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LYNDEBOROUGH

Douglas easily unseats Sawin

Police chief position became top issue

LYNDEBOROUGH — Select Board member Donnie Sawin lost his bid for re-election on Tuesday, losing by a wide margin to former board member and former Milford Police Chief Fred Douglas.

Douglas tallied 246 votes to 95 for Sawin. Douglas had criticized Sawin and the other two Select Board members, Arnie Byam and Kevin Boette, accusing them of attempting to micromanage the town’s Police Department and not being receptive to public comment at Select Board meetings.

“Without the voice of the citizens, the town can’t operate properly,” Douglas said in a phone interview Wednesday. “I don’t think there’s a lot of confidence in the town government in general. There needs to be a public forum on the board’s agenda every single week. That will be my first suggestion. I’d like to think the other board members will understand why I’m asking for this. I don’t understand why people should have to call and schedule a meeting if they want to talk about something.”

Douglas said he supports both of the petition warrant articles on the town warrant regarding the Police Department. One article would ask the Select Board to appoint a police chief, rather than continuing with the current officer-in-charge structure. The other calls for $7,400 to establish an interviewing and vetting structure for hiring the next commanding officer of the department. That process would include both a citizen’s panel and a professional panel to do interviews and make recommendations to the Select Board.

“I’ve had a lot of people who spoke to me about the police situation,” Douglas said. “They understand why there should be a separation between the executive powers and law enforcement. The process by which you select a chief needs to be open and professional.”

Douglas said that although Town Counsel William Drescher has said that both warrant articles should be considered advisory, both Boette and Byam said at a Select Board meeting last year after the petition articles were discussed that they would follow the wishes of voters if the articles are approved.

Douglas said the turnout in Lyndeborough, where 349 of the town’s 1,188 voters cast ballots on Tuesday, was impressive.

“There wasn’t a lot on the ballot,” he said. “I think the numbers speak volumes about what people want. I hope everyone pulls together now for the good of the town.”

Sawin could not be reached for comment on the election results on Wednesday.

In the only other contested Lyndeborough race, Walter Holt defeated Scott Roper for a seat on the Zoning Board of Adjustment.

Walter Holland was re-elected to the Budget Committee, with 324 votes, and Steve Brown, with 35 write-in votes, and William Ball, with 27 write-ins, were elected to the two other open Budget Committee seats.

Dave Anderson can be reached at 924-7172, ext. 233 or danderson@ledgertranscript.com. He’s on Twitter at @DaveAndersonMLT.

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