Santos fills Methuen seat

Louann Santos

METHUEN — Louann Santos was announced as the last member of the Methuen School Committee when write-in votes were tallied by hand following Tuesday's election.

Santos, a political newcomer and mother of three young children, was encouraged by friends to run for public office leading up to the election, she said. It was not something she considered herself.

After only five residents filed paperwork to be included on the ballot for School Committee — and the mayor as de-facto chairperson — one more seat needed to be filled.

Santos, 42, decided to go for it exactly two weeks before polls opened. As City Hall opened on Oct. 22, she said she greeted employees at the clerk's office with a letter of her intent to run as a write-in candidate.

She became one of two write-in campaigns that took shape. The other was her longtime friend Dan Shibilia, who was was eliminated from the mayoral race after the September primary and pivoted to a run for School Committee.

If no one was interested in running for the seat, the School Committee would have been responsible for appointing someone.

Santos won by 12 votes, according to certified results provided by City Clerk Jack Wilson. Shibilia said he will not call for a re-count. The official vote was 385 to 373.

"I wrote both of our names in," Shibilia said of his friend. "With the open seat and not seeing anyone running a write-in campaign at the time (of leaving the mayoral race), I thought I could re-focus my effort there and make some kind of impact. Louann will do the same thing. I'm confident and comfortable with her ability to drive change."

Santos will balance the new position with her full-time job as a receptionist at a health care practice. She is a wife and a mother to three kids — a 10-year-old boy in fourth grade and a set of 7-year-old twins, a boy and a girl, in second grade. The kids attend Methuen Public Schools, she said.

"I feel like I could help speak for parents' concerns," she said.

Santos lacks political experience, but was involved in recent years when the School Committee overspent its budget, leading to layoffs of dozens of teachers.

"When the pink slips went out, I started a Facebook page in support of the schools," Santos said. "I took the school's emblem and started the hashtag #DoTheRightThing. It dominoed. I got messages from parents, kids at the school thanking me for starting this. I didn't feel like I deserved a thanks. I just opened the conversation."

Her experience beyond that in Methuen schools is limited to "field trips, fun things, any events, end of the year activities," she said.

Santos and her family have lived in Methuen since 2001. She is a Haverhill native.

She will be joined on the committee by incumbents Susan Nicholson and Jana Zanni Pesce, as well as newcomers Ryan Robert DiZoglio, Karen Hallbauer and Jessica Mae MacLeod. Mayor-elect Neil Perry will be their chairman.

The oath of office is taken early in January.

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