Next month’s town election has taken a sudden and surprising turn. There will be no contended races come May 20.
That is because Earl V. Baldwin, chairman of the Bourne Board of Selectmen, has rescinded his candidacy for another term on the board.
Rumors that Mr. Baldwin would withdraw from the election had started to circulate late last week. He confirmed those rumors this week, saying that he was withdrawing for health reasons and to spend more time with his family, particularly his grandson.
“I said to myself, ‘Time to stop and smell the roses,’ ” the 65-year-old said.
He mentioned that he has worked for the town for 39 years, first as a patrolman, then as Bourne Chief of Police and now a selectman.
“I’ve paid my dues, it’s time,” he said.
He said that he is proudest of his years on the Bourne Police Department and characterized his career in law enforcement as “improbable.” He recalled growing up in Sharon, where he “tormented the cops.” He said that he also frequently “raised hell” at an A&W restaurant in neighboring Stoughton. Years later, he attended a high school reunion and astonished his former classmates who went slack-jawed when he told them he was a lieutenant in the police department in Bourne.
Mr. Baldwin said that he chose to run for the board of selectmen three years ago after he was not appointed to the board of trustees for the Bourne Veterans Memorial Community Center. He said that, at the time, he believed the budget for the community building was inflated, with more money being appropriated to the building through the town budget than was actually needed. He said that when he was not appointed to the board of trustees, he opted to run for selectman so he could still be a part of the budgeting process.
This year, there are two vacant spots on the board of trustees for the community center and no candidates. There is one seat open for a veteran member, and one open for a non-veteran. Current veteran trustee Charles K. Noyes and current non-veteran trustee George W. Sala both decided not to run for reelection.
Mr. Baldwin said that he is eyeing the veteran member seat (he served in the Army during the Vietnam War.)
“It doesn’t take up that much time, it’s one meeting a month,” he said.
He said that he would not have to place his name in nomination. Instead, since the race is uncontested, he could be appointed by selectmen. Bourne town clerk Barry H. Johnson said that Mr. Baldwin could run the risk of losing to a write-in candidate.
“Someone’s name could be written in and they would win by one vote,” Mr. Johnson said.
In his original notice to the town clerk’s office, Mr. Baldwin wrote, “I am requesting that my nomination for the May 25, 2014, Election for the position of Selectman and Sewer Commissioner for the Town of Bourne is removed from the ballot.”
Mr. Johnson said that because the original letter contained the incorrect date of May 25 for the election, a second notice with the corrected date of May 20, 2014, had to be filed with his office, in order to validate Mr. Baldwin’s withdrawal. The second notice was filed Wednesday morning, Mr. Johnson said.
The sudden announcement by Mr. Baldwin was a first for Mr. Johnson, who has spent 40 years serving in either local or county government.
“This is the first time in my whole career that we have not had one contested race on the whole ballot,” Mr. Johnson said.
The withdrawal paves the way for contender Stephen F. Mealy to take over the only available seat on the board this year. Commenting on Mr. Baldwin’s exit from the race, Mr. Mealy said that he primarily wanted to thank the current board chairman for his many years of service to the Town of Bourne.
“For all he’s given, I think we all owe him a deep sense of gratitude,” he said.
Mr. Mealy said that despite the selectman’s race suddenly becoming an uncontested one, he is not taking the election for granted. He will still be out campaigning and meeting people so they can get to know him. The former selectman said that people may have questions for him about new issues affecting the town that have come up since he left the board in 2010. The budget, he said, is the most pressing issue confronting the town and its leaders.
“I don’t think the board in the last several years has worked hard enough at putting a very good budget together,” he said. He explained that in the past, by January or February, selectmen and school committee members had already come together and established the priorities for making the budget work. That did not happen until April this year, he said.
“I think that should have been done far earlier,” he said.