WELLFLEET — A special town election on June 21 will have another contested select board race and five important ballot questions asking voters to approve Proposition 2½ overrides totaling $1.77 million.
Two candidates, Timothy Sayre and Judith “Jude” Ahern, will appear on the ballot to fill the unexpired term of Helen Miranda Wilson, who has resigned as of the June 11 town meeting. Former select board member Kathleen Bacon has announced that she is running as a write-in candidate.
All three candidates say their first priority would be to address the town’s finances, which affect many other issues, including housing, wastewater, and restoration of the Herring River.
All noted that the planned finance presentation on Tuesday evening this week, when interim Town Administrator Charlie Sumner and interim accountants Lisa Souve and Mary McIsaac were expected to present their work, would help them assess their approaches going forward.
“People really just want to know what happened, what led to it, if the right people watched,” said Ahern.
In the regular town election on May 2, incumbent Michael DeVasto and Truro Town Planner Barbara Carboni were elected to three-year terms on the select board. Sayre, 66, came in a distant third as a write-in candidate.
Sayre said he would apply his experience in Florida working on a board that had similar financial issues to Wellfleet’s. “We were able to reign in the overspending and came up with balanced budgets,” he said.
He has lived mostly in Florida but considers Wellfleet his home, he said. Each summer, he stayed with his grandparents, Wellfleet natives Esther and Leroy Wiles. He moved here full-time two years ago, joining his wife, Terri, in running his grandmother’s business, Briar Lane Jams and Jellies.
He hopes to address affordable housing and cesspools, and make sure “our shellfish areas stay our shellfish areas,” Sayre said. “I’m against the ability to sell the bottom that you rent.”
Ahern said she decided to run because she believes her First Amendment rights to address controversial issues have been ignored. She addressed the choice town meeting voters will have between an override budget and an “austerity” budget.
“If people are okay with the budget, they kind of missed the point,” she said. “I don’t see much of a difference between the typical budget and the austerity budget, really. The only thing the austerity budget does is create fear and take away our precious things like recreational shellfishing on Wednesdays, the library, or Amnesty Day. It’s designed to force people to vote for the budget.”
Ahern said that, if the town’s accounting story is “ ‘We’re all incompetent’ and in the next breath it’s ‘Give us $30 million,’ we’re not stupid.”
Ahern, 54, is a fine art appraiser who settled in Wellfleet after buying a house in town 11 years ago. She grew up in the mid Cape, went to school at Cornell, and came to town in the early ’90s to work at an auction house, then left again to work in New York for 25 years.
Ahern said she is seen as a “crazy outcast” for being a “rabblerouser, thrown out of meetings, and muted.” She said that narrative is “convenient for the town.” She described being ridiculed for a sign at her house reading “Dethrown DeVasto,” referring to the recently re-elected select board member.
Ahern is also hoping to address how the $50-million Herring River Restoration Project will be funded.
Bacon had also announced a write-in campaign for one of the three-year seats on the board but withdrew, she said, in frustration “with town hall.” She said she won’t drop out this time.
“My experience and stability is important to the town at this critical juncture,” said Bacon. “A new town administrator is slated to start this week, and there’s already one new member on the board.”
She is eager to see if the $765,000 “unknown variance” in the town’s accounts is now accounted for.
Bacon summered on the Cape as a child and moved to Wellfleet year-round 35 years ago. She has worked in carpentry, landscaping, catering, and food preparation. Currently, she is self-employed as a house painter. She said she will remain an advocate for affordable housing.
Shellfisherman Brad Morse initiated a last-minute write-in campaign for the May 2 election but is not running for the two-year seat. He said he will consider running again when a seat opens in the future.
The five override ballot questions include $518,820 for the operating budget, $672,700 for the capital budget, close to $400,000 for four additional police and fire staff, and $2.2 million for a fire-suppression system at the elementary school.
Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article, published in print on June 2, incorrectly reported Kathleen Bacon’s current work. She is now painting houses, not working at the Lobster & Chowder House.