Editor’s note: This article has been updated since its original publication in print on April 7 with new information about the June 21 special election ballot supplied by Wellfleet Town Clerk Jennifer Congel.
WELLFLEET — Two new candidates for select board have emerged in the last week and are conducting write-in campaigns for the May 2 annual town election. Meanwhile, a third write-in candidate, former select board member Kathleen Bacon, who also announced her entry into the race last week, said on Tuesday that she had changed her mind and withdrawn.
Three spots on the five-member board must be filled this spring. Incumbent Michael DeVasto is the only candidate who filed nomination papers and will appear on the May 2 ballot, running for another three-year term. The other incumbent, Janet Reinhart, decided at the last minute not to seek re-election.
Meanwhile, Helen Miranda Wilson, the longest serving member of the current board, submitted her resignation on March 29. The remaining two years of her term will be filled by the winner of a special election on June 21. Town Clerk Jennifer Congel reported that nomination papers for candidates seeking to replace Wilson will be available at her office starting Wednesday, April 13. The last day to take out papers is Friday, April 29. Completed nominations must be submitted by Tuesday, May 3 at 5 p.m.
The May 2 regular town election ballot will instruct citizens to vote for two people for select board for three years, with DeVasto’s name appearing above two blank spaces for write-in candidates. Both of the announced write-in candidates, Barbara Carboni and Timothy Sayre, said this week they would be willing to serve for either two or three years. Thus, failure to win election with a write-in vote on May 2 would still leave a narrow window for the candidate to file papers for the special election in June.
“I’ll need to get lawn signs now,” DeVasto told the Independent.
Bacon attributed her decision to withdraw from the campaign she had only recently announced to frustration with town officials, especially Town Clerk Jennifer Congel, from whom Bacon said she received “incorrect information regarding the election and the ballot.” She also criticized DeVasto, Reinhart, and Wilson for waiting so long to announce their decisions on running for re-election.
“The nomination papers come out in the clerk’s office in the middle of January,” said Bacon. “You have an obligation to let the public know that you’re either running or not running. Michael didn’t let people know until the middle of March — Janet, the last day of March. And Helen waited until the last possible day to say she was resigning.”
Bacon said she had decided to run a write-in campaign at the urging of friends in town offices and departments. But “at the end of the day,” she said, “it’s too much stress. I want to go to a studio and start making paintings again.”
There is no deadline for write-in candidates, so more candidates could theoretically enter the race right up until election day, “but it’s generally helpful to let the town clerk know,” said Congel.
Wilson first announced her intention to resign from the select board at its March 8 meeting because of health concerns and “other obligations,” although she hesitated to make her decision official until the write-in candidates had announced their campaigns.
“Nobody had come forward and it was last minute,” she told the Independent. “We’re getting a new town administrator, treasurer, and accountant. I thought, I can’t just walk off now. I was happy because I have an appetite for being on the select board. I have no appetite for what I’m going to be having to do in the next year or so.”
Vacancies on the select board caused by resignation must be filled at a special election, Congel said.
This is the second year in a row that Wellfleet has faced a town election with more open seats on the select board than candidates on the ballot.
DeVasto, the Oysterman
Incumbent DeVasto, 40, was elected to the select board in 2019, replacing long-time member Jerry Houk. He hoped that his candidacy would encourage other younger residents to get involved in town affairs.
“I am still hopeful,” he said. “While the pandemic has made it difficult for young working people to volunteer, it’s fulfilling to be part of solving problems for the community.”
With new members coming on the select board, he said, “it will be important to have some continuity.”
DeVasto graduated from Nauset Regional High School in 2000 and has a bachelor’s degree from the Mass. College of Art and Design. He owns the Field Point Oyster Farm, which he runs with his partner of 18 years, Katie Murphy. They have a four-year-old daughter, Violet.
“I’m running to address the housing crisis head on, so that we can retain a vibrant year-round community,” he said. “If we want to keep our town a village, with flourishing businesses and families, we are going to have to tackle the housing crisis. We are at serious risk of losing the character of our town if people can’t find stable housing.
“We really need to get to a point where the budget doesn’t depend on one-time revenue streams, or using free cash for general operating costs,” he added. “Our accounting problem is an administrative issue. We’re the policy-setting board, barred from the dealings of town administration unless we are informed that there’s a problem by the town administrator. While we can’t go in there and make sure people are performing in their jobs, as a board, we need to set our budget priorities and talk about how we fund things.”
Carboni, the Lawyer
Write-in candidate Barbara Carboni, 58, moved to Wellfleet full-time just over a year ago, when she took the job of Truro Town Planner and Land Use Counsel. She has a law degree from Boston University and a master’s degree in urban and environmental policy from Tufts.
In 2018 she joined KP Law, the same year she bought her house in Wellfleet. One of her first responsibilities was advising the town of Truro on the Cloverleaf affordable housing development.
She serves on Wellfleet’s Rights of Public Access Committee.
Her priorities on the select board, she said, are “housing. Put that down three times. Housing is a priority not only for its own sake, but it also has detrimental effects on local businesses when they can’t hire people because there’s nowhere to live. Also, looking ahead strategically with respect to rising sea levels and other changes we anticipate in the environment.
“While I haven’t been here very long,” Carboni continued, “I work on Outer Cape issues every day in Truro: housing, access to health care, water quality. I have an understanding of the procedural guidelines and rules select boards and other town boards have to operate under, like public records law and open meeting law. I’m really interested in those nuts and bolts.”
Sayre, the Jam Man
“You have accountability to the taxpayers,” said write-in candidate Timothy Sayre. “We need to justify when and why money is moved, where we’re taking it and if we’re overspending.”
Sayre, 66, was born in Boston and went to school in Florida, but “the Cape is where I grew up,” 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.
Sayre studied computer science at the University of Miami, and his career was spent working mostly for a large company in Florida, he said. He served on various boards in Palm Beach County, including the school board’s oversight committee.
“We need to fix the finances,” he said. “My first goal is to ask for all the budgets from the past couple years. I not only want to see the budget, but I want to see what they spent that money on. I want to make sure it’s being spent where it’s supposed to be, and that people weren’t overspending their budgets or just writing checks.
“I know there’s nearly $800,000 they can’t account for. While they have people in the accounting department doing an analysis, I wouldn’t call it forensic. I’m not confident they know where that variance is and if they will ever find it. Moving forward, the board needs to better oversee every budget brought before them and become deeply involved in asking questions.”