By Dustin Luca
---- — ANDOVER — With just under two weeks left in the deadline to file for a spot on the March 26 town election ballot, veteran School Committee member Dick Collins has announced he will not be a candidate for re-election.
The conclusion of Collins’ five-term tenure on the School Committee will end 54 years of service to the town, including 37 years coaching football and track, and teaching history at Andover High School while away from sports.
“I’m 81 years old....I think it’s time to turn it over to somebody younger,” said Collins, after whom the Collins Field House at the high school is named.
Collins said he will still participate in meetings as a member of the audience.
Paula Colby-Clements, committee chairwoman and incumbent in this year’s elections, characterized Collins as “a man who has gone above and beyond in serving his community.”
“He’s provided the School Committee with some institutional memory, which is very important to any body,” she said.
Expecting to join Colby-Clements in the race for School Committee is Sal Tabit, a Brooks Street resident who also ran for state representative in 1998 and 2010.
“I’ve been interested in various aspects of public service, and School Committee is not something I initially would have thought about running for,” he said. “But I was approached by several people who thought that, given where we are currently in Andover, that it might be a good time, and it might be something that interests me.”
There are two seats up for grabs on the Board of Selectmen, for which incumbents Alex Vispoli and Paul Salafia, the board’s current chair, are both hoping to retain.
Opposing them in their efforts is Chandler Road resident Larry Bruce, a frequent figure in town meetings and elections.
If elected, Bruce said he would prioritize installing “a better form of government” than what exists in Andover today.
“I’m expecting poor voter turnout and the perpetual apathy which the town of Andover has been experiencing since I’ve been a resident,” he said. “We should be doing a charter study and coming up with a better form of representative government.”
Vispoli, who has held his seat since 2004, and Salafia, who was elected for two years in 2011, both said the current form of government is the right one for Andover.
Instead, their focus would be on key capital projects facing the town in the years ahead.
“Last year, we unanimously agreed that the number one issue we have to resolve is the Town Yard,” Vispoli said. “It’s been sitting for too long.”
For Salafia, one of his long-term goals beyond present-day capital projects is ensuring that Andover sees a key Route 93 interchange built on Andover’s borders with Tewksbury and Wilmington.
“The Town Yard needs a solution. The new [Ballardvale] Fire Station needs a solution,” Salafia said. “I would love to be part of the final solution on the Route 93 interchange.”
So far, running unopposed for re-election are Moderator Sheila Doherty, Housing Authority member Janice Burkholder and Randall Hanson for a three-year Trustees of Punchard Free School seat.
At least 50 signatures from registered voters are needed to run, and the deadline to file signed papers for certification is Tuesday, Feb. 5, according to Town Clerk Larry Murphy.
The last day to register to vote in the election is Wednesday, March 6. The town clerk’s office will be open until 8 p.m. that day.