By Stephanie Bergman
ROCKPORT — Rockporters will head to the polls Tuesday to decide on who will fill a number of town positions — with a controversial, late-developing race for two selectmen's seats, and a question asking residents whether the town clerk's job should remain an elected position at all.
The question of making the town clerk an appointed position is a non-binding one, but it is also the question that divides the two candidates for Town Clerk this cycle.
John Arnold and Patricia Brown are running to fill the one year left on Fred Frithsen's term following his retirement last year. Brown has been acting town clerk since Frithsen retired, and was his assistant for many years.
When the question of elected or appointed town clerk came up earlier in the year, Brown said she supported making the position appointed in order to ensure that the person in the position was actually qualified to hold it. Brown mentioned the change in Essex Town Clerk from an elected position held for many years by a person who did little work to an appointed position with a well-qualified candidate.
Arnold, however, has said he supports keeping the position elected, in order to keep the town clerk accountable to the people of Rockport.
If Rockporters vote to change the position to an appointed one, the town will begin the process of making the change, which will involve state approval and another referendum.
In the race for selectmen, meanwhile, a previously uncontested race for incumbents Sandy Jacques and Sarah Wilkinson, who were running for the two open seats, has spawned a new challenge over the last two weeks, and long after the ballot had closed for candidates and signatures.
Write-in candidate Wilhelmina Sheedy, running as Wilhelmina Sheedy-Moores, entered the race in late April after Jacques made what she regarded as an offensive comments to Wilkinson during a selectmen's meeting before Town Meeting.
The comments came during an argument in which Jacques maintained that Rockporters should be given the opportunity to vote on the contents of the Tool Company Task Force report at an election, rather than simply accepting the report during Town Meeting. Wilkinson, along with the other selectmen, disagreed.
Sheedy's write-in is challenging Wilkinson and Jacques, with voters allowed to cast votes for two of the candidates, but with only Jacques' and Wilkinson's names on the ballot. Any voter seeking to vote for Sheedy is required to check the write-in box and write-in Sheedy's name.
The Planning Board, initially looking at having no candidates for its open spot, now has two write-in candidates seeking support for that post. Patricia Pierce, a site analyst and conservation advocate, and Cameron Smith, president of the Rockport Educational Foundation, have both thrown their hats into the ring.
Both Smith and Pierce have degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Pierce has a long work record of natural land preservation. Smith has a history of service to the town of Rockport, working as a volunteer teacher in the middle school and chairing the Chamber Music Festival.
The other contested race is for a spot on the board of assessors. Diane Lashua and Timothy Good IV are both running for that spot.
There are other uncontested races on the ballot as well.
Polls will be open Tuesday from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., with voting at Pigeon Cove Circle for Precinct 1, St. Mary's Episcopal Church for Precinct 2, and at Rockport Elementary School for Precinct 3.
Polls open Tuesday, 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Precinct 1: Pigeon Cove Circle, 8 Breakwater Ave.
Precinct 2: St. Mary's Episcopal Church, 24 Broadway.
Precinct 3: Rockport Elementary School, 24 Jerden's Lane