Downey Meyer re-elected as write-in to Northampton School Committee after moose collision kept him off ballot

Laste modified: Thursday, November 07, 2013
NORTHAMPTON — It wasn’t the proverbial dog that ruined School Committee member Downey Meyer’s paperwork and kept him off the ballot for Tuesday’s municipal election — it was a moose.

Meyer, who won re-election Tuesday to a seat in Ward 7 with 62 votes, ran as a write-in candidate after he failed to get his paperwork in by a July 22 deadline.

But he had quite the excuse. He was involved in a collision with a moose on a rural route in New Hampshire where Meyer was traveling after visiting family in Maine. He was driving south near Berlin, N.H., on Route 16 — known to locals as “moose alley” — sometime after midnight on July 22 when “a moose just came up and boom!” Meyer said.

The animal hit the front windshield, which shattered, and was then tossed up over the car.

“There was moose poop on the front windshield and the back,” Meyer said.

Fortunately, he said he was only going about 30 mph at the time of the collision and his car never left the road. The moose disappeared into the surrounding landscape as quickly as it had appeared.

Despite the damage to the windshield of his Honda, Meyer said he did not want to stop driving. His two sons, Andrew, 9, and Alex, 11, were asleep in the back seat (the moose encounter had not disturbed them) and there were no houses or gas stations in the area.

He eventually found an auto repair shop on Route 16 but by then, it was clear he would not get back to Northampton before the 5 p.m. deadline for filing a signed nomination petition with the city clerk’s office. As a result, no candidate for the school board seat in Ward 7 appeared on Tuesday’s ballot.

Meyer received a reminder text at about 4:45 p.m. July 22 from Mayor David J. Narkewicz while he was still dealing with car repairs.

“I texted him back that unfortunately, I’d hit a moose,” Meyer said. “I don’t think they’d ever heard that before in the clerk’s office.”

Meyer, 47, of North Farms Road, won election to his second term by write-in votes Tuesday.

“I’m happy to be re-elected,” he said. “In the last four years I’ve learned a tremendous amount about the budget and how resources flow to the district.”

A $2.5 million property tax override voters approved in June — $1 million of which went to the schools — should “stave off the really serious resource cuts” in the near future, said Meyer, who works as a substitute teacher in the Gill Montague schools.

“The reserve puts us in a position where we won’t face in the next three years the terrible choices we’ve faced in the past,” he added. “Hopefully, that will help us do the right thing.”

Also Tuesday, in four uncontested races for the School Committee, incumbent Howard Moore, 55 of Cross Path Road, won election to a seat in Ward 3 with 415 votes. Pam Hannah, 42, of Church Street, was elected in Ward 1 with 462 votes, and Ann Hennessey, 48, of Federal Street, won in Ward 5 with 520 votes. Both are newcomers to the board.

Incumbents Alden Bourne of Ward 1 and Stephanie Pick of Ward 5 did not seek re-election.

School Committee seats in even-numbered wards, where candidates are in the middle of four-year terms, were not on the ballot this year. The city is moving to comply with new charter rules that calls for two year, concurrent terms for all school board members. That will occur by the 2015 election.