WELLFLEET — When select board member Helen Miranda Wilson became the lone town resident to file election papers in April, she told the Independent that her unopposed status meant she’d be “walking, not running” for one of the board’s two vacant seats.
Now, she’ll have to pick up the pace.
Wilson’s will be the only name printed on the ballot for the June 30 town election. But both Justina Carlson, a one-term incumbent, and John Wolf, who has not served before, have formally declared that they are write-in candidates.
Serving the final months of her first three-year select board term, Carlson describes herself as a small business owner (she’s opening a Main Street vintage store), a “sort of” real estate speculator (she says an Old Kings Highway parcel she owns is her foray into the affordable housing market), and a stepparent. She took out select board nomination papers last winter, but never filed them. She attributed that decision to “a little business thing” that, she said at the time, would keep her too busy for the board. One month and a town personnel reshuffle later, Carlson is less delicate.
“At the time that I took out papers, the town administrator was Maria Broadbent,” she said. “Ten minutes after she resigned, I blew up some balloons and changed my mind.”
Paying “careful attention” to the selection process for Broadbent’s replacement is a top priority for Carlson. She has that in common with Wolf, a three-term marina advisory committee member who owns and operates the Automatic Machine Company, a small business that specializes in HVAC and restaurant-machinery repair, and who shows off Wellfleet Harbor as a licensed catboat captain running Postcard Harbor Tours. Wolf has lived full-time in Wellfleet since 2010. He plays “various trombones,” he said.
Wolf said that before the filing deadline, running for a select board seat was “the last thing” he wanted. But spending the spring watching the enormity of Wellfleet’s town hall troubles dawn on the select board inspired him to step up to the plate.
“It’s just not a good way to do business,” he said. “If the fundamental issues that gave rise to this are not addressed, it will just happen again. It’s time for some new voices, down at street level. I’m convinced we can do better.”
Wolf wants to cut back on what he calls “sloppy practices” in the town’s budgeting and spending. In studying town meeting warrants and operating budgets from years past, Wolf says — though he “can’t get too specific” — he’s tallied up a list of instances in which “inadequate” machine maintenance has caused “an incredible level of waste.”
Wolf would also like to see more power given to advisory boards and committees, funding for apprenticeship programs for local tradespeople, and more transparency from town hall.
Wilson, Carlson, and Wolf all believe that addressing the affordable housing crisis — which Wilson and Carlson called “a crisis,” and Wolf called “the huge rhinoceros in the room” — is a priority. Wilson pointed to her work drafting the proposed accessory dwelling unit bylaw currently being pummeled by the planning board; Carlson cited her contribution to the affordable housing development at 95 Lawrence Road.
That was the end of unanimity among the candidates.
Carlson said that town compliance with the state 208 laws for wastewater will be an issue that she, who served eight years on the board of water commissioners and who currently sits on two county-level water boards, is uniquely equipped to address.
Wilson did not include the town financial situation in her list of priorities. “That’s being taken care of,” she said. Instead, she would devote her energy to continuing to reform the domiciling requirement for commercial shellfishermen. And the narrow breakdown-slash-bike lanes in the stretch of Route 6 between the post office and the police station, Wilson said, “are very dangerous — a burning issue.”
One more thing: whispers were flying around town that Tim O’Hara, who launched an unsuccessful 2015 bid for a select board seat, was throwing his hat in the ring once again.
“I’ve heard that rumor, too,” O’Hara said. “But the people haven’t asked me to lead. So, I’m not, unless they do.”