Special Election To Fill Unexpected Board Of Selectmen Vacancy Set For September 2, Judy O’Connell & Mark Nelson Pull Papers To Run

WILMINGTON, MA — The Wilmington Board of Selectmen has scheduled a special town election to fill the vacant seat last held by Selectwoman Jomarie O’Mahony on Thursday, September 2, 2021, from 8am to 8pm.

Prior to making their decision, Selectmen reviewed a memo prepared by Wilmington Town Clerk Tina Touma-Conway, which outlined several options the Board considered.

Touma-Conway explained that — according to State Law (Town Manager Act, Section 3) — when a vacancy occurs on the Board of Selectmen, the remaining Selectmen shall order a special election to be held not less than 65 days and not more than 90 days following the notification of the vacancy. In this case, the 65th day would be August 18, 2021 and the 90th day would be September 12, 2021.

Touma-Conway recommended the date of Thursday, September 2, 2021 for several reasons.

“This date would enable us to avoid previously scheduled vacation time, the Labor Day weekend, the opening of the Wildwood and Boutwell Early Childhood Centers to students, and to avoid having the election on a Saturday and incurring overtime costs for staff of multiple departments,” explained Touma-Conway, who also noted that the voting spaces aren’t available on August 30, August 31 and September 1 due to teacher training and parent orientations.

While the Selectmen agreed with Touma-Conway’s recommended date, they did not agree with the second part of her recommendation — a shorter election day of 7am to 5pm or 6pm.

Touma-Conway outlined several reasons, including:

  • Saving money on an election for which the town did not budget
  • Likely very low turnout, with many families still on vacation in the run-up to Labor Day weekend
  • Early Voting By Mail will continue to be offered, which would help defray any inconvenience of a shorter voting day.

Touma-Conway also noted that the Inhabitant Bylaws are silent on polling hours for special elections.

Selectmen, instead, opted to keep polling hours the same as usual — 8am to 8pm.

“What I don’t like is cutting [polling hours] too short in the evening. People have to get home from work and may have another commitment, like dropping a child off at a sporting event,” said Selectman Greg Bendel.

“I do think the town should remain 8am to 8pm. People work late. I work until 7pm on a Thursday for example. We’re here to make some sort of convenience for the residents,” added Selectman Kevin Caira.

Touma-Conway outlined how the dates associated with a Thursday, September 2 Special Election will work:

  • Nomination Papers are available immediately.
  • Last day to take out Nomination Papers is Monday, July 12 at 5pm.
  • Last day to submit Nomination Papers is Thursday, July 15 at 5pm.
  • Late day to file objections/withdraw is Monday, August 2 at 5pm.
  • Late day to register to vote is Friday, August 13 at 8pm.
  • Pre-Election Campaign Finance Reports are due by Thursday, August 26 at 4:30pm.
  • Post-Election Campaign Finance Reports are due by Monday, October 4 at 4:30pm.

As of 4:30pm on Friday, July 9, 2021, former Selectwoman Judy O’Connell and Mark Nelson are the only candidates to step forward and pull nomination papers from the Town Clerk’s Office.

O’Connell served two terms on the Board of Selectmen (2011-2017), including two years as Chairwoman. During her time on the board, she oversaw the creation of the Yentile Farm Recreational Facility as the Yentile Farm Development Committee Chair. She previously served on the Wilmington School Committee (2007-2010). O’Connell was a very close runner-up in the Democratic Primary in the 2018 Wilmington/Tewksbury State Rep Race, falling less than 100 votes short with 5,000+ total votes cast.

Nelson, meanwhile, has unsuccessfully run for the Board of Selectmen multiple times, including in 1997, 2004 and 2011. Most recently, he pulled nomination papers in 2017, but did not return them. That same year, he applied to fill a vacant seat on the Board of Appeals, but was not selected by the Board of Selectmen, who chose Ray Lepore.

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