TRURO — The select board has set Feb. 18 as the date for a special election to fill the seat left open by the death of Maureen Burgess. At least two people are considering a run.
Karen Tosh, 69, an attorney specializing in family law and a member of the planning board since 2017, has announced her candidacy. Stephanie Rein, 49, a member of the High Dune Craft Cooperative, which has a host community agreement to grow marijuana in Truro, also plans to run. The town clerk confirmed on Tuesday, at the Independent’s deadline, that Rein had taken out nomination papers.
This story focuses on Tosh’s candidacy. Follow-up reporting on Rein and any others who may come forward will be in subsequent editions.
The deadline to return nomination papers is Dec. 31. The winner of this election will serve for just 84 days before having to run again in the May 12 town election, when Burgess’s term would have expired.
Last week the Truro Select Board voted unanimously to hold a special election despite some debate about whether it be worth the $1,200 to $1,800 expense. Though she changed her mind, Chair Jan Worthington initially said she wanted to keep a four-member board until May 12.
“I think we’re working well together,” Worthington said.
She added that holding an election would be a distraction, given several large issues confronting the select board. These include deciding what to do with the 70-acre Walsh property, overseeing the proposed 40-unit housing development known as the Cloverleaf, reviewing the annual budget, and hiring a new town manager, since Rae Ann Palmer has announced she is leaving in June 2020.
At the same time, the select board had just listened to a presentation by the town’s dept. of public works director, Jarrod Cabral, who is proposing a new building next to the fire and police facility on Route 6. Cabral hopes for debt exclusion votes allocating $1.8 million for design at the spring 2020 town meeting and ballot.
The estimated cost of the new building is $20 million.
In arguing for a special election, board member Bob Weinstein said a two-thirds vote (known as a “supermajority”) will be needed for the board to hire a new town manager. Furthermore, he said, having just four members will mean more decisions are likely to be put off because of tie votes.
“I wouldn’t want anything to be set aside if we didn’t have unanimity,” he said.
Board members debated the long learning curve to become an effective board member. They agreed 84 days isn’t enough time to learn the job fully. But as Kristen Reed, a board member, said, the 84 days provided “a good running start.”
She said there is a good chance the person who runs in February will compete for a three-year term in May.
“I cannot imagine someone getting in and getting voted out 12 weeks later,” said Chris Lucy from the audience. “It just gets someone on the board a little earlier.”
Indeed, Tosh said she would run again in May for a full three-year term, in an interview Monday at her home on Cooper Road, which overlooks the paddock of her four rescue miniature horses. Though she and her husband, Tracey Maclin, have owned their Truro home for 21 years, she moved here full-time five years ago. That’s when she and Maclin, a law professor at Boston University, founded the nonprofit Auction Rescues Inc. to help save horses from slaughter.
Tosh practiced family law in Kentucky and Boston for 30 years and now does mediation on Cape Cod.
She enters the select board race at a time when the planning board she now sits on has been criticized for its negative stances on affordable housing and other development. The select board, for example, recently refused to authorize town counsel to defend the planning board when an applicant went to court over conditions placed on the accessory dwelling unit he wanted to build for an employee. The planning board lost that case.
Tosh said the planning board members work very hard and without consistent professional help. Truro has had seven town planners in three years, Tosh said.
She frequently disagrees with the majority’s opinions, she said, and is often an outlier on that board. If she is elected to the select board, Tosh would need to resign her planning board position.
Tosh told the Independent that one of her goals has been to make the approval process for building projects “less painful” for applicants, by which she means quicker and with better regulatory board coordination.
Tosh said she supports the Cloverleaf project, but thinks it is unfortunate that those with concerns about it are automatically branded as anti−affordable housing.
“I have skills that are useful,” Tosh said, “and I want to use them where the center of the action is, and that’s the select board, the executive branch of town government.”
Tosh is also on the board of the Truro Center for the Arts at Castle Hill and is a trustee of the Truro Conservation Trust.