The old guard in West Stockbridge and Egremont was dealt a blow this week. Longtime Selectman and Board of Health Chairman Earl Moffatt was soundly defeated Monday in both his re-election bids, while incumbent two-term Board of Selectmen Chairman Charlie Flynn was trounced tonight by challenger George McGurn.
Flynn, a former member of the Southern Berkshire Regional School Committee who has become embroiled in a battle over whether to keep the South Egremont School open, lost by more than anyone expected to McGurn, a retired business school dean who has never held elected office in the town, by a margin of 343-112.
Unofficial results in West Stockbridge show that Bernie Fallon, 54, defeated Moffatt by a vote of 285-110, while challenger Michael Skorput beat Moffatt in a race for his Board of Health seat 231-160. Moffatt is also the town’s health agent, but that’s an appointed position.
Roughly 30 percent of the town’s registered voters turned out. All other candidates for town office ran unopposed.
“As you can imagine, I’m happy with the results,” Fallon told The Edge. “I went door-to-door and spoke to a lot of people and I listened and continue to listen. I’m happy because this is the result they wanted.”
Moffatt’s roots in West Stockbridge run deep. He has been on the Board of Selectmen since 2009 and on the Board of Health for more than 30 years. Moffatt is also a former town highway superintendent and, with his wife Jackie owns Baldwin Extracts, a manufacturer of vanilla extract and table syrup in West Stockbridge. He is also the great-great grandson of Henry M. Baldwin, who founded the Baldwin’s hardware store in 1888.
Moffat could not be reached for comment, but speculation in town is that part of the reason for his defeat is Moffatt’s role on the town Rent Control Board (RCB), the Board of Health and the Water & Sewer Commission.
The RCB favored a large rent increase for tenants in the neglected Mill Pond Trailer Park and the WSC was viewed by some as looking the other way as water and sewer systems failed in the park.
More recently, there was an edict by the Board of Health prohibiting solicitation, including efforts made by candidates for office, at the town transfer station, raising First Amendment issues.
“There were many contributing factors,” said West Stockbridge resident and activist Richard Squailia, who has started a West Stockbridge Neighbors Google group and was a big supporter of Fallon’s.
“Mill Pond is an issue yet to be resolved,” Squailia said. “My issue has continued to be the lack of responsible action on the part of the Board of Health. They have not done their job over the last 20 years.”
Squailia said Fallon echoed much of what he himself been saying: put an end to the intimidation. “This is a mandate for change — resounding for change. How that gets executed remains to be seen.”
Fallon emphasized that he has “a lot of respect” for Moffatt and his long record of service to the community. Fallon said he’s also looking forward to getting to work on the Board of Selectmen but he declined to name his priorities, insisting that “we’ll tackle the issues one at a time.”
“It may sound trite but I made it very clear in the beginning that I did not enter this race with an agenda,” Fallon said. “I will have the best interests of the town in mind.”
Fallon’s family owned the popular West Stockbridge Public Market, which Fallon himself owned and managed from 2003 to 2010. He still owns the building and rents out the store space to Timothy Walsh.
Fallon has also been a motivational author, speaker and manager, working most recently in New York City. He writes about personal wellness, offers online courses and manages a writer’s group. Fallon ran what in West Stockbridge passes for a nontraditional campaign, with videos, the use of social media and blogs.
In Sheffield, incumbent Nadine Hawver, who currently chairs the Board of Selectmen, ostensibly ran unopposed, but was concerned that someone might be mounting an organized write-in campaign — perhaps former Selectman Rene Wood.
Sheffield Town Clerk Felecie Joyce reports that Hawver received 318 votes, with 78 ballots for selectman left blank and 23 votes for Wood. There were a couple of other names written in for other offices but none of the names received more than five votes for any one office. All other candidates for office on the ballot ran unopposed. Of the town’s 2,388 registered voters, 420 cast ballots today, Joyce said.
“I just am very grateful that voters re-elected me,” Hawver told The Edge. “For the voters that left a blank spot or did a write-in — well, I hear you too.”
Hawver said she expects to continue work on the town’s charter review process and to upgrade technology needs of the offices in Town Hall, among other things.
In other results:
- In Great Barrington, Malcolm Fick and Jonathan Hankin retained their Planning Board seats, defeating challenger Holly Hamer 94-90-60 respectively.
- Anne O’Dwyer beat Anne Alquist for a Great Barrington Finance Committee seat 81-28, to replace Michael Wise, who resigned weeks ago.
- In Monterey, incumbent Select Board chair Kenn Basler fended off a challenge from police Sgt. Michael Johnson 104-46.
- In the Monterey Finance Committee race, it was George Cain over Donald Coburn 82-64.
- Also in Monterey, ballot questions to change town clerk and treasurer from elected to appointed passed narrowly, 82-70 and 88-63, respectively.
- Ballot question in Monterey to exempt library bonding from Prop 2.5 passed overwhelmingly, 130-17.
- Lastly, in Egremont a ballot question on town removal of snow and ice from private roads was defeated 253-182.