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- The Forecaster
BRUNSWICK — The Town Council and School Board on Monday took unusual paths to select leaders.
The council unanimously elected District 3 Councilor Hallie Daughtry as chairwoman. The endorsement was in sharp contrast to recent jockeying between supporters of Daughtry, the former vice chairwoman, and at-large Councilor Joanne King, the former chairwoman.
While such angling for leadership is not unusual, its spilling over in public was seen as symptomatic of councilor’s divergent views and a change in the panel’s power dynamic.
The council also unanimously elected District 7 Councilor E. Benet Pols as vice chairman. Pols and at-large Councilor Deborah Atwood were sworn in Monday, along with District 5 Councilor Gerald Favreau, who ran unopposed last November.
According to Town Clerk Fran Smith, Pols’ selection as vice chairman was the first appointment of a freshman councilor to a leadership position in at least eight years.
The School Board perhaps took the most unconventional path during its re-election of Eileen Murphy as chairwoman and Byron Watson as vice chairman. Murphy was selected after a stalemate ended with the board authorizing Superintendent Paul Perzanoski to become secretary and cast the deciding vote.
Perzanoski’s ballot followed two 3-2 straw votes, both marked by three abstentions from new board members Michele Joyce, John Jones and James Grant. All three said their abstentions were partially due to the absence of board member Corrine Perreault, who was also nominated for chairwoman.
Janet Connors was also nominated to be vice chairwoman, but she failed to gain a majority.
The official votes for Murphy and Watson were 1-0, with Perzanoski casting the only vote.
The motion to authorize Perzanoski as the final arbiter was proposed by Grant.
Murphy, who supported Grant’s motion, acknowledged the rarity of the move, as well as the “spirited discussion” it generated.
“There are some people on the board who are very open with their opinions,” Murphy said. “I’d expect them to continue that, as they should.”
Perzanoski said that while the board’s action was highly unusual, it was grounded in best intentions.
“The intent was to make sure the board was united behind one candidate,” said Perzanoski, who said he had never been a part of such a vote during his 27 years in education.
“I think the outcome just caught everyone by surprise,” he added.
The selection of Pols by the Town Council may have a similar effect.
Pols, an attorney who served on the Planning Board, attributed his election to his reputation as a centrist and the unwillingness of more seasoned councilors to surrender their strong viewpoints to the consensus-building inherent in leadership.
“I think I’m the logical person to do it,” Pols said. “Many people have cast me as the swing vote on the council and they know I’ll support (Daughtry) in her leadership role.”
Pols said that although he is new to the council, he isn’t green to its parliamentary functions or inner workings.
Pols said he hadn’t considered the leadership position until noticing other councilors weren’t stepping forward. He said some councilors had expressed their support for him, prompting him to seek out endorsements from the others.
Pols acknowledged there are rifts on the council regarding economic development policy, but said he is confident councilors can reach consensus on other issues.
“I think there are real similarities between those who seem to be on polar extremes, particularly on fiscal issues,” Pols said. “I think there’s going to be a lot of room to work together.”
Daughtry said she was “deeply honored and humbled” to be entrusted by the council with its stewardship. Daughtry also extended an overture to King, who, she said, would be a “tough act to follow.”
“Use the gavel in good health,” King replied.