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Russell edges Morris to win Topsham selectman seat

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Russell edges Morris to win Topsham selectman seat

TOPSHAM — Donald Russell defeated James Morris Tuesday in a bid for one open seat on the Board of Selectmen.

Russell edged Morris by a vote of 2,096 to 1,899. He will fill the seat being vacated by Selectman Michelle Derr, who chose not to seek re-election.

Meanwhile, Dorothy Gardner ran unopposed for re-election to the Regional School Unit 75 Board of Directors and received 3,762 votes. Both Gardner and Russell will serve three-year terms.

Voter turnout was nearly 65 percent, compared with 73 percent during last year's presidential election.

"I'm certainly honored to have been elected to the Board of Selectmen, and I'm looking forward to serving on the board, representing the citizens of Topsham," Russell said Tuesday night. "I want to thank the many residents who supported me, and for their words of encouragement during the campaign."

Russell also expressed thanks to Morris for his willingness to run for the board, noting that "it certainly gave the citizens of Topsham a choice."

While he didn't secure victory, Morris said Tuesday night, he "managed to show that this town has many people who'd like to see it taken in a new direction. While my campaign didn't win, it wasn't necessarily a defeat; we had over 4,000 ballots cast in Topsham between myself and Mr. Russell ... and I only lost by 197."

Morris added that the turnout represented a large cross-section of town and "managed to show that the voters want change and new policies."

Morris, 23, a lifelong Topsham resident, earned a degree in political science from St. Anselm College in Manchester, N.H., and serves on the ad-hoc Topsham Government Improvement Committee. He said he intends to run again for the Board of Selectmen in the near future.

Russell, 72, has lived in the same Winter Street house since the age of 6 months and has an extensive record of service in Topsham. He is a former chairman of the Board of Selectmen who served on that board from 2002 to 2005. Russell's service also includes time on the Planning Board, the Board of Appeals, the School Administrative District 75 Board of Directors, the Local Redevelopment Authority for the Topsham Navy Annex and the Sagadahoc Budget Advisory Committee.

Russell said issues that concern him are the 2011 closure of Brunswick Naval Air Station and its impact on housing and the regional and local economy, as well as economic and community development.

He has noted that while municipal expenses continue to increase, state funds to town and school budgets are declining. He opposed the excise tax reduction, Question 2, pointing out that many people would not benefit from the proposed reduction since they drive vehicles at least 6 years old. Russell also said the lack of excise tax coming into town would have a significant impact on the funding of the road budget.

He named fairness, civility and commitment as three of his attributes, adding that he has a nearly perfect attendance record on the boards on which he has served.

Alex Lear can be reached at 373-9060 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net.