|Patton, Fippinger Win Spots on Williamstown Select Board|
|By Stephen Dravis, iBerkshires Staff|
09:22PM / Tuesday, May 10, 2022
|Randall Fippinger and Jane Patton greet voters heading to Williamstown Elementary School on Tuesday morning.|
Kenneth Kuttner campaigns Tuesday morning at Williamstown Elementary School. He won a seat on the Planning Board.
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Next week, Williamstown residents at town meeting will be asked whether they want to do away once and for all with the antiquated term "Board of Selectmen."
On Tuesday, voters resoundingly decided that the next version of the Select Board will not be all male.
Three-time incumbent Jane Patton was the top vote-getter in a three-way race for two seats on the five-person panel.
Patton and Randall Fippinger were the victors in the town election conducted at Williamstown Elementary School.
With 1,438 residents casting ballots, Patton received 921 votes and Fippinger garnered 881 votes. Bilal Ansari, the third candidate in the race, received 677 votes with 19 write-ins.
The turnout represented about 29 percent of the town's 4,926 registered voters – down from 38 percent a year ago
. But the 1,400 residents were still well more than the 10-year average going into the 2021 election; from 2011 to 2020, an average of 971 voters participated in the spring election.
In the other high-profile contested race on Tuesday's ballot, Kenneth Kuttner defeated Carin DeMayo-Wall for an open seat on the Planning Board.
Kuttner received 869 votes to DeMayo-Wall's 552.
Fippinger, who currently serves on the town's Diversity, Inclusion and Racial Equity Committee, said the process of campaigning taught him that the town's residents are yearning to have a voice in local government.
"I was surprised at how many people that normally I would think that I don't agree with politically said, 'We want to support you,' " Fippinger said. "We want to hear your views. We want to sit down and talk and just listen.
"So much is just sitting down and listening to people. I think that's the first step in trying to bring us a little bit closer together. Because if you feel heard, you're not yelling."
Patton has been on the receiving end of a lot of the yelling during Select Board meetings over the last two years. She was chair of the body in 2020 when news of a lawsuit exposing misbehavior in the Williamstown Police Department became public.
On Tuesday night, she said she did not know how voters would feel about the prospect of sending her back for a fourth term.
"I didn't know where people were at after the last couple of years," Patton said. "It was frustrating at times because, as part of a board and various things, you can't always say everything you want to say.
"And I think that some of the people who spoke for me and in the various forums … people got to really get to know me better. I did a thing at the Harper Center … and one person said, 'We thought you were a boring stick in the mud. You're actually kind of funny.' And I just thought that was fabulous."
Patton said she was stunned and gratified by the outcome.
Kuttner attributed his victory to the number of doors on which he knocked and the number of people he met during his second go-around at winning a spot on the Planning Board.
"What I sense is there's a broad agreement in the community on some of the issues we need to work on, particularly the housing issue, of course," he said. "But I think there's a real thirst for looking for some creative and innovative ways to approach that. And I actually feel excited and feel it's going to be a huge challenge.
"Fortunately, I think there are good members on the Select Board and good members on the Planning Board who are going to make a great team in the years to come to help solve this problem."
In Tuesday's five-person race for four spots on the board of the Milne Public Library Board of Trustees, Micah Manary, Bridget Spann, Timothy Cherubini and Robin Lenz emerged victorious.