Walker top vote-getter as two lose reelection bids for council

  • Amherst Town Hall GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 11/2/2021 10:38:13 PM

AMHERST — Amherst’s next Town Council, when sworn in next January, will be more racially diverse, will have more women serving on it and will have six new members, based on unofficial results of Tuesday’s biennial town election.

While at-large incumbents Andy Steinberg of Hitching Post Road and Mandi Jo Hanneke of Foxglove Lane both retained their seats in contested elections, the other two incumbents who faced competition, District 3 Councilor George Ryan and District 4 Councilor Evan Ross, lost their reelection bids.

New Councilor Ellisha Walker of Autumn Lane, co-chairwoman of the Community Safety Working Group, won an at-large seat. She is joined by new District 3 Councilor Jennifer Taub and new District 4 Councilors Anika Lopes and Pamela Rooney, who won contested elections, and new District 1 Councilor Michele Miller and new District 5 Councilor Ana Devlin Gauthier, who both ran unopposed.

Incumbents returning in uncontested elections are District 1 Councilor Cathy Schoen, District 2 Councilors Patricia DeAngelis and Lynn Griesemer, and District 5 Councilor Shalini Bahl-Milne. District 3 Councilor Dorothy Pam prevailed in a contested election.

The three at-large winners were all endorsed by the Amherst Forward political action committee, though Walker rejected that endorsement.

Walker, with 3,164 votes, topped a six-person field, besting Hanneke’s 2,661 and Steinberg’s 2,617. The three winners were followed by former School Committee member Viraphanh Douangmany-Cage of Longmeadow Drive with 1,701 votes, longtime Town Meeting member Vincent O’Connor of Summer Street with 1,087 votes, and Holyoke Community College professor Robert Greeney of McClellan Street with 1,030 votes.

In District 3, Taub earned 238 votes and Pam 227, to take the two slots, with Ryan trailing with 190. Three years ago, in the inaugural council election, Ryan narrowly earned a spot on the council by 11 votes over the then third-place finisher.

In District 4, Lopes got 568 votes, with Rooney narrowly edging Ross, 454 to 451, for the second spot.

Of the 11 candidates endorsed by Amherst Forward, nine will be on the new council, with only Ross and Ryan losing their spots.

“We’re thrilled that we had so many diverse candidates with different experiences and backgrounds running in this election,” Clare Bertrand, a member of the Amherst Forward leadership team, said in a statement. 

Bertrand said the results also show that Amherst voters want to see progress in their community.

“We hope that our democratic process continues to be strengthened and improved by the civic engagement of our voters and their representatives,” Bertrand said.

Of the six candidates endorsed by the Progressive Coalition of Amherst, four earned spots on the new council: Walker, Pam, Taub and Lopes. The coalition didn’t endorse in uncontested races, and also gave endorsements to Douangmany-Cage and O’Connor.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.

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