All the Town Council incumbents were handily re-elected and a few new faces made the cut Tuesday night. On the Board of Education, Chair Brian Shirvell is out and Republican newcomer – and first-time public-office holder – Shelley Gardner is in.
On the council, Jim Streeter (R) received 2,569 votes, Harry A. Watson (R) got 2,378 votes, Bill Johnson (D) received 2,277 votes, Heather Bond Somers (R) got 2,254 votes, Mick O’Beirne (R) took 2,195 votes, Dean G. Antipas (R) received 2,086 ballots, Bruce S. Flax (R) got 2,061 votes, Deborah Peruzzotti (R) received 1,994 votes and Rita M. Schmidt (D) got 1,882 votes.
“One seat down on the council, we maintain the Board of Ed and we overtook the RTM…,” said Groton Democratic Town Committee Chairman David Ferreira, which was met by rousing applause. Moments before, the room was quiet, subdued even.
“It’s a low turnout election,” Ferreira said as the numbers were read, district by district. It looked grim for the Democrats. “We’ll go back to the drawing board and we’ll continue to work hard,” he said.
But when all the votes were tallied, a Democratic seat was lost on the school board, Shirvell, and a Republican seat was gained with educator Gardner. Not quite the clean slate voters earlier in the day said they wanted to see on the school board.
On the board, high vote getter Rita Volkmann (D) received 2,613. Beth Gianacoplos (D) received, 2,519 votes, Patricia M. Doyle (D) got 2,280 votes, Kim Shepardson Watson (D) received 2,267 votes and Shelley Gardner (R) got 2,265 votes.
“There’s a distrust that’s built up against the Board of Education and the superintendent,” Republican Deborah Peruzzotti said Tuesday afternoon. Peruzzotti was elected to the Town Council Tuesday, now made up of seven Republicans and two Democrats.
Shirvell was not at Democratic headquarters Tuesday night, but five-term incumbent Beth Gianacoplos was. Previously a Republican, Gianacoplos switched parties – “Welcome to the Jedi side, Beth,” Ferreira shouted out after the votes were tallied and it was clear she had won a seat. She said the Republican party “no longer represented my beliefs.”
Nancy Gilly, a Republican, lost her bid for the board.
For Gardner, an out-of-district educator, this was the “first time I’ve run” for any public office. She said the decision to throw in her hat came to her easily.
“Phase II. That’s what did it. Phase II,” she said referring to the failed schools bond referendum of earlier this year.
“As an educator, I just didn’t believe it was educationally sound and economically not a wise choice especially at a time when people are losing jobs,” she said. “Phase II decided it for me.”
The Town Council, traditionally a Republican stronghold, according to members of both parties, has stayed that way with seven Democrats losing bids.
Republican Dean Antipas, who lost a bid for the Judge of Probate post this summer, won a seat on the council and with him he said he plans to bring some common sense and the “taxpayer perspective.”
Also voted in was Republican Heather Bon Somers. Earlier today she said if elected, she hoped to form a economic development committee: “We need to come up with a good economic development plan. We can’t sit and wait for the phone to ring.”
Just before 8 p.m., poll workers at the city municipal building sat chatting, ruminating on the lack of turnout; 469 voters out of more than 2,700 registered.
“It’s embarrassing,” said Barbara Frucht.
But one voter, cab driver Robert Moulton, said he thought that if voters focused on candidates and not just “one issue,” that would be better for the town.
“My daughter’s out of school now. I say vote for the person you think will do the job, not the issues.”