DORSET -- The race for select board in Dorset is heating up.
There are currently three seats up for grabs on the board. Mike Oltedal is running unopposed for his three-year seat and there are two, one-year seats in play. One is currently filled by Steve Jones, who is running for reelection; the other open seat was one occupied by Marge Freed. She resigned her seat at the end of December when she and her husband relocated to Florida.
Ryan Downey, Dan Pinsonault, Laura Heinel and Jack Stannard are all running for the two one-year seats in an "at-large" election. The two candidates who receive the most votes will win the seats. Downey grew up in Dorset, moving here with his family when he was in the first grade. After serving seven years in the U.S. Navy, he came back home and is now a civil engineer with Speath Engineering.
"I grew up in East Dorset and now I live on the other side in Dorset," he said. "Which is one of my assets of running for the board because I'm from both sides of town, I like that."
A belief in civil service led Downey to run for this seat. He said his experience at Speath, his understanding of zoning bylaws and being "on the opposite side of the table" sets him apart from others. "I can see this from both sides. I can see it from the client's side, arguing the case," he said. "But I can also see it from the board member side too, from where the rules stand. That, more than anything, qualifies me to run for this position.
"I feel strongly that to run for a position, (a candidate) should have basic knowledge of the rules and regulations of the town (office) they plan on running for."
Currently, he serves as the town's animal control officer and has experience in a board setting on the Triton swim team board. He said that while that is very different from serving on a select board, it still involves making decisions for the people that you represent. When sitting on the select board, Downey said, an official has to put aside personal opinions and make the best, positive decision for the town.
Dan Pinsonault is a Dorset native who currently works for THM property management. He built fishing rods at Orvis for 30 years and also served in the Army reserves, retiring after returning from a tour of duty in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Pinsonault said he is most proud of bringing all 144 soldiers under his command home from their time abroad. After returning from serving overseas, he said he found himself with more free time and the ability to be more involved in local politics.
"I started getting interested in Dorset politics, I attend probably 90 percent of the meetings that the select men have," he said. "I'm on the prudential committee...and the other committee I'm on is the planning commission. I've been on that for probably four or five years now."
Pinsonault said one of his goals, if elected, is to have the fire department budgets reviewed by more of the taxpayers, instead of just the prudential committees. He said he has seen the select board scrutinize the town budget and come up with cuts and more balance, a chance they do not have with the fire department budgets.
"I understand, that just like Town Meeting, it's up to the citizens to go to the meetings and voice their opinions, but, when it comes to the prudential committees, it's one meeting a year," he said. "They can hash over what they want to do, and to be perfectly honest, there's not a lot of participation, other than the firemen and the prudential committee and a handful of other people...to me, I think, the taxpayer deserves to be able to ask questions at Town Meeting and bring questions up."
He said what is tough about these topics is downplaying the work and time sacrificed by the volunteer fire department. It is not a reflection at all on the fire fighters, he said, but instead just a need to see more open discussions in a Town Meeting like atmosphere. The other three candidates for select board could not be reached for comment by press time.