Ahern, top vote-getter in Westerly, credits a ‘small-town USA’ factor: lots of friends

Ahern, top vote-getter in Westerly, credits a ‘small-town USA’ factor: lots of friends

The Westerly Sun
reporter photo

WESTERLY — With all of the votes counted it is now clear that Sharon Ahern received the most votes of the 11 candidates who sought positions on the Town Council

Ahern, a newcomer to elective politics who ran as an independent, received 4,981 votes and was trailed by Caswell Cooke Jr., who finished with 4,911. The difference between the vote tallies that became available Wednesday and those that were available on Tuesday night came from the counting of 1,674 mail ballots by the state Board of Elections late Tuesday and Wednesday. The final tallies are expected to become official on Nov. 20 when the local Board of Canvassers meets to certify the results.

“I’m very lucky to have an awful lot of really good friends who I talk to all of the time and I think, like happens in relatively small-town USA, they talked to their friends and those people wanted people on the council of the same ilk,” Ahern said, when asked to explain her success.

A lawyer who formerly served as chief of staff for former Town Managers Joseph Turo and Steven Hartford, Ahern also served as an alternate member of the Planning Board, on the municipal Parking Commission, and was executive director of the Westerly/Pawcatuck Joint Development Task Force.

“I’d like to think having worked for the town in so many different roles was a plus and people recognized that would be helpful,” Ahern said.

The council has sometimes voted to appoint the council member who received the most votes in the general election to serve as council president. In an interview Wednesday, Ahern acknowledged the practice but said she was more interested in getting to work as a member of the new council. “All of us who were elected, to a person, used the same two words during the campaign: collaboration and congeniality,” Ahern said.

She continued, “I’m really pleased with the complement of councilors. To me that is more important, it’s really the group that matters. The group has to be cohesive to move things along.”

Christopher Duhamel, who was also elected to the council, agreed.

“I think we have a great team to work with. We all ran with the hope to work together to get things done,” Duhamel said.

Duhamel will be returning to the council, after a two-year absence, for his eighth term. “It’s a great honor. I’m really happy to be able to serve again,” he said.

In its early days, Duhamel said, the council will likely have to take on the proposed elementary school redesign and its potential effect on the town’s debt capacity as well as ensuring that road and infrastructure projects approved by voters start quickly. The voters approved borrowing up to $15 million for a three-year road and infrastructure improvement project. Duhamel ran as a Democrat for the first time.

Brian McCuin, also a Democrat, captured the seventh seat on the council with 4,029 votes. He was followed by Louis Sposato Jr. who received  3,932 votes. McCuin said he hoped to help “get things accomplished in a nice, and professional manner.”

McCuin attributed his election success to his past service on the council for eight years, from 2006 to 2012, but said another factor might also have been in play. “I’m hoping it’s because I’ve done a good job in the past...but I think every so often the voters want to change everybody and they do,” McCuin said.

Karen Cioffi, who ran as an independent, and Democrat William Aiello, are the only returning council members. Ahern, Cooke, Duhamel and McCuin will be joined by another newcomer, Democrat Suzanne Giorno.

The new council is expected to be sworn in on Nov. 26.







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