Selectwoman a first for Alford

Alford Town Clerk Thomas Curtin administers the oath of office Thursday to Peggy Rae Hendon-Wilson, the town's first female Select Board member.

ALFORD — Somehow, it hasn't happened yet — but Tuesday, it did.

Voters here elected a woman to the Select Board for the first time in the town's history, according to town officials. Write-in candidate Peggy Rae Hendon-Wilson won a three-year seat on the three-person board, while Great Barrington-based attorney Peter Puciloski was elected to the seat formerly held by Tim Drumm, who retired before his three years were up. Both candidates ran unopposed, according to Thomas Curtin, the town clerk.

Out of 384 registered voters, 71 cast their votes.

Roxanne Germain, who wears other hats besides her role as town treasurer and collector, said there hasn't been a woman on the board in the past 40 years.

"And I can't imagine there was one before that," she said.

Later, she checked with someone who has been around for a while.

"I asked my father, who is 80 and who's lived here his whole life — he said she's the first."

Longtime board member Charles Ketchen also confirmed this.

At a Thursday swearing-in on the violet-strewn lawn outside Town Hall, Hendon-Wilson said she was bursting with excitement to govern in a town where civil discourse reigns, where the tax rate is low, where open land is preserved by farmers and residents, and where the town buildings are well-kept and the roads are smooth and clean.

"Nobody has better roads," she said. "You can always tell when you've reached the town line."

She said it's peaceful here.

"We're lucky in Alford that we don't have a lot of strife — we're reasonable."

Support our journalism. Subscribe today. →

It's a diverse population of 491 — as of the last official count — that she said also includes craftspeople, artists and even a Nobel Laureate — Joachim Frank won the chemistry prize last year. Like Frank, about half the town's residents are second-home owners.

Hendon-Wilson, a horticulturalist who runs horticulture programs in the schools and owns Avalon Woods, a small landscaping business, said she has got some extra time to spare now, with a daughter in college. Over the years, she has been a busy volunteer for the schools, the Alford Land Trust, her church, and doing things like making Christmas wreaths and decorations for town buildings. She'll be doing the flowers for Germain's daughter's upcoming wedding.

Raised on a Wisconsin dairy farm, Hendon-Wilson moved here with her husband, Howard Wilson, in 1988, and the two were married the next year at the Alford Village Church, where her daughter was later baptized.

When asked if there is anything at all amiss in town, she said the word that echoes all across these hills: broadband. But even that's about to change. As she spoke, workers — not 50 feet away — were stringing fiber-optic cables for the town's new broadband network, expected to be complete by midsummer.

"You can't even know how we feel about this," she said of the realized dream of high-speed internet in a town where there's no cable or DSL. She praised members of the Municipal Light Plant for their hard work in developing a plan for a town-owned network.

Puciloski was also re-elected to the Municipal Light Plant Committee, having initially replaced Robert Lichter, who died in March. He said residents from about half the town's premises have subscribed for broadband service in the past month, and that progress on that front is now swift.

Puciloski told The Eagle that he ran for the Select Board seat so he could help out the town, given his 35 years practicing municipal law, and having been on the Planning Board of another town before moving here 11 years ago. When asked what other issues might need attention in town, he said there aren't many.

"As you know, it's pretty quiet in Alford."

In other town offices, Alexandra Glover and Mort Josel were elected to the Planning Board; Josel was also elected to the Finance Committee; Michael Wilcox retained his position as town moderator; Bruce Forrester and Timothy Ortwein were elected to the Municipal Light Plant Committee; Marion Ortwein was elected as a library trustee; Judy Durlack and Drumm were elected to the cemetery commission; and Curtin was elected town clerk. All candidates in this year's election ran unopposed.

Reach Heather Bellow at hbellow@berkshireeagle.com or on Twitter at @BE_hbellow and 413-329-6871.