Two to compete for open seat on Lee Board of Selectmen
LEE -- A pair of candidates who lost in previous selectman races will square off next month for a seat on the Lee Board of Selectmen.
Planning Board member Thomas Wickham and town public works employee Richard "Dickie" Neales are vying for the three-year term to replace board Chairman Gordon Bailey, who isn't seeking re-election. Bailey announced in February he was stepping down from government after nearly 30 years of service, the last 12 as a selectman.
Last spring, Wickham finished third in a three-way selectman's race won by incumbent Patricia Carlino. Neales was twice a runner-up, in 2009 and 2012, losing both times to Selectman David Consolati.
The Wickham-Neales political contest is one of two voters will settle at the annual town election on May 12. School Committee incumbents, Kathy Hall, Susan Harding, Alexandra Heddinger and challenger Andrea Wadsworth are in a four-way battle for the three committee seats up for grabs this year on the seven-member panel.
If elected a selectman, Wickham would bring an extensive background of municipal service to the board. He has served for six years on the Planning Board, as a delegate to the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission and as a member of the Lee Library board of directors.
He currently serves as chairman of the town's Energy Efficiency Committee, which brokered a deal to establish a municipal solar energy project. The yet-to-be built solar arrays are expected to reduce electricity costs for Lee's town buildings.
Wickham says Lee needs more commercial growth to increase the tax base.
"I hope we can create more jobs and help the town grow," he said. "If we keep asking for more money and there's no growth, it puts pressure on the taxpayers."
Neales, a truck driver/laborer for the Lee Department of Public Works, is campaigning on a platform of upgrades to the town's infrastructure. The former paper mill worker in Lee is also advocating for bringing more jobs to the community recovering from the closure of four paper manufacturing facilities in 2008. Neales says the town is strategically located to attract new businesses.
"We're right off the [Massachusetts] Turnpike," he noted. "We need to market the town to bring jobs here .. and do whatever we can to fill those mills."
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