Dartmouth High student among new candidates to pursue town election nominations

Feb 12, 2024

Editor’s Note: Following the deadline for Dartmouth Week’s Feb. 15 print edition, Dartmouth Week received an update from the Town Clerk that several candidates did not return their nomination papers. Find the updated story here

The seats of 12 elected officials in town are up for grabs on the 2024 ballot, including two Select Board seats and one School Committee seat. 

Since Dartmouth Week checked in last week, four new candidates threw their hat into the ring for town elections, including a surprising entry for Dartmouth’s School Committee: Joining the race for Shannon Jenkins’ open seat on the committee is Dartmouth High School senior Mackenzie Boucher. 

Boucher, who also serves as the editor-in-chief of the student newspaper, said she’s running to represent the perspective of the student. 

“I really think there does need to be that perspective on the School Committee,” Boucher said. 

A student on the School Committee would seem to present an immediate logistical challenge — college. But Boucher said all of the colleges she has applied to are “pretty close,” and that there’s a strong likelihood she’ll end up at UMass Dartmouth. 

Boucher hit her required signature threshold already, she said, and has been “really surprised to see how enthusiastic people are” about her candidacy. 

The Dartmouth senior will vie for the seat against candidates Kyle Ross and Mary Beckwith. 

For Select Board, one additional candidate has taken out nomination papers — Peter Howland plans to run for Select Board, Chair David Tatelbaum’s seat, against Diane Gilbert and Tatelbaum himself. Howland did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Separately, two previously uncontested races now appear competitive. Mary Ann Cole will run for the Board of Library Trustee’s three-year seat, against Linda Garibaldi and Maya Wolfson. Meanwhile, Andrew D’Agostine will compete against Sarah Freshman and Joan Britto for two seats on the Board of Parks and Recreation. 

The deadline to take out nomination papers has now passed, and the deadline to submit papers is Tuesday, Feb. 13. 

However, these papers are not officially certified by the Town Clerk and do not necessarily represent the race as it will appear on the April 2 ballot. Rather, it only represents who has signaled an intention to run for elected office. 

The current state of the election

Select Board

The three-year seat Select Board race remains unchanged: Steve Melo, Christopher O’Neil and John Sousa will vie for Frank Gracie’s soon-to-be vacant seat. 

John Sousa currently serves on the Finance Committee, Community Preservation Committee and on Fire District 2’s Prudential Committee. He has occupied the seat since defeating former Prudential Committee member William Coutu in 2023. Sousa said he’s been active in town for 45 years and wants to continue to give back. He has not decided whether he will step down from the Fire District 2 Prudential Committee, but would likely step down from community preservation and finance. 

Steve Melo is Dartmouth’s longtime Harbormaster. He has occupied the position for decades, and worked in the harbor office for decades longer. Melo said he chose to take out nomination papers after hearing that no one had done so about a week ago. Now, with two other candidates potentially entering the race for Gracie’s seat, Melo said he’s weighing whether he will submit his nomination papers and resident signatures. 

Christopher O’Neil currently serves as the chair of the Planning Board. O’Neil said he has “no real serious agenda” other than wanting to make the “36 years” that he’s worked in business “available to the town.” He decided to take out papers when he heard that Frank Gracie had not. 

Peter Howland joins the race against Diane Gilbert and incumbent David Tatelbaum. 

Diane Gilbert plans to run against incumbent David Tatelbaum for his seat for a three-year term. Gilbert is a former Select Board member and current president of the Dartmouth Heritage Preservation Trust, a non-profit organization that conserves landmarks in town. The Trust primarily conserves the Elihu Akin House, a 1762 historical property in town. Gilbert said she’s running for Chair David Tatelbaum’s seat because “no elected official shouldn’t be challenged.” 

Incumbent Tatelbaum took out nomination papers to run for his third term on the Select Board. He served on the Finance Committee for eight years prior to his Select Board stint. 

Tatelbaum said he’s running for what would be his final term. He said he’s been productive on the board, and currently has “a lot of things are on the fire” that he would like to “finish the job with.” Notably, Tatelbaum organized the Long Range Capital Planning Committee, which is tasked with ironing out the next three to five decades of the town’s future. He also said he’d like to help sort out the short-term budget issues. 

School Committee

Boucher joins the race for Shannon Jenkins’ seat against Kyle Ross and Mary Beckwith. 

Ross has lived in Dartmouth since 2011 and has kids in Dartmouth elementary schools. He has served on the Conservation Commission, Community Preservation Committee and Open Space and Recreation Plan Steering Committee, he said. 

“I put lots of time into serving,” Ross said. “Serving the town, serving the people. I just thought it was time.”

Ross has a child with special needs and another with an individualized education plan, and said he wants to represent that experience on the board. 

Mary Beckwith is a Title IX Investigator and Compliance Coordinator for UMass Dartmouth. Beckwith said she took out nomination papers because she’s “a believer in public education” and believes that people “at some point have to participate in our democracy.” Beckwith’s son was educated in the Dartmouth school system, which she said was excellent, and he will graduate high school this year. 

The remaining openings

Both Board of Library Trustees seats are set to be contested. The one year term of Linda Garibaldi, who has chosen to run for a three year term instead, will be fought over by Mary Elizabeth Powell and Lynne Cotter, who have both taken out papers to fill the one-year term. Meanwhile, Linda Garibaldi, Maya Wolfson and Mary Ann Cole will battle it out for two three year terms on the library board. 

For the Board of Assessors, two candidates have taken out nomination papers for one seat: Albert Lay and incumbent Curtis Nunes. 

Other races that will appear on the 2024 ballot, but are not contested, include Town Clerk, one seat on the Board of Health, one seat on the Planning Board and one seat on the Housing Authority.

For the Board of Parks and Recreation, Andrew D’Agostine, Sarah Freshman and Joan Britto will seek two vacant seats.