BY ETHAN FORMAN
---- — DANVERS — Newly elected Selectman David Mills’ run as the newest member of the board lasted about 50 minutes last night when he and his colleagues selected Finance Committee member and accountant Diane Langlais to fill a vacancy on the board.
It’s the first time in six years, since Selectman Dan Bennett was elected in 2007, that the Danvers Board of Selectmen has had a fresh face, never mind two.
“Thank you for entrusting me to this seat,” Langlais said during closing comments last night. Langlais will fill out the remainder of the term, which is one year.
Langlais is the first woman to serve as a Danvers selectman since Martha Swindell lost her seat in 2004. Former Selectman Ellen Graham also declined to run that year.
A bit of history: 2004 was also the year that newly appointed selectmen Chairman Gardner Trask lost in his second-straight bid to be selectman. That year, Swindell lost in her re-election bid in a five-way race that propelled now-former Selectman Keith Lucy to a nine-year run and former Selectman Stan Svensson to the board.
“I’m very happy for her, and she is an astute member of the” Finance Committee, said Swindell, who attended last night’s meeting.
“It happened so fast,” Langlais said about her appointment, “but it’s not something I haven’t thought about in the past.”
Langlais; former Selectman Randall Sparkas, who served from 2000 to 2006; and former police Chief Christ Bouras, who had a 44-year career as a police officer in Danvers, had submitted letters of interest to fill a vacancy on the board created by Selectman Mike Powers’ resignation in April. Powers earned praise for his work from other members last night.
Powers had been the most-senior member on the board, but his resignation came too late in the election cycle to get the extra vacancy on the ballot for Tuesday’s election.
On Tuesday, Mills and incumbent Selectman Dan Bennett won the two available seats, while Lucy lost in his bid for a fourth term.
Selectman Bill Clark, who failed to get enough votes to spend a second consecutive year as chairman, said he met with Lucy before last night’s meeting. While Clark said he had intended to nominate the loser of Tuesday’s election, Lucy “wasn’t interested, and I said I would not nominate him.”
It was not clear from the outset whether the board would fill the vacancy last night. Bennett said he came to the meeting with an open mind but was swayed when the board earlier in the evening deadlocked on picking a chairman.
“It is very important to have a fifth person to avoid a logjam,” said Bennett, who had originally nominated Clark to be chairman but switched his vote to Trask when he expressed interest in the job.
Clark, too, said he was prepared to make a pick. Mills said he felt uncomfortable based on three letters of interest. Only one of those interested in the position, Langlais, attended last night’s meeting.
Trask said the résumés of those seeking the nomination were all “well-respected names,” and he said he was compelled by Bennett’s reasoning that a fifth person was necessary to avoid tie votes. Bennett said if the board did not act tonight, it would not be able to appoint someone until June. The board then took a 10-minute recess to read the letters of interest.
When the board came back, Mills said he continued to have reservations.
“I’m not convinced people know we have an open space they can apply for,” Mills said. Bennett said the process was well-publicized, and it attracted three letters. Clark said that while he appreciated everyone who applied, he would throw his support behind Langlais, a self-employed tax accountant, who in the late 1970s and 1980s worked on constituent services for a state representative on Beacon Hill. The Merrimack College graduate is also a member of the Danvers High Design Construction Advisory Committee.
“She’s a team player,” said Bennett, praising Langlais’ résumé. Mills, swayed by his new colleagues, said he, too, would support Langlais, who was sworn in immediately by Town Clerk Joseph Collins, just as Mills had been 40 minutes earlier.
It did not take long last night for Mills, a retired Appeals Court judge, to have to make a hard decision when Bennett nominated Clark for chairman, with Trask saying it was his turn in the rotation. Mills, who said he has great affection and a long family history with both men, said he would not vote for Clark as chairman.
Clark said there is precedence for past chairmen serving consecutive terms, and he had passed on the chairmanship on two occasions. Trask said he wanted to be chairman because he had been in that post when the high school project started. Bennett’s motion for Clark failed with a 2-2 vote, with Trask and Mills voting no. On Mills’ motion to elect Trask as chairman, Bennett switched his vote. Both Trask and Clark shook hands, and the board proceeded to fill the vacancy with a 4-0 vote.
Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @DanverSalemNews.