BY ETHAN FORMAN
---- — DANVERS — The race is still on for two selectmen’s seats in the May 7 Town Election, with incumbents Keith Lucy and Dan Bennett locked in a three-way contest with retired judge David Mills.
Selectman Gardner Trask said he is concerned about the perception among some voters following the resignation last week of former Selectman Mike Powers. Some people seem to think that the candidate who is not voted in at Town Election will be appointed to fill the new vacancy, meaning there’s not much point in voting. But Trask says there’s no guarantee that will happen, and residents still need to vote for the candidates of their choice.
“There is still a selectman’s race,” Trask said.
Powers resigned his selectman’s seat because of a conflict of interest with his job as a full-time special education teacher at Danvers High School.
His resignation created a third vacancy on the board at a time when three candidates are vying for two three-year terms. There is not enough time before the election to get the third seat on the ballot, so the remaining four selectmen can nominate someone to fill out the post until next year’s Town Election.
Bill Clark, the board chairman, said he would bring a motion shortly after the election to nominate whoever loses.
“I believe that in principle,” he said, noting that these candidates have been willing to put their names on the ballot and run campaigns.
But it’s not certain the board would go along with his suggestion, so a lot may depend on the outcome of the election.
“All three are very well-qualified,” Clark said, predicting the race will be a close one. He said he considers all of them friends and has not endorsed anyone.
“I think every one would make an excellent selectman,” he said.
If Clark cannot get three votes for his motion, the board would consider those who have expressed interest in being appointed to fill out the rest of Powers’ term.
Trask does not like the idea of nominating the loser if it means nominating an incumbent.
“Bill Clark has the right to make a nomination for whoever he wishes,” Trask said. But his own opinion, he said, is that if an incumbent loses, “the electorate voted that person out of office.”
On the other hand, a newcomer to the board is just that, Trask said, “and I would give him consideration.”
“A newcomer who does a decent showing is worthy of consideration, as well as anyone who puts their name in,” Trask said. He said it is hard for a newcomer to break onto the board when incumbents are running.
Trask said he supports Bennett and he is campaigning for Mills, a retired Massachusetts Appeals Court judge and former town moderator.
When asked about Lucy, whom he is not supporting, Trask said: “I would rather not speak about Keith.”
Lucy, an electrical engineer, is now the senior member of the board and a past chairman. He is running for his fourth term.
Lucy praised Powers’ calm demeanor and balanced approach to issues, and said he wished Powers had become a teacher in another school district so he could have remained on the board.
Lucy said he supports the idea of appointing the losing candidate to fill the new vacancy but cautioned, “There is still a race.” Campaigns, he noted, are also a chance for residents to ask questions of elected officials “and find out what they are really about.”
Mills said he is worried voters will stay away because he has heard from some residents who think there are three vacancies on the ballot, which is not true.
“There is not a vacancy for three people to get into,” Mills said. “If people want to vote for me, I don’t want people to stay home.”
Bennett, a self-employed real estate broker and a trustee of Essex Aggie, is running for his third term as a selectman.
As for the upcoming election, he said, Powers’ resignation “kind of takes the wind out of the sails.” He said whether the loser should be appointed would depend on whether that person even wanted the appointed. If so, he said, that would be a matter for public discussion at a selectmen’s meeting.
Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @DanverSalemNews.