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Smith takes seat on Planning Board

Date: 5/23/2013

By Chris Maza

WILBRAHAM — At the end of a slow day at the polls, Jeffrey Smith emerged victorious in the race for a seat on the Planning Board on May 18.

Smith, running as an independent, defeated Republican nominee David Ortendahl for a five-year term on the board by a margin of 500-274 in an Annual Town Election that drew a mere 8 percent of registered voters.

Town Clerk Beverly Litchfield had predicted a turnout of approximately 15 percent.

"Eight percent is a really low number, so I'm grateful to those who came out. With such a low percentage, ever person counts," Smith said.

Smith, whose wife recently gave birth in advance of the election, said support of family and friends drove his campaign.

"What put me over the top was the outpouring of support." he said. "Even before my wife had the baby, it was a very hectic time to run a campaign and at some times I had to rely on others. Everyone was great about getting the word out."

Smith also tipped his cap to Ortendahl for running a strong campaign.

"I want to thank my opponent for a good race. He got a lot of votes and got his name out there," he said. "I hope he stays involved in town politics."

Smith, who was appointed the Planning Board's associate member in September 2012, has also been a member of the Open Space and Recreation, and Community Preservation committees.

"The more I got involved, the more hunger I had for it," he said. "I live here, I work here, I have a small business here. It only made sense for me to give back to the community."

Smith explained that it was his belief that the Planning Board has a very specific and important charge in the community.

"The Planning Board's job is to uphold the existing bylaws on the books," he said. "Most of the time, you're waiting for people to approach you with their plans for a development or subdivision and your job is to make sure the community is happy with those projects."

A 30-year resident of the Wilbraham, Smith said his experience and memory of the town and how it has developed would be a major strength to the board.

"I have a lot of knowledge about the town and how it has changed," he said. "Not every change has been positive and I think having that historical perspective on what has worked and what hasn't is very important."

With regard to future planning, such as the work being performed by the Vision Taskforce, Smith said it would be important for him to maintain an understanding of the public's opinions.

"In addition to looking at the data, we will have to look at the will of the people and take that into consideration with the decisions we make," he said.

Smith said that holding a degree in mechanical engineering and having experience with light construction and remodeling gives him the ability to understand and evaluate plans presented to the board.

"The Planning Board is presented with a lot of technical documents," he said. "I have a technical background and I'm very proficient in reading those blueprints and other documents."

Democrat Anne Turcotte was re-elected to the Housing Committee, defeating Republican challenger Michael Dane.

Republican James Jurgens was elected to the Board of Library Trustees, as well as Sarah Lloyd, who ran a write-in campaign.

Several Republicans Roger Roberge, Board of Assssors; Mary McCarthy, Water Commissioner; William Bickley, Cemetery Commission; David Graziano, tree warden; and Mazzuca, Hampden-Wilbraham Regional School Committee were elected in uncontested races.