June 20 brought some arguably unexpected changes to two significant government branches in town. Select Board incumbent Jackie Belf-Becker lost to challenger Bret Murray, who will now be returning to the board after a six-year hiatus.
The Belf-Becker family has no shortage of history in Marblehead town government; Jackie Belf-Becker had been on the Select Board for the past 18 years, her husband David Belf-Becker was a candidate for this year’s Board of Health (BOH) election, and their son Todd Belf-Becker was the BOH chair before stepping away and giving his father a chance to run.
Regardless, Jackie Belf-Becker received the least amount of votes with 2,615 while Murray finished third in the voting with 3,596, behind Erin Noonan (3,762), and Alexa Singer (3,764). Moses Grader and James Nye also reclaimed their seats with 2,940 and 3,311 votes, respectively.
Murray acknowledged the difficulty of winning an election as a non-incumbent, but he described his victory as a sign that Marbleheaders believe their town is in need of a new direction.
“I think the voters had seen what has been going on for many years in terms of lack of long-term planning, lack of transparency, and not really addressing the sense of urgency of the structural deficit problem,” Murray said. “I think the citizens had seen that we need to turn the tide on the Select Board, because the direction they were going was not the direction that’s gonna solve the problem.”
Murray said the many votes Noonan and Singer, who are relatively new to the board, received also suggests the town’s desire for change.
This change comes on the heels of the passage of a citizen petition by Jim Zisson and Megan Sweeney to extend the terms of Select Board members beyond one year, starting in 2024.
The other race that bore surprising results was that of the School Committee. It was highly contested throughout, as all four candidates still had a mathematical chance for the two available seats until the very end. However, incumbent Sarah Gold fell to retired Glover School Principal Brian Ota and former Committee member Jennifer Schaeffner.
Schaeffner received the most votes with 3,052, followed by Ota with 2,497. Gold finished third with 2,390 and Paul Baker rounded out the candidates with 2,262.
Ota expressed satisfaction with the election results, and is ready to get to work on navigating the committee through another override rejection.
“I’m very pleased that Jenn Schaeffner is on the School Committee,” Ota said. “I think the work cut out for us is really gonna be the budget because we failed the override again… We need to really understand what it will take to get it passed next year.”
Ota also lent his gratitude for Gold’s contributions to the committee during her tenure.
In the Board of Health race, Thomas McMahon won by a sizable margin over David Belf-Becker and Thomas Massaro, with 2,937 votes. Belf-Becker was a distant second with 1,618, and Massaro was last with 1,021.
The Light Commission had two separate races, a three-year-term race between incumbent Lisa Wolf and Walter Homan as well as a one-year-term contest between incumbent Adam Smith and Nathanael Burke. Smith and Wolf will retain their positions, as each won their respective race. Wolf won fairly comfortably, topping Homan by about 800 votes. Smith bested Burke with a final tally of 3,393 to 3,110.
The Recreation and Parks Commission was bound to welcome a new member, as incumbent Chair Derek Norcross declined to renew his candidacy. Shelly Bedrossian and Larry Simpson were the two non-incumbent candidates, and Bedorssian acquired the final spot with a narrow victory over Simpson of less than 100 votes. Matthew Martin led the way with 3,311 votes, while Rossana Ferrante, Karin Ernst, and Linda Rice Collins all retained their memberships as well.
Two spots on the Abbot Public Library Library Board of Trustees were also decided on Tuesday, with Katherine Barker leading the three candidates with 3,211 votes. Gary Amberik was second with 3,109, and Rose McCarthy received 1,683 votes.
Six races were uncontested in this year’s election: Jack Attridge for town moderator; John P. Kelly for Board of Assessors; Pam M. Peterson for Cemetery Commission; Marc J. Liebman and Robert J. Schaeffner for Planning Board; Theresa M. Tauro for Housing Authority; and Barton K. Hyte and Thomas M. Carroll for Water and Sewer Commission.
This group of elected officials will now prepare to lead Marblehead.