Amherst election results
AMHERST -- Voters in Amherst came to the polls on Tuesday hoping for a little bit of change and transparency in the local government process.
After selectmen placed Town Administrator Jim O'Mara on paid leave for six weeks with little explanation, it was apparent on Election Day that voters wanted at least one different face on the board.
Four candidates sought two, three-year terms on the board. Incumbent Dwight Brew secured his seat with 1,232 votes. He faced off against Marilyn Peterman (617 votes), Reed Panasiti (621 votes) and John D'Angelo, who garnered the second selectman seat with 1,232.
"I think the town is in deplorable shape. I have never seen it this bad," Peterman said while campaigning Tuesday outside of Souhegan High School. "The town is mismanaged, and it is giving Amherst a bad name. I am really disheartened."
Peterman, who previously served six terms as a selectman, said it was time to return to politics and attempt to make a positive impact.
"We need to have more of a transparent process here in Amherst," she said.
Selectmen have been under fire for providing few details about O'Mara's administrative leave, other than to say it was related to the investigation of a town-purchased dump truck.
It took several weeks to obtain minutes from non-public meetings regarding the decision to place O'Mara on leave and the documents provided little insight. The investigation, according to selectmen, revealed no evidence of malfeasance.
Panasiti said selectmen would benefit by having some new faces representing the best interests of the town. Panasiti is also a former selectman, having served from 2006 to 2009.
"I now have the time and energy to do it again," he said outside of the polls on Tuesday. "The negativity in town has pushed me to that decision."
Panasiti says he loves living in Amherst, and feels obligated to do his part to contribute.
Brew was the only incumbent seeking another term. Selectman George Infanti opted to not run for reelection.
Brew, who said it is important to give back to the community, has served one term as a local selectman.
"I would hate to see people not step up and do this important work,"? said Brew, adding he was pleased that four individuals were vying for two contested selectmen seats. "But I was hoping we would have a better turnout. I would like as many residents in Amherst to have a say."
Only 500 voters had cast ballots by noon on Tuesday, according to Steve Coughlan, town moderator.
"It is slow today," Coughlan said late Tuesday morning. "Some of us had different expectations."
With about 8,700 registered voters in town, Coughlan was predicting less than 2,000 voters would show up at the polls. "Hopefully it will pick up later in the day," he added.
Voters narrowly rejected a town operating budget of $11.4 million, and instead supported a default budget of $11.2 million. Voters approved $200,000 for structural repairs to the town hall.
Christine Janson (1,355 votes) and Stephen Coughlan (1,376 votes) were elected to the Souhegan Cooperative School Board, while Peg Bennett (1,203 votes) and Lucienne Foulks (984 votes) were elected to the Amherst School Board. Their opponent, Michael Costolo, obtained 873 votes.