Grafton voters went to the polls today and elected John Turner to a Select Board seat left vacant by the resignation of Gus Plummer. But the voting developed an unexpectedly sad tone just before the polls closed this evening as word got out that candidate Don Dougall had been hospitalized this morning and was undergoing surgery, according to board chair Al Sands.
Speaking with The Telegraph this evening, Sands said that he had first heard that Dougall was at Grace Cottage but was unable to locate him there. He called Dartmouth-Hitchcock Hospital in Hanover, N.H., asking to speak with Dougall, but was “told he was in the OR.” Election officials said that Dougall did not come in to vote.
Former Grafton Elementary School Principal Turner received 170 votes compared to 108 for Dougall. One ballot was left blank and there were no write-in votes. The voter turnout of 279 represents 56.7 percent of Grafton’s 492 registered voters. At 2:45 p.m., Town Clerk Kim Record characterized the voting as “steady all day.”
The term that Turner will fill ends in March of 2017.
The four Select Board members – chair Sands, Cynthia Gibbs, Skip Lisle and Ron Pilette – were at Town Hall helping with the vote count.
Following the announcement by Record that Turner had won, board chair Sands would only remark, “I’m not surprised” by the outcome. And board member Pilette said the election “doesn’t tell us anything about how people stand on the (wind) issue. Don did a nice thing about being upfront on his position (on wind) and he allowed people to say we aren’t ready to move forward.”
In a telephone interview Tuesday night, Turner said, he will work to “increase community engagement in the decision making process. We’ve had a lot of Select Board input … but the Select Board needs to be there to guide … We need our citizens to feel more involved in the process.”
Turner said he intends to talk to board members and Grafton residents alike about how they feel about many different subjects, not just wind, ticking off the Town Plan and infrastructure concerns among other issues.
Turner also said he was “saddened to hear” of Dougall’s illness and wished him a speedy recovery. “He’s such an active member of Grafton and I have a lot to learn from Don, and I will take it.”
Whether Tuesday’s Special Election was just one skirmish in an ongoing war over the question of whether Grafton should be the home to eight large wind turbines or whether it was over wider issues is anyone’s guess.
On the one hand, Dougall, who takes pride in his outspokenness and heartily admits to being crass and rude, is unabashedly pro-wind and calls complaints of wind-related health problems solely anecdotal. He is also a diligent volunteer who has worked to benefit the Grafton Library, the Grafton Improvement Association and the Grafton Town Capital Budget.
Turner, is a retired public educator who says his background in conflict resolution is what the town needs at this time. He came to Grafton in 2012 to became principal of Grafton Elementary School for a one-year term that turned into three. He says he has converted to an anti-wind stance after much study, and hopes that he can bring the town together, no matter whether the town voters approve or vote down the Iberdrola wind project in November.
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