SHIRLEY -- Windy, sunny and wintry might best describe the weather Tuesday morning, but despite the chill, folks were warmly stumping for their candidates outside Town Hall. Traffic was brisk along Hospital road, which leads from Front Street into the municipal complex and continues on into Devens.
It was that way all morning, according to the hearty folks paroling the perimeters of the municipal complex, and they were gratified by all the smiles, waves and thumbs up they were getting as motorists passed by on their way to vote.
Voters were lined up when the polls opened at 7:30 a.m. By day's end, Town Clerk Amy McDougall reported that 3,144 votes had been cast in the state election, representing 76.6 percent of the town's 4,106 registered voters.
According to Ann Towne, Meredith Marcincewicz and other election workers, Tuesday morning, there was some confusion about the two ballots, with state and town elections held in tandem. But mostly, all went smoothly.
Voters checked in and out for the two elections separately and went to the booths with two ballots in hand.
Still, fewer ballots were cast in the town election: 3,066, a 74.7 percent turnout.
Outside, two sets of campaign workers held signs and waved at motorists.
Bobbing up and down with their signs for Democratic candidates, Betsy Colburn Mirkovic and Don Reed were enthused by all the traffic. "People are so engaged," Mirkovic said. "It's exciting!"
Reed was all smiles as he paraded back and forth. "Aaah, it's great!" he said.
On the corner off Front Street, Republican campaigners were camped out under an awning, with a glowing, portable fire pit emanating welcome warmth. "Don't worry, we cleared it with the fire chief," said Republican Town Committee member Kevin Hayes, grinning broadly. Fellow RTC members Andrea Carman and Frank Devan called the turnout "incredible," and hoped friendly responses from passers by boded well for their candidates. "There were more thumbs up..." Carman said.
Proponents of the Ayer-Shirley Regional School District high school building project had similar hopes. Stationed across from the library and angled at the front of Town Hall, their table offered coffee, donuts and information to those who stopped to chat.
On shift Tuesday morning were School Committee Chairman Joyce Reischutz, Vice Chairman Pat Kelly and Traicy Barrett, a Shirley parent with a son in 5th grade.
Bundled up in winter gear, Reischutz said she was delighted to have educated at least one citizen and gained his support. "The guy lives in Shirley but went to the Groton School," she said. "He knew nothing" about the regional school system or the upcoming elections, but he promised to vote yes, she said.
Unfazed by the cold, town resident Kevin Bresnahan was an affable, low-key ambassador for the school cause. He belongs to a two-town grass roots citizens group called BFSA, which stands for "building the future for Shirley and Ayer. The group has been pro-active and pro school, showing up at every opportunity, from town meetings to town elections.
Stationed outside the back door of Town Hall at the bottom of the stairs, he handed out promotional literature to exiting voters who wanted it.
Stapled to a sheet of facts and figures supporting the high school building project was a "Shirley Discount Coupon" offering "90-percent off Renovated High School." Redeemable with a Yes vote, the coupon serves as a get-out-the-vote reminder. The election will be held at Town Hall on Nov. 17 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., it states.