Incumbents dominate ballot in contest-free election

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Planning Board hopeful demands honesty, transparency in government

For the second time in the past three years, the town of Canton will hold a contest-free election after the February 11 nomination deadline came and went with only a single candidate submitting papers for each of the 12 open seats.

The absence of challengers continues an alarming trend that began after the 2008 election season — the last year that the ballot featured multiple races. Since then Canton voters have seen only three individual races, including one apiece in 2009, 2010 and 2012.

Of the dozen candidates who will appear on the upcoming ballot, eight are longtime incumbents, headed by nine-term Assessor Bill Galvin, who also represents Canton in the state legislature, and eight-term Selectman John Connolly, who has served the board consecutively since 1989. Other incumbents running unopposed in the April 2 election include William McDaid for Housing Authority, Robert Schneiders for Board of Health, and Margaret Mead and Kathy Fox Alfano for library trustee.

Two other incumbents, School Committee members John Bonnanzio and Reuki Schutt, have opted to run for the two one-year seats that were created by the resignations of Liz Salisbury and Jill Stevens. Meanwhile, the two individuals who were appointed to replace Salisbury and Stevens — David Emhardt and Robert Golledge Jr. — have decided to run for the expiring three-year terms held by Bonnanzio and Schutt.

Rounding out the ballot are a pair of political newcomers: Emily Prigot, who is running for library trustee in place of Betty Chelmow, and Tori McClain, who is seeking the Planning Board seat that’s being vacated by Gary Vinciguerra.

A board member since 2008, Vinciguerra had kept his reelection plans close to the vest until finally announcing his decision not to run a few days before the February 8 deadline to obtain nomination papers.

At least one resident had expressed interest in running for the post in the wake of Vinciguerra’s announcement; however, that person was out of town at the time of the filing deadline, leaving McClain, a self-proclaimed political outsider, as the only official candidate.

A fixture at various board hearings over the past two years, McClain said she started mulling the idea of running for office several months ago after coming to the conclusion that there is “very little honesty and transparency in Canton town government.”

“Instead of writing letters to the paper or complaining about it to my friends, I figured the best way to assure that it changes is to become a part of it,” said McClain, whose property abuts a controversial condo project on Plymouth Street.

Specifically, McClain feels that she has been disrespected, or in some cases deceived, by members of the zoning board, the town administrator, Board of Selectmen, and the former conservation agent, whose contract was terminated following an inquiry into a possible conflict of interest related to his role as president of M&M Engineering — a firm that has provided services to at least eight Canton properties over the past two years, including the project on Plymouth Street.

As a vocal neighbor who has challenged both the developers of the property (Scott Lenhart and John McNeice) and various town officials, McClain believes there are some in town who do not want to see her ascend to the Planning Board, and she has even heard whispers of a possible sticker campaign on the horizon.

But whether she faces a challenger or sails unopposed into elected office, McClain intends to stay committed to her basic platform, which consists of four tenets: honesty, accountability, transparency, and sincerity in government.

“That’s a pretty open and broad platform,” she acknowledged, “but it’s also the lack of some of those things in some town boards that has led me to run.”

McClain insisted that she is not anti-development, but rather is opposed to over-development and what she called the “condoization of Canton.”

“I grew up in rural northwest Tennessee on a working black angus cattle farm,” she said. “My grandfather was a contractor and a builder, but there was always an integrity around your business dealings and the work that you did. It was just an expectation.”

If elected, McClain said she will demand that same level of “above-board behavior” from not only her fellow town officials, but also every developer who comes before the Planning Board — whether it’s for a small condominium project like the one in her neighborhood or the 350-unit Plymouth Rubber property that could be headed for a vote at the upcoming town meeting.

“I understand people have a right to make money,” she said. “I get it and I support that 100 percent. But it’s about being thoughtful and being measured in it and being neighborly — and not just getting in there to make their buck and get out.”

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