By Paul Tennant
---- — NORTH ANDOVER – Where have all the candidates gone?
Last spring, North Andover voters had three contested races in which to cast their ballots. This year the battle for a single seat on the School Committee is the only race with more than one candidate. The election will take place March 26, with voters from all eight precincts casting their ballots at North Andover High School.
In last year’s town election, three strong candidates campaigned to take the place of Moderator Charles Salisbury, who stepped down after running Town Meetings for 21 years. Mark DiSalvo, a venture capitalist with a long history in local government, including 17 years on the School Committee, won that spirited contest. He defeated Dr. Frank MacMillan, a surgeon and Board of Health member; and Ramsey Bahrawy, an attorney and former selectman who was serving on the Finance Committee at the time of the town election.
Selectman William Gordon was easily re-elected to his position and Richard Vaillancourt won his first term on the Board of Selectmen. They faced a determined opponent in Joe Edward Smith, who was making his 12th run for selectman. Smith, an engineer with the state Executive Office of Administration and Finance, decided against running this year.
In the School Committee race, Laurie Burzlaff, now the chairwoman of that board, was re-elected, while newcomer Andrew McDevitt prevailed over George Vozeolas, who was also making his first run for office in North Andover.
This year, it’s an entirely different situation. The only contested race pits Zora Warren, a former middle school social studies teacher, against Mark Mezzina, a 19-year-old college student. They’re competing for a three-year term on the School Committee.
For a few days, at least, it appeared that race might have three contestants, but then Christine Allen, after serving two terms on the committee, decided not to seek re-election.
Selectman Rosemary Connelly Smedile is running unopposed for a fifth three-year term. This is the first time Smedile, first elected in 2001, has not had an opponent.
School Committee member Stanley Limpert called Smedile, who has deep roots in the community, a “formidable competitor.” Maybe that’s why no one is running against her, Limpert said.
The other unopposed candidate is Mary Beth Soucy, running for re-election to the Housing Authority. Smedile and Limpert said the time required for serving on a local board may discourage many residents from running.
“People are busy,” Smedile said, noting that more than a few residents are working a second job to make ends meet.
Regarding the time and effort required of selectmen and School Committee members, Smedile said, “It’s a thankless job.” Many residents, she said, appreciate the sacrifices local officials make and perhaps for that reason are reluctant to run against someone who is in an office.
“I would also like to think that this town is in a good place,” she added. “We have managed this recession quite well.” So far, she noted, North Andover has not had to lay off teachers, police officers, firefighters and other town employees.
Limpert said there is “difficulty in getting people interested in running” because of the “significant commitment of time.”
“I would love to think it’s because the stability in place is working,” said School Committee member Brian Gross, now in his second term on the board. “I would hope it’s a sense of satisfaction.”
Despite her lack of opposition, Smedile said she is still waging a campaign.
“We will certainly put out signs,” she said. “I don’t take this job for granted.”