Voters on Tuesday returned the Cheshire District Board of Commissioners to Democratic Control, with two Republican commissioners arriving for reelection.
Republican incumbents emphasized both responsible budgeting and ongoing oversight of the Maplewood Nursing Home renovation and expansion project, while their Democratic challengers advocated that Commissioners take a more active role in regional issues, notably the opioid crisis.
In District 1, Democrat John G. defeated "Jack" Wozmak, former longtime board member, reigning Republican Peter L. Graves, chairman of the board. Both live in Walpole.
Wozmak received 5,430 votes for Graves 4,632 and won a two-year term.
In District 3, Robert J. Englund, a Stoddard Democrat and retired physician, relocated Joseph Cartwright from Alstead.
Englund's victory – finishing the two races by 5,730 – 5,203 – gives him a four-year term.
The four-year term alternates between the three districts, with the other two commissioners being elected for a two-year term. The commissioners are the executive of the county.
Wozmak said his platform, which focuses on more aggressive control of opioids, high property taxes and gaps in the EMS service, may have resonated with some voters.
But he also confirmed the help of a "blue wave" of voter turnout.
"You never know," he said. "It could be that the Democrats stood for election. And we know that 90 percent of them are who comes to the polls. "
Cartwright attributed his loss to the same phenomenon – a large number of voters who were probably motivated by something other than the ins and outs of the district budget.
"It's too bad that people are not aware of what is going on and only affected by the Blue Wave," said Cartwright, a retired flight pilot and US Air Force veteran, who sits in the Alstead Zoning Board of Adjustment.
Cartwright was elected in 2016 to represent District 3, which replaces a Democratic incumbent. The area includes Alstead, Dublin, Fitzwilliam, Gilsum, Harrisville, Jaffrey, Marlow, Nelson, Richmond, Rindge, Stoddard, Sullivan and Troy.
Englund, district electoral commissioner, said he has lived in Cheshire County for more than 42 years and looks forward to serving his community in a new way.
Before retiring, he worked for 35 years as a family doctor at Cheshire Medical Center in Keene. As a former resident of Keene he sat in the late 1990s and early 2000s in the city council.
Englund has also been a board member in several organizations, including Keene Family YMCA, Antioch University New England, and Monadnock Family Services. He is currently a board member of the Cheshire Health Foundation and a volunteer health officer for the city of Stoddard.
When he ran for office, he said his medical background would support his work as a commissioner.
"I am very interested in the alternative conviction program and the drug court, and I hope that I want to strengthen the use of medication for those who have a substance abuse disorder," he said Tuesday night.
Englund has some experience with coats of arms of the district government. Since 2002, he has volunteered in the county jail and leads health and wellness courses. He was also part of a group that dealt with options for Maplewood Nursing Home a few years ago when officials in the region debated the future of the facility.
He said he plans to attend the weekly Commissioners' Meetings by January when he takes office to update himself.
There is not much to learn for Wozmak. He served as administrator of the Cheshire County for 17 years. In 2015, he was appointed Chief Executive of the State for Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health, from which he resigned a year later. Today, he works as an airport manager for Keene's Dillant Hopkins Airport in North Swanzey and is treasurer of Cheshire County, a chosen position.
"There really is no learning curve," said Wozmak. "My feet are already on the ground and we are moving."
District 1, which he represents, covers Chesterfield, Hinsdale, Surry, Swanzey, Walpole, Westmoreland and Winchester. Graves, who owns a farm in Walpole, has represented the district for a four-year term.
Wozmak reaffirmed the priorities of his campaign on Tuesday evening and said he wanted to find a regional solution to the shortcomings of the EMS system, improve access to addiction treatment and urge the state government to share more resources with local communities.
"I just think that the district commissioners need to have a stronger voice to really work for real estate taxpayers," Wozmak said.
This article has been updated to include a final poll in the District 3 race.