Francesconi, DeAngelis easily win seats on expanded Cheshire Select Board

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CHESHIRE — Michelle Francesconi and Ronald DeAngelis scored decisive victories during Tuesday's special election to formally expand the Select Board to five members.

Francesconi defeated Planning Board Chairwoman Donna DeFino 407 votes to 107 for the full three-year term on the board. In the three-way race for the two-year term up for grabs, DeAngelis outdistanced Michael "Mickey" Biagini and E. Richard Scholz by 145 and 103 votes, respectively.

In less than two years, DeAngelis will have to seek reelection when the position becomes a three-year term during the 2021 annual town election.

Proponents of an enlarged Select Board waited four years to cast ballots for the two new seats. The state and local approval process for expanding the board from three to five members began in 2015, culminating with the local electorate giving the final OK during the May 6 annual town election.

In all, 529 of the town's 2,401 registered voters cast ballots Tuesday at the Cheshire Senior/Community Center. The turnout was 22 percent; 21 percent of registered voters went to the polls May 6, also to elect two new Select Board members.

Francesconi, wife of Fire Chief Thomas Francesconi and daughter-in-law of former longtime selectwoman Carol Francesconi, believes she has made her own name for herself in Cheshire.

"A lot of people know I'm involved in the town, so I have a finger on the pulse of the community," she said. "I plan to utilize my new role to remain active in the community."

Francesconi, a former Cheshire Police officer for 12 years, says she will continue to listen to residents' concerns, as she did during the campaign.

"People want a board that is relatable and empathetic. Because I've been involved in the town, I knew what people have been upset about," she said.

DeAngelis had high praise for his opponents, saying that any one of the three chasing the two-year term would do a good job on the Select Board.

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As for his success at the polls, "I think more people have an open mind to change ... changing to a five-person Select Board is part of that."

DeAngelis, a retiree, wants to make a difference in his adopted hometown, where he moved from Pittsfield 20 years ago.

"We need more strategic planning for the town, and change involves planning for the future," he said.

DeAngelis plans to keep serving on the Planning Board and Water Commission.

Tuesday's special election continues Cheshire's evolution of town government leadership that began nearly a year ago.

Last September, Ed St. John IV resigned from the Select Board to pursue the job of part-time town administrator. St. John survived, at times, a contentious search process as the two remaining board members, Robert Ciskowski and Chairwoman Carol Francesconi, were divided for about a month on picking a successor to Mark Webber, who was retiring by the end of 2018. Eventually, Ciskowski and Francesconi agreed to hire St. John, who has been on the job since mid-December.

A month later, a second Select Board seat opened up when Francesconi officially announced that she wouldn't seek another term in May, ending a 30-year run on the board.

With two seats up for grabs, four candidates emerged in the spring to run for Select Board. Mark Biagini, cousin of Michael Biagini, defeated DeFino to succeed Francesconi, with Jason Levesque beating Scholz to serve out the final year of St. John's three-year term that expires in May 2020.

Levesque and Mark Biagini being the newcomers left Ciskowski as the logical choice to become the new chairman. Levesque and Mark Biagini agreed and voted Ciskowski, in his eighth year as a selectman, to the leadership role a week after the town election.

Dick Lindsay can be reached at rlindsay@berkshireeagle.com and 413-496-6233.


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