Voters have options to consider in Ware election

March 27, 2024 | Bill Zito
bzito@thereminder.com

WARE — Voters will see a few more choices in the upcoming town election ballot than in recent years. While some offices have only one candidate on the ballot, others have no contender at all to choose from, leaving community members free to write in the name of a prospective entrant.

With this year’s ballot featuring office candidates only and no issue or referendums to choose from, two races will run contested as the Selectboard and School Committee both feature a three-candidate race for two open positions.

Town Clerk Nancy Talbot said the makeup of those seeking seats on the Selectboard developed from decisions made by current members, those formerly holding office and hoping to return and a potential newcomer to the Selectboard.

Current board members Caitlyn McCarthy and Keith Kruckas initially took out nomination papers indicating their intention to run again but neither returned the documents, leaving both their names off the ballot.

Of the three candidates now seeking the two vacant seats on the board, two, Catherine Buelow-Cascio and John Desmond, have occupied seats previously while Terrence Smith would be new to the board but currently serves on the Finance Committee.

Talbot, who also currently serves on the Selectboard said she expects it to be an engaging race.
“I think it’s interesting,” she said. “I think in the past we’ve had years where there were two seats available and only two people took out nomination papers.”

All three candidates offered similarities in why they are choosing to run at this time.

Smith, a professional engineer in the public and private sector, has been involved with the town in a volunteer, professional or appointed committee member capacity for more than 25 years.

He serves on the Town Review Committee for Baystate Mary Lane Hospital, the newly formed Asset Improvement Committee and his current term on the Finance Committee ends in June.

Smith, who also chaired the Water Resources Committee in 2021, said some things contained in the Town Charter are outdated and he believes a new charter commission should be organized and voted in to allow for review and potential updates.

“The town and the Selectboard over the past decade have not really accepted the town manager’s role in municipal government since the revision of the town charter,” he said. “[The charter is] a living document like our constitution.”

Smith said Ware needs to focus on economic development and redevelopment which includes being friendly to businesses that come into town.

“[We need to] look at geographically we sit in a really key location with major highways between Amherst and Worcester.”

As for how he would approach his service on the board, Smith said some change would be helpful.
“I’m someone who likes to get things done in a respectable manner and I think it’s really important for the way the town of Ware [Selectboard] have acted in the past six or seven years terms,” he said. “[The board] needs to act like a professional board, not fighting among members and fist pounding.”

Catherine Buelow-Cascio has previous experience as a Selectboard member serving in the early 2000s. She shares a last name with current member John Cascio, who also happens to be her husband.

Among Buelow-Cascio’s motivations for wanting to rejoin the board is what she called a lack of discussion and open interaction between members and the community.

“The board are representatives of the town and therefore are not the sole decision makers and we should always be getting input,” she said.

Cascio said when she served previously on the board she always wanted to hear from the community.

“I always wanted them to come forward,” she said.

Speaking to the complaints of others about a lack of involvement in town government by residents. Cascio points to what she described as a lack of engagement by board members, something she said has worsened in the last few years.

“They don’t get involved because you guys aren’t asking them or you guys aren’t listening”

Cascio said she has stayed involved even while not holding elected office so there would not be a learning curve were she to rejoin the board.

“My roots are here, I love the town, I don’t like when people talk bad about the town.”

Working in health care, Buelow-Cascio professed a strong interest in the future of the Mary Lane Hospital property as well as the town’s water system.

“I really want to be part of the solution for our water,” she said.

As to the prospect of serving along with her husband on the board, Cascio said the two are individuals with their own perspectives.

“We’re both very involved in politics, we both have our own opinions though,” she said.

John Desmond has served on two separate occasions with the Selectboard, dating back to 1972. He has been involved in town government since that time and currently serves on the Board of Health.
His approach to governing is simple, he said.

“I’m a strong advocate of having lively and spirited discussions but never mean spirited,” he said, adding that he believes the board needs to put their cards on the table. “I think that the board needs to send a message that we are a board that wants cooperation, we want to work together, we want to hear your voice.”

Among what he sees as priorities for the town moving forward are the need to look at possible growth in the area and the expansion of the town’s economic base.

He also wants to see more involvement in town government from the community.

“Years ago, you would go to a selectmen’s meeting and the room would be packed with people interested in what was happening in the community, you don’t see that as much now,” he said.

Desmond also said Ware has more than few things to tackle, including a water treatment plant in need of consideration, water lines requiring replacement, a town pool that needs to be put back into operation, and the continued maintenance of Grenville Park, which Desmond calls, “the jewel of the town”.

He also said he hopes to serve as an inspiration to others to get involved in their community.

“If I can do it, other people should be able to do it as well,” he said.

Other ballot races include campaigns where candidates are running opposed.

Moderator Kathleen Coulombe has served several terms and is not opposed for the three-year seat, Devin Peterson has served previously as a member of the Board of Assessors and is seeking reelection and Donna Rucki has previously served as a member of the Board of Health.

Seats on the Planning Board and Parks Commission are also running with only one candidate.

In the offices where no candidate has filed to run, Talbot said those will likely be decided by write-in voting.

“Unlike a state election where you have to get a certain number of votes, all it takes is one [write-in] vote and if that person accepts that’s the person that will serve in that office for the length of the term.”

She said, “The highest vote-getter as a write-in gets to decide, ‘Do I really want to do this?’”
If a write candidate were to turn it down it then by statute becomes an appointed office of two joint boards, the select board and whichever board that may be.

The Cemetery Commission and Housing Authority each have ballots with no candidates listed.

Despite the lack of participants in those offices, Talbot said this election season is promising.

“I’m glad that more people are getting interested, it’s nice to see younger, newer faces getting interested in the communities that they actually live in,” She said. “I think it’s important to be involved and know what’s going on in the community and to help plan for its future, to make decisions that affect everyone.”

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