Incumbents, newcomers pursue nominations for Dartmouth elections

Feb 6, 2024

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. 

While candidates still have until Feb. 9 to take out nomination papers and until Feb. 13 to submit them, here’s a look at who is planning to run for elected offices so far. 

These papers are not officially certified 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. 

Two Select Board seats

Two Select Board members’ terms expire in 2024: Select Board Chair David Tatelbaum and Select Board member Frank Gracie. 

Five Dartmouth residents have taken out nomination papers to run for office. Steve Melo, John Sousa and Christopher O’Neil will vie for member Frank Gracie’s seat for a three-year term. Gracie has not yet taken out papers to seek reelection and could not immediately be reached for comment. 

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. 

John Sousa currently serves on the Finance 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 could not immediately be reached for comment. 

Christopher O’Neil currently serves as the chair of the Planning Board.

In a post on Facebook, O’Neil shared his intention to run, stating: “I’ll draw on my work on the Planning Board as Chairperson, Charter Review Committee and the SRPEDD Board along with my experience running our family insurance firm.”

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

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.” She also said she has concerns about how the town is being managed, its “lack of transparency” and “the difficulty that residents have trying to obtain service from the town. Gilbert has also been a vocal advocate for the preservation of the old police station on Russells Mills Road

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 that Dartmouth Public Schools and the town recently avoided, but will need to face again next year. 

One School Committee seat

One vacancy on the School Committee will open this year. The term of member Shannon Jenkins will expire, and Jenkins said she does not plan to run for another term.

Two residents will vie for Jenkins’ seat: 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

Four candidates have taken out nomination papers for three seats on the Library Board of Trustees. As of now, the only contested seat would be the one-year term of Linda Garibaldi, who has chosen to run for a three year term instead. Mary Elizabeth Powell and Lynne Cotter have both taken out papers to fill the one-year term. 

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 yet contested, include Town Clerk, one seat on the Board of Health, one seat on the Planning Board, one seat on the Housing Authority and one seat on the Parks and Recreation Board.