Published in the December 28, 2018 edition.


WAKEFIELD — The 2018 local political season got underway minutes after the Town Clerk’s Office opened on the morning of Jan. 2. Phyllis Hull and Julie Smith-Galvin pulled nomination papers to run for the Board of Selectmen. Incumbent board chairman Paul DiNocco also took out papers to seek re-election.

The first week of January was a stormy one, as Mother Nature dumped 16 inches of snow on the town, canceling school and resulting in numerous weather-related car accidents. One gust of wind was so strong that it took down the Town Christmas Tree, leaving it lying in the street.

That first week of January also brought the news that Wakefield Memorial High School Principal Richard Metropolis would be leaving his position at the end of the school year. The South Shore resident cited the “difficult daily commute” and the desire to find a position closer to home as part of the reason for his decision.

On Jan. 8 came the news of another School Department departure, as longtime Greenwood School principal Deborah Collura announced her retirement.

The proposed National Grid-Eversource Woburn to Wakefield underground transmission line was in the news on Jan. 8, as Dr. Robert Kavet, an expert in electromagnetic fields hired by the town, told the Board of Selectmen that he doubted that there would be any risks to heath or safety from the power line.

The town was saddened on Jan. 17 by the news that Phyllis Hull had passed away at Lahey Medical Center in Burlington from injuries she suffered after a fall in her Indian Hill Road home. The former selectman and longtime conservative activist was considered a polarizing figure by some. But she won nearly universal respect for her unwavering dedication to building a new monument to the town’s World War II veterans.

Mid-January also brought news that local Fire Captain Christopher Smith had been placed on leave following accusations of indecent assault on a 19-year-old woman at his home.

On Jan. 30, the first candidate for School Committee emerged when Colleen Guida pulled nomination papers.

In early February, the School Committee named a 17-member Superintendent Screening Committee to narrow down the list of candidates to replace retiring School Superintendent Dr. Kim Smith.

On Feb. 13 former selectman and Board of Public Works member Wayne Tarr announced his candidacy for Municipal Light Commissioner.

On Feb. 15 came news that the state Energy Facilities Siting Board had approved the 8.5-mile Woburn to Wakefield underground transmission line. On Feb. 19, the Board of Selectmen declared that they concurred with the EFSB decision.

In mid-February, the Finance Committee honored one of its own – 30-year member Phil McCarty. A portrait of the retired FinCom member was hung in the Finance Committee meeting room in ceremonies at Town Hall.

Late February brought a scary moment to the Northeast Regional Metropolitan Vocational School as a social media threat sent the school into lockdown – until it was discovered that the threat had actually been directed at a school in Maryland with a very similar name.

Neighborhood voting precincts came to an end on Feb. 26, when the Board of Selectmen endorsed Town Clerk Betsy Sheeran’s plan to centralize voting at the Galvin Middle School beginning with the Sept. 4 State Primary Election.

On Feb. 27, Robert Vincent became the second candidate to pull nomination papers to run for School Committee.

In the first week of March, School Superintendent Dr. Kim Smith released her $40 million-recommended FY 2019 School Department budget, which included a 5.54 percent increase.

The first few days of March also brought forth another candidate for School Committee in Aimee Purcell. Also, incumbent School Committee chairman Rob Tiro announced that he would not seek re-election as the Holy Cross graduate planned to focus on applying to law schools.

Another candidate for selectman surfaced on March 2 when Deborah Butler pulled papers.

On Saturday, March 3, a nor’easter roared into town bringing two inches of rain and high winds that toppled trees and felled large branches. Before the town had a chance to finish that cleanup, heavy, wet snow from another winter storm took down tree limbs and wires, and knocked out power for hundreds of homes on March 7.

Less than a week later, on Tuesday, March 13, still another storm dropped more than a foot of snow, closing local schools.

On March 16 came the news that Amy McLeod would succeed outgoing WMHS principal Richard Metropolis. McLeod came from Lowell High School where she was Director of Curriculum.

In late March, the School Committee announced that it had narrowed the search for a new School superintendent to three individuals: Jared Fugoni (Haverhill School Superintendent), Susan Kuska (Assistant Superintendent in Weymouth) and Wakefield’s Assistant Superintendent of Schools, Douglas Lyons.

In early April, the Boys & Girls Club announced that they had purchased and would be moving into the former Ristorante Molise space at 464 Main St.

On April 12, the School Committee approved the $40 million School Department budget.

April 18 brought the news that former Assistant Superintendent of Schools Douglas Lyons would be the next Superintendent of the Wakefield Public Schools.

In the April 24 Town Election, 20 percent of the town’s voters changed the name of the Board of Selectmen to Town Council. Voters also returned incumbent Paul DiNocco to the newly renamed board, but rebuffed another incumbent, Brian Falvey in favor of newcomer Julie Smith-Galvin.

The School Committee also welcomed two new members, Aimee Purcell and Colleen Guida.

On April 30, Annual Town Meeting approved the $95 million-town budget along with $2 million for capital projects. The May 7 session of Annual Town Meeting voted 168-41 to approve $8 million in upgrades and improvements to the Public Safety Building.

But on May 22, a group filed the necessary 200 signatures to force a Special Election on the Town Meeting article funding the Public Safety Building work. The Special Election was set for June 26.

With May came the announcement that retired School Superintendent Dr. Kim Smith would lead the July Fourth Parade as grand marshal.

On June 2, Wakefield Memorial High School graduated 286 students.

On June 4, the Town Council approved the installation of four “wayfinding” kiosks in the downtown and around the Lake, courtesy of the Wakefield Main Streets program.

The June 26 Special Election saw the Public Safety Building upgrades go down to defeat by 76 votes, 1118-1042, with less that 12 percent of the town’s voters participating.