Nashoba Publishing/Mary Arata photosAlfred Connell, right, casts his ballot while poll worker Bob Hughes monitors the ballot box.
Nashoba Publishing/Mary Arata photos Alfred Connell, right, casts his ballot while poll worker Bob Hughes monitors the ballot box.

HARVARD -- Voters delivered decisive votes in the three contested races on Tuesday.

Former selectman Leo Blair and former school committee member Stu Sklar both earned seats on the five-member Harvard Board of Selectmen. Each term is for three years.

Kara Minar and James

Breslauer, who shared mailers and car magnet advertising for their campaigns, each won seats on the Planning Board. Minar succeeded in the contested race for a three-year term; Breslauer succeeded in the contested race for a one-year-term.

Selectman

Blair garnered 847 votes (earning a vote on 54 percent of the 1,581 Harvard ballots cast). Sklar earned 801 votes (earning a vote on 51 percent of the ballots cast).

The third candidate, Don Graham, placed out of contention with 698 votes (44 percent of the number of Harvard ballots cast). There were 816 blank ballots cast.

Although there was not direct alignment between Blair and Graham, the two did physically campaign side-by-side for "stand outs" at the Transfer Station and on Election Day on the grassy traffic island in front of the Bromfield School. Sklar did not -- marking a split between sign-holders and non sign-holders.

The nonsign-holding approach was reminiscent of sitting Selectman Lucy Wallace's successful run for the board last spring. Blair acknowledged that the time may have come that sign-holding is unnecessary.

"I think that it's very similar to what we've seen on the national campaigns like Obama's elections. They have used social media and direct communications very effectively," said Blair. "I think that the people who adopted that strategy were clever because it was very effective."

"People are very busy these days. They're used to getting information through the Internet, Twitter Facebook and other ways," said Blair. "That's probably a more effective way to communicate than the traditional standing out and attracting people's attention that way. I think they probably are correct in their strategy. Obviously it worked."

Using emails to contact like-minded neighbors is a way to "energize their core voters" for candidates on "either end of the spectrum," said Blair.

But Blair said he, Sklar and the rest of the board can produce results as a team. "I too represent what I consider to be the best ideas and the best interest for the greater good. I don't come forward with an ideological orientation."

"As grandma used to say 'We need to tend to our knitting and make tight stitches," said Blair, who said the town's liability for post retirement benefits for town retirees remains a major concern for him. "We have to weigh things carefully against an assessment of what we can afford."

Sklar did not immediately respond to request for comment. Blair tossed a bouquet Sklar's way, stating the two worked closely in 2008-2009 when the town faced state aid cuts and the two were on the board of selectmen and school committee, respectively.

"When tough choices were needed, he had his point of view but he could see the reasonableness of restraint," said Blair. "I really do believe that it's possible to arrive at virtual unanimity most of the time. It's not pretty. It requires hard work and candid exchanges especially in the context of the Open Meeting Law."

"It's one small boat in a big sea," said Blair. "We both don't want to swamp it." In terms of unanimity, Blair said if the school committee can row in the same direction, "Why would the Board of Selectmen be any different?"

Blair said he and Sklar have public records for voters to examine. For others, like Graham who had yet to serve in office, Blair said there should be more than one candidate forum and ideally even a candidate debate or two.

"And if it [a debate] gets a little messy, it gets a little messy," said Blair. "That's OK. That would definitely give the voters a better understanding of who the candidate are, what their positions are and what the issues are. It would give voters a much better insight on who they're voting for."

Planning Board

Kara Minar (753) defeated Christopher Ashley (584) for a three year seat on the Planning Board. James Breslauer (728) defeated Selectman Bill Johnson (619) for a one-year term balance on the board. Johnson did not seek reelection to the Board of Selectmen. 

Johnson released a statement on Wednesday:

"I would like to thank all of you who have supported me during my past 12 years of service to the Town, and express my personal appreciation for all of you who continue to volunteer and serve. I also want to say what a privilege and pleasure it has been to work with Tim Bragan, Joe Connelly, and their staffs. Harvard is lucky to have outstanding professionals."

Both Johnson and Ashley joined selectmen candidates Blair and Graham on the campaign trail, appearing side by side at stand-outs, with supporters holding signs for one another.

Likewise, Minar and Breslauer joined Sklar in a stated stance against roadside campaigning. Minar and Breslauer shared campaign resources with their names appearing jointly on car magnets and town wide mailings. The two ran as a ticket, "to the extent that there is a ticket" agreed Breslauer.

But the two also share in the same goal of bringing stakeholders back to the table to complete work on a Master Plan. Breslauer said the work includes examination of all issues around any potential push to reassume jurisdiction of Harvard's historical town bounds which constitute 60 percent of the Devens Regional Enterprise Zone (DREZ).

"What would it mean to the town?" asked Breslauer rhetorically. With that information, Breslauer said the push must be to "Get it out so the town can express a preference."

"Civil discourse" is the way forward on the Master Plan and more, said Breslauer. "We hope to minimize or eliminate the tension between boards and members on board."

"It has to start -- one person at a time -- to make it doable," said Breslauer. " We're sure going to try."

Roadside campaigns distract motorists and pose a hazard by the high school where voting takes place during the school day, said Breslauer. He said he and Minar opted instead of face-to-face encounters.

"We had some coffees and we went up to a lunch at the Hildreth House to talk to seniors. We had some really good interactions and insightful questions were being asked," said Breslauer. "That's the way it should go - be put on the spot so the town can see how you express yourself."

Minar added that she's received favorable feedback on the direct campaigning approach. She said it's "too small a town" to be divided into camps when you're going to vote or when disposing of trash and recyclables at the transfer station.

Minar said she was impressed by her opponent (Ashley) who called her and informed her he'd be running. She said Ashley stuck to the issues, which she appreciated, in the hard-fought race.

Follow Mary Arata at twitter.com/maryearata.