TEWKSBURY - A last-minute challenger has emerged, or re-emerged, in the race for a five-year seat on the Tewksbury Planning Board.
In an e-mail to the Town Crier earlier this week, Donna Robitaille said she was waging a write-in campaign for the seat up for grabs in the April 5 Municipal Election.
The only name to appear on the ballot will be Vincent Fratalia, who turned in his nomination papers last month. The seat is presently held by Vincent Spada, who is not seeking re-election.
Fratalia said he was surprised when he was told about the write-in campaign earlier this week.
“I just found out about it. I guess she’s entitled to do that. I’m just not sure what she’s looking to accomplish,” said Fratalia.
Robitaille had taken out nomination papers earlier this year but did not return them by the deadline. Robitaille said she had been upset by rumors being spread on the Internet, allegedly connecting her name with Wilfred Daley, the man responsible for embezzling from Tewksbury Youth Baseball several years ago. Daley was the only person ever accused of a crime in that case.
Shortly after the nomination deadline passed, Robitaille says she realized she had made an error and began organizing a write-in campaign.
“I knew I’d made a mistake (not getting on the ballot),”she said. “I just have a sincere interest in serving in town government.”
Previously, Robitaille served 4 years on the Conservation Commission and 3 years on the ZBA.
For his part, Fratalia says he had been disappointed to be running unopposed for the seat and is more disappointed not to have the chance to debate planning and zoning issues.
“Actually, I am a little bit (disappointed),” he said. “I didn’t want the race handed to me. I want to serve but I want to feel that I’ve earned it.”
Despite having no official opposition on the ballot, Fratalia said he has been running his campaign as if there were. He has had fundraisers, meet and greets and sign holding events.
Fratalia stepped into the public spotlight in 2013 as one of the leading opponents of a proposed slots parlor in Tewksbury. That proposal was overwhelmingly defeated at a Special Town Meeting. One of the key issues he has been running on has been a re-vamping of the town’s Master Plan.
Robitaille says she was also opposed to the slots parlor proposal but for a different reason. She said the financial package offered to the town by the developer was insufficient.
“I just think we could have done better,” she said.
Robitaille said she is not anti-development but opposes TIFFs and other incentives offered to developers to do business in Tewksbury.
The only officially contested race on Saturday’s ballot is for Town Moderator. Selectman Doug Sears takes on former Selectman Jerry Selissen for a three-year term. Incumbent Keith Rauseo opted not to seek re-election.
The rest of the ballot includes the follow unopposed races:
•Bruce Panilaitis – Selectman
•Brian Dick – School Committee
•Patrick Joyce – Library Trustee
•Robert Homeyer – Library Trustee
•Louise Gearty – Housing Authority
•Charles Roux – Board of Health
Polls will be open on Saturday, April 5, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.