol.

In late May, Members of the Board of Selectmen criticized a decision by the Wakefield Farmers Market to exclude local business, “The Bread Shop.” The Farmers market eventually agreed to allow the Bread Shop to participate.

Beloved local physician Dr. John Kidd retired in late May after decades of practicing medicine at Dutton Family care on Avon Street.

On June 2, Wakefield was saddened by the news of a car crash in New Hampshire that took the life of 2016 WMHS graduate Danielle Benedetto and critically injured classmate Logan Dunn. Logan would also succumb to his injuries less than a week later.

On Saturday, June 3, 230 Wakefield Memorial High School graduated 230 students.

In June, Marianne Cohen announced that she was stepping down after three years as Executive Director of the Wakefield-Lynnfield Chamber of Commerce.

On June 12, the Board of Selectmen held its first discussion around the idea of changing the name of the board to something gender neutral.

In mid-June, Beebe Library announced that Director Sharon Gilley was retiring after 40 years as Library director. Later in the month, the Board of Library Trustees announced that longtime Assistant Director Catherine McDonald had been chosen as the new Library Director.