CHESTER— Democrat Lauren Gister was elected as first selectman Tuesday, with Republican challenger Carolyn Linn expected to edge incumbent Republican Selectman Tom Englert to set up the town’s first all-female board of selectmen.
Gister, a lawyer making her first run for town office, defeated Linn on a 688-413 vote. Democrat Charlene Janecek, currently the party’s registrar of voters, was elected with 696 votes. But Linn’s total in losing the contest for first selectman was ahead of Englert by a scant nine votes — Englert received 404 votes — in an election where the top three voter-getters make up the board. Englert has served on the board since 2009, and served briefly as acting first selectman in the fall of 2011 after former Republican First Selectman Tom Marsh resigned to take a job in Vermont.
Town Clerk Debra Calamari said Wednesday the nine-vote margin between Linn and Englert, being less than 20 votes, would trigger a recount for the minority seat, unless Englert formally waives the recount. Calamari said she had not yet heard from Englert or Republican Town Chairman Mario Gioco on whether Englert wants a recount.
Gister said Wednesday she looks forward to the challenge of the next two years, and wants to hear from residents on what they want from town government. “We will try to be the best board of selectmen we possibly can for Chester,” she said.
Gister, who becomes the second woman to serve as Chester First Selectman after former Republican First Selectwoman Betty Perreault (1989-1993), said she does not believe an all-female board of selectmen, a first for Chester, would make that much difference in how the town is run. “It might give a slightly different flavor to the board,” she said.
Linn said she is pleased that her campaign for the top job, the first by a Chester Republican since 2009, had helped boost voter turnout to nearly 50 percent, the highest in a decade. “The community engagement was just spectacular,” Linn said, adding that she looks forward to working with Gister and Janecek on issues facing the town.
Democrats won the few other contested races on Tuesday’s ballot. For planning and zoning commission, incumbent Democrats Keith Scherber and Errol Horner, and incumbent Republican Steve Merola outpolled Lisa Matz Tolleffson, running one ballot line of the Chester Common Ground Party. The totals were Scherber, 684, Merola,632, and Horner, 579, to 474 for Matz Tolleffson.
For library trustees, Democrats Sandra Senior-Dauer and Karin Badger outpolled Matz Tolleffson, with 752 votes for Senior-Dauer, 637 votes for Badger, and 317 votes for Matz Tolleffson. For Region 4 Board of Education, Democrat Lori Ann Clymas led Common Ground candidate David Cohen 622-301.
Gister and the new board of selectmen take office on Nov. 17. Gister succeeds two-term Democratic First Selectman Edmund Meehan. A total of 1,115 of the town’s 2,341 registered voters cast ballots Tuesday.