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Election 2017: Heisey Claims Seat On School Committee; Hughes, Dristillaris Re-elected

May 03, 2017 03:51AM ● By Bill Gilman
Backed by a powerful political action committee, Sabrina Heisey made her first run for office a successful one.
Heisey upset three-term incumbent Matthew Sheehan for a three-year term on the Dracut School Committee. Most surprising was the decisive nature of the victory — 1,491-930. In the race for two seats on the Board of Selectmen, the only other contested race on the ballot, Alison Hughes and Tami Dristillaris were easily re-elected with 1,739 and 1,608 votes, respectively. John Joyce fell short in his first run for political office with 857 votes. 
Heisey credited the win in the hard fought (and often contentious) race with training and grassroots support she received from Emerge Massachusetts, a group that trains and supports women running for political office.
"Emerge is amazing. I cant say enough about how much help they have been," she said. "There were 48 people in our class. I was the third one to run for office and two of us have won. You are each others network. They all have experience making calls and knocking on doors."
During the course of the campaign, Heisey took an aggressive approach, attacking Sheehan for what she saw as a lack of due diligence on the part of the school committee in examining spending and policy recommendations from Superintendent of Schools Steven Stone, before approving them.
"Initially I wasn't going to do that," Heisey admitted. "But he is very well connected. Everyone knows who he is. So I decided I needed to come at him aggressively."
Despite the fact that some of her rhetoric during the campaign was critical of the superintendent and the school committee, as a whole, she said she feels she can work well with her fellow committee members and the administration.
"I am looking forward to working with them, learning and being part of the team," she said.
Hughes and Dristillaris  both said they feel their re-election is affirmation that residents are pleased with the direction the town is headed.
 "I hope so. I definitely feel Dracut is heading in a positive direction, " said Hughes, adding that one of her top priorities is continued economic development.
  "We have a few more irons in the fire for development projects along Route 113. We would also like to see increased staffing for police and fire and getting a new fire station built in Collinsville, " she said.
This will be Hughes second term on the board. For the past year she has served as chairman and said she is interested in continuing in that role.
Dristillaris agreed that the construction of a new fire station is a top priority, moving forward. She said she would also like to tackle the storm water mandate issue. She said she feels Dracut definitely has the space for new economic development without impacting quality of life.
 "I think there are a lot of pieces of property that don't interfere with peoples lives, " said Drisitllaris, who is also starting her second term.  "I think Dracut is looking pretty good right now. "
Despite his loss, Joyce said he was pleased with his campaign and gratified by the support he received. He also said he was likely to run for office again. 
 "To get close to 1,000 votes, that's amazing. I had some people who thought I'd only get around 200, " said Joyce.  "You do this the first time and you learn. But I think a lot of people agreed with the issues I was talking about. "
In uncontested races:
Eric Jackson and Linda Trouville were elected to terms on the Library Board of Trustees
Debra Dewitt Ahern was elected to the Housing Authority
William Morin was elected to a term on the Water Commission
Kathleen Graham was elected to a term as Clerk of the Water District

In all, 2,456 residents cast ballots, representing just 11.6 percent of the  towns registered voters.
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