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Ludlow police chief wins race
Tuesday, March 29, 2005
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LUDLOW - Residents yesterday elected as selectmen the police chief, who favors a mayoral form of government, and approved a non-binding referendum that also endorses the switch from town meeting to mayor.

In the election upset, Police Chief James J. McGowan beat incumbent Selectmen James D. Cavallo by a vote of 2,309 to 1,601.

McGowan beat one-term incumbent Cavallo, the retired principal of Ludlow High School, in all six precincts.

"I'm very pleased," McGowan said last night at a victory party at Tony & Penny's Restaurant.

The police chief vowed to work to implement a mayoral form of government while serving on the Board of Selectmen. Cavallo had said he supported a change in government, but said it was up to the residents to determine the type of revision.

Cavallo said last night, "I wish the police chief well." McGowan takes office today.

As police chief, McGowan is expected to be prohibited from deliberating or voting on some matters, such as the Police Department budget.

Also yesterday, the voters returned incumbent Carol A. Szczebak to her seat on the Board of Health. She withstood a challenge from Jo A. Pettengill. The vote was 2,077 for Szczebak, 1,492 for Pettengill.

Town Clerk Laurie Gibbons said 31 percent, or 3,959 of 12,755 registered voters, turned out to vote in yesterday's downpour.

The three questions on the ballot all dealt with possible changes to the form of government. All three ballot questions were non-binding.

The voters approved Question 1, which asked whether the town should initiate the process to elect a Charter Commission to recommend revisions to the town government and draft a town charter. The vote was 2,224 in favor of the question to 1,041 opposed.

Voters rejected Question 2, which asked whether voters should retain town meeting and adopt a Board of Selectmen and town manager form of government. The vote was 1,195 in favor of the question and 2,098 opposed.

Voters approved Question 3, which asks whether voters should disband town meeting and adopt a mayoral form of government. The vote was 2,229 in favor of Question 3 to 1,251 opposed.

McGowan said he expects the Board of Selectmen to take steps to put a Charter Commission proposal on the ballot.

"Town government is too decentralized," McGowan said. If you go to the selectmen, you will be told to go to the School Committee with your problem."

The chief added that he favors a strong mayoral form of government.

"People don't want a figurehead," the chief said. He said people want more accountability from their government.

Cavallo said McGowan's support for a mayoral form of government "could have carried the day for him" in the election.
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