WELLFLEET — All throughout this year, American voters will experience an omnipresent election campaign that will eventually culminate in a November choice for the presidency.
This spring, however, Wellfleet voters will head to the ballot box to vote for two of the five members of the town’s own executive branch, the select board. (Town meeting is the legislative branch here.)
Wellfleet elections have not of late featured a lot of candidates.
Select board vice chair John Wolf won as a write-in candidate in 2021, defeating incumbent Justina Carlson, who also ran as a write-in.
Select board member Tim Sayre was the only candidate on the ballot to replace Kathleen Bacon after she resigned near the end of her term last summer. That race wound up being hotly contested anyway, as Curt Felix also ran as a write-in candidate and lost by seven votes to Sayre.
Both Wolf and Sayre will complete their respective terms in May. Both say they plan on running for another three-year term.
According to Town Clerk Jennifer Congel, Wolf is the only person who has taken out nomination papers for select board, but Sayre said, “I believe I will be running again.”
The deadline for obtaining nomination papers is March 7, and the last day to submit them with the required 20 voter signatures is March 11.
The voter registration deadline is April 12 for the election on April 29. The town moderator is also on the ballot, as are seats on the elementary school committee, the board of library trustees, the cemetery commission, and the housing authority.
David Agger has taken out papers for reelection to the cemetery commission, Congel said.
Wolf said that he is running for another term on the select board because “voters deserve a chance to weigh in on what kind of job I did — the best way to do that is to vote for or against me.” Wolf also has some unfinished business, he said, like seeing through the dredging of the harbor.
At first a proponent of an environmental mitigation plan required by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to secure a dredging permit for the south mooring field, Wolf later voted against it. He said that paying a $4.5-million fine to secure the permit would be preferable to enacting a mitigation plan supervised by the Army Corps — a supervision that he said would last for decades and be “a form of extortion.”
Wolf said that the Corps’ argument that dredging the harbor would disturb essential fish habitat, thus necessitating mitigation, is inaccurate. The south mooring field, he said, is uninhabitable for most marine life because of the buildup of black custard.
Wolf said he hopes to persuade Cape Cod’s Congressional delegation to push back on the Corps’ mitigation requirement.
“I’ve made tough decisions, and I am sure not everyone agrees with them,” Wolf said. Running, he said, “is a chance for voters to voice that.”
Sayre said he will focus on the money.
“Townspeople are worried about the budget, that our financials are staying in order,” Sayre said. At a recent select board meeting, he questioned representatives of the Herring River Restoration Project over several change orders that dipped into the project’s contingency budget. “I want to make sure it’s on time and within budget, so there are no cost overruns outside of the grants we received.”
“He’s a fiscal hawk, and I think that’s good for the town,” Wolf said in support of his fellow board member.
Sayre also cited his work on the Maurice’s Campground Planning Committee, which is currently sorting through six responses to its request for proposals for a master planner for an affordable housing development on the property.
Despite being an alternate on the committee, Sayre said, “to be honest, I end up voting every time.” According to recordings of the meetings, the last meeting Sayre attended was in August.
Though neither Wolf nor Sayre have any declared competitors, the night is still young, Wolf said. “I am operating on the assumption that I will have opposition, and I encourage Tim to do likewise,” Wolf said.
Historically, many select board elections have had just one candidate or had one name on the ballot and another candidate waging a write-in campaign. Both Sayre and Wolf agreed that the lack of participation stems from “how contentious it gets, with people yelling at the board,” Sayre said.
Also, Sayre said, “You are committing a lot of your time with little reward.”
“It’ll either keep you young or make you old real quick,” Wolf said.
Wolf hopes this year’s race might be different, given public perceptions of Wolf’s and Sayre’s politics, he said. A rumor started last year that Sayre had attended the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection in Washington, D.C., which was “manifestly untrue,” Wolf said, put a blemish on Sayre’s political career in Wellfleet.
Others have taken issue with Wolf’s creed, which he says veers libertarian. “I don’t consider myself a right-wing ideologue in any way, however,” Wolf said. “I don’t think of having a good public health system as being socialist. I look at it like a social compact, just like a highway or a fire department.”
Both candidates say they welcome competition. “I would be glad, because for so long, there hasn’t been any,” Wolf said.
“Get out there and run,” Sayre said. “Run against me, I don’t care, but get out there and run.”
“Let’s make it lively,” Wolf added.