Clerks and collectors face elections anxiously

Municipal employees who are elected rather than appointed to their salaried positions have their work cut out for them at reelection time, when they may have to fend off challengers interested in taking over their jobs and their substantial paychecks.

“I’m a nervous wreck every three years,” said Debra Kenney, Lakeville’s treasurer-collector for the last 13 years, who is up for reelection to her $69,000-per-year job on April 1. The time for challenges has just passed, and Kenney was relieved to find that she will be unopposed, at least this run. She will get to keep her job.

Treasurer-collector positions are also on the ballot in Milton, Carver, and Hingham, and a collector’s position is on Kingston’s ballot.

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Meanwhile, town clerks in Duxbury, Carver, Foxborough, Hull, Wareham, Hanover, Westwood, Lakeville, and Abington are all up for reelection this spring.

While it is still early in the election season, a few contests have emerged.

Duxbury’s 82-year-old town clerk, with 30 years in office, will face a challenge from within Town Hall for her $80,000-per-year job.  

“I was called on to run for town clerk in 1983, when the former clerk retired, and I won by just three votes,” said Duxbury Town Clerk Nancy Oates, who has bested all challengers since then, most recently in 2004 and 2007.

Susan Kelley, executive assistant to the town manager and previously assistant town clerk, will run against Oates on March 23.

“I’m a little worried,” Oates said. “This is the only contest on the ballot. I wonder how many people will turn out, and if they’ll be the right people.”

Kelley said she plans to run an active campaign. “It’s a position I’m interested in serving in,” she said.

John Franey — who has been Carver’s treasurer-collector for six years, as well as a selectman for the last two — is trying to fend off a challenge from within his own office.

Paula Nute, the assistant tax collector with nine years on the job, is gunning for his job and his $77,000 annual paycheck, on April 27. 

“It’s not the salary that’s driving me,” Nute said. “It’s various things going on in town.” She declined to elaborate.

Franey came under fire recently when the state Department of Revenue examined the town’s financial practices and issued a report that criticized record-keeping in the treasurer-
collector’s office and recommended that the top position become appointed rather than elected.

Franey does not support the recommended change and blamed the shortcomings cited by the state on a lack of adequate office staff.

“It’s going to be really messy and it’s going to be dirty, but I’m up to the challenge,” he said of the upcoming election. “A lot of people in town have a lot of confidence in me, and I think there’s a very good chance I’ll be reelected. I work very hard, virtually every weekend, along with nights and holidays. People know about my work ethic.”

Abington’s interim town clerk, Leanne Adams, will face a challenge on April 27 for the one year left on the term of the former town clerk. Adams, assistant town clerk for eight years, was appointed interim town clerk in December.

Resident Chris Persampieri took out nomination papers for the post, which carries a salary of $64,000, and he has until March 11 to return them.

“I grew up in Abington and now I’m back in town, and I’d like to get a start doing public service,” Persampieri said, adding that he only noticed the attached salary “after the fact.”

Milton’s Treasurer-Collector James McAuliffe serves single-year terms, so his $84,000 job is on the line every spring. The April 30 election will mark his fifth run, and so far no challenger has come forward.

McAuliffe said he likes serving in an elected position.

“You’re not beholden to selectmen who come and go,” he said. “You answer to the people.”

McAuliffe said he simply follows his predecessor’s advice. “He said, ‘Do the job right, and people will continue to elect you,’ ” McAuliffe said.

Hanover Town Clerk Robert Shea has announced his plan to retire this spring, which was good news for local volunteer Cathy Harder-Bernier, who has already drawn her nomination papers.

“I’ve had my eye on the position for several years, but I didn’t want to run against Bob,” she said. “It’s one of those things where the stars and planets have aligned, and I’m jumping in.”

The field may broaden for the $55,000 job prior to the March 22 deadline to file papers.

Carver’s town clerk position may also be wide open to newcomers. Jean McGillicuddy, town clerk for the last 15 years, has not yet pulled papers and said she may just retire, “to spend more time with my family and grandchildren.”

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