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Kathleen Mailhot and Mark Santos face off in special Pelham Select Board election

Kathleen Mailhot and Mark Santos will face off in a special election Oct. 6. The pair are competing for a seat vacated by longtime Selectman Edward Martin, who retired from the committee last month.

Polls will be open from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Ramsdell Room of the Pelham Library at 2 South Valley Road.

Both candidates are relative newcomers to Pelham. Santos, 52, moved to town seven years ago after spending much of his life in Arizona. Mailhot, 50, is a lifelong resident of the Pioneer Valley who grew up in Granby. She moved to Pelham 1½ years ago.

Mailhot, who was elected to the School Committee in May, said she is running because she wants to take on a greater role in serving the town. She said a top priority would be creating a plan to attract more businesses to Pelham.

“We’re not bringing in new kinds of business to expand the tax base, yet our expenses keep going up,” she said. “The town doesn’t have any real business or industry. That is something that really needs to be addressed. Everyone wants to keep the town a small rural town, but we keep going back to residents to cover our financial requirements. I see that as unsustainable.”

The Select Board lacks a liaison to the Planning Board, she said, adding that she would work with that board to help develop a strategy for luring business to Pelham.

Mailhot, of 118 Bray Court, works as a laboratory technician for Kanzaki Specialty Papers in Ware.

Santos is making his first bid for elective office. He said he is running for Select Board to help maintain the high quality of life Pelham residents enjoy.

“Coming from Phoenix, Ariz., which is a super urban area, I have a very unique perspective,” Santos said. “I know how nice Pelham is. If you don’t take care of your town you can lose it.”

A property manager, Santos said his chief goal on the Select Board would be to help boost civic participation. Often, he said, residents show up at Town Meeting and are shocked to see certain proposals on the warrant. Those proposals have taken months to develop and are often well thought out, but can be startling at first glance, he said.

The Select Board needs to do a better job educating residents about town affairs before they show up at Town Meeting, said Santos, who lives at 200 Daniel Shays Highway. He said the board should consider holding an outreach day at the Public Safety Complex and conduct informational gatherings with town groups to update residents on Pelham affairs.

“I would make myself available to all of these groups on a regular basis so they would have an idea of what is going on,” Santos said. “I approach things by getting groups of people together. The only way to approach things, especially in a very small town, is to bring people together.”

On the issue of the town’s property taxes, Santos said he is someone who “wants to make sure we spend our money properly.”

But he expressed skepticism that the town could lower taxes.

“When you look at the infrastructure of the town, you can’t cut the property taxes,” Santos said. “If you want to get rid of police, fire and all your city services, privatization of those services is just not going to be there when you need them.”

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