Select Board seat up for grabs in Belchertown at special election on Monday

  • Lesa J. Lessard Pearson Submitted Photo

  • Belchertown Town Hall

Staff Writer
Published: 9/30/2022 5:07:42 PM

BELCHERTOWN — A vacancy on the Select Board since a member resigned from the five-member panel in May will be filled by voters at a special election Monday.

The special election features a three-way race between Margaret D. “Peg” Louraine of Federal Street, Lesa J. Lessard Pearson of South Street and Curtis B. Carroll of Main Street.

Following several days of early in-person voting, as well as mail-in and absentee voting, the election day vote will be held at Belchertown High School gymnasium from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

The seat became open when Nicholas Pucel resigned, departing the board following its decision to nix a contract renewal for longtime Town Administrator Gary Brougham, and setting the stage for a transition to a town manager position. In his resignation, Pucel said that threats had been made against his family for his vote to terminate the contract.

While the transition from a town administrator to a town manager is still expected next year, the Select Board has since extended Brougham’s contract until June.

Louraine said she is interested in serving on the Select Board, though acknowledged the decision to run for the seat wasn’t easy.

“I made a really difficult decision to run for this vacant seat,” Louraine said. “It meant giving up my work at Belchertown Community Television, where I think we were instrumental in bringing transparency to town government, as well as promoting many organizations, groups and events.”

A resident of Belchertown for more than 30 years, who has served on various boards and committees, Louraine said she believes a consensus for residents is to maintain the rural look and feel of the community.

“I believe we can do that and still create a thriving future culture around our history,” Louraine said.

Lessard Pearson, who moved to Belchertown in January 2021, co-founded Belchertown Pride and assisted with the first-ever Pride flag-raising ceremony at Town Hall in June. Professionally, Lessard Pearson is a communications and strategic planning consultant to academic institutions and nonprofit organizations.

“I’m concerned about the individual who stepped down due to threats of violence, and I know Belchertown is better than that,” Lessard Pearson said. “I want to restore a sense of calm and civility, that we can agree to disagree when decisions are made about how to move forward.”

As a newcomer, Lessard Pearson said she has no allegiance to any faction, only to the town’s well-being, and brings a fresh perspective that can protect community assets, solve community problems and create a sustainable path.

One issue facing the town is a $1.5 million structural deficit in town spending that can only be addressed by finding new revenue or cutting positions. “We must do something beceuse we can’t wish it away,” she said.

Lessard Pearson is also advocating for improved town communications and increased business development. Efforts to reach Carroll were not immediately successful.

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