CHARLESTOWN — The day after two of their candidates gained town government seats Tuesday, members and supporters of the new Charlestown Residents United political action committee said they were confident and optimistic about the future of the town.
“It’s a crack in the wall,” said Cheryl Dowdell, a supporter of the group, by phone Wednesday. “Diversity of opinion on the Town Council will be wonderful. Having all the same control over every single part of what’s going on in Charlestown is not good.”
Much of Charlestown’s government in recent years has been dominated by candidates endorsed by Charlestown Citizens Alliance, a political action committee. In 2014 and 2016, all five council members were backed by the CCA.
This year, a group of residents who initiated the $1 million recreation bond in 2015 started Charlestown Residents United and endorsed five Town Council candidates as well as a candidate for town moderator.
Deb Carney, who was council president from 2002 to 2006, was the sole CRU-endorsed winner in Tuesday’s election. With the second-highest number of votes, she will be council vice president.
Also endorsed by the Charlestown Residents United was Charlie Beck, who was elected town moderator.
Although Carney will be working with four CCA council members, she said she had no concerns about the political makeup of the council.
“I can hit the ground running because I am familiar with the charter and the ordinances and Robert’s Rules. I know how a meeting should be run. I’ve got the experience,” she said by phone Wednesday. “I’m there to give the people a voice on the council. I said I would be their voice and that’s what I’m going to do.”
She also said she hoped her fellow members of the new council would approach decisions in an open-minded fashion.
“I’m hopeful they’ll be willing to listen and not have their mind made up when they go into meetings,” she said. “That was one of the criticisms of this council, that they would come in and it was clear they had already decided what they were going to do.”
Among other ideas, Carney said she would like to see the Parks and Recreation Commission restored to its former 13 members after being reduced by the current council to nine.
She said the former members of the Parks and Recreation Commission were “very active, very passionate, very strong.”
“They advocated for recreation throughout the entire town. They worked hard on it and they volunteered a lot of hours,” she said. “All I can do is continue to voice my opinion and hope” her fellow council members will listen.
Jane Glander, a CRU-endorsed candidate for the Town Council who did not gain a seat, said Carney and Beck would bring experience and diverse points of view to the town’s government.
“I feel strongly that we made some headway into trying to get some balance into Charlestown government,” she said on Wednesday. “I believe very strongly that Deb Carney and Charlie Beck are so experienced and know all the ins and outs. I don’t think that they’re going to allow the CCA to be as narrow-minded as they’ve been. I think they're going to be all over every situation.”
Glander said she had hoped more CRU candidates would gain seats, but saw this year as just the beginning.
“It’s our first year out and I’m obviously not thrilled with the results, I was hoping to get two or three of us in,” she said. “We’re getting ready for two years from now. People have actually contacted us to say they want to run for the Planning Commission or the School Committee, so we’ve had a lot of interest, a lot people calling in and saying they want to get involved.”
Dowdell said she was proud that one CRU candidate was elected to the council.
“I know they only prevailed with the one seat but I think it’s pretty incredible that one was able to get over the wall,” she said, adding that Carney would be able “to have boots on the ground and do the job that she’s done before. She’s on top of parliamentary procedures and she’ll be respected.”
The next two years will bring out the best in everyone, Dowdell said.
“I think it’s opening up a window and there’s going to be some fresh air now,” she said.