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Stillman to step down

July 2, 2015

Walpole Police Chief Richard Stillman will step down this month. Stillman, a Walpole native who now lives in Norfolk, has served as chief since 2002, and has been with the Walpole Police Department since 1977. He is 60 years old.

Stillman also currently serves on the town of Norfolk’s Advisory Committee, his town’s equivalent to Walpole’s Finance Committee.

Deputy Police Chief John Carmichael is seen as the Town Hall Establishment’s “heir-apparent” to the job, and at least four Selectmen seem eager to appoint him to the post. But Selectman David Salvatore called for more transparency in the hiring process at the board’s meeting Tuesday.

In recent years, the police department’s promotions have seen heavy scrutiny, as jockeying takes place within the department for positions that open up from a domino of vacancies.

Meanwhile, former Selectman candidate Robert Luce filed an explosive lawsuit against the Walpole Police Department in May, alleging political motivations in some of the department’s actions.

When a von Trapp lived in Walpole

July 1, 2015

A member of the famed Trapp Family Singers, on whom the 1965 film “The Sound of Music” is based, once lived a nondescript life as a resident of Walpole.

Eleonore “Lorli” Von Trapp Campbell lived at 519 Elm Rd. in Walpole for ten years, between 1958 and 1968. The old farmhouse they lived in, which dates to the early 1700s, was recently sold to a new owner.

Lorli herself is not portrayed in the award-winning film, because it is based only on the first seven children of her father, Austrian naval Capt. George Ritter von Trapp, and his first wife Agathe Whitehead von Trapp. Capt. Von Trapp married Maria Augusta Kutschera in 1927, and they had three more children, including Lorli.

Maria was the basis for Julie Andrews’ lead role in the film, as a nun in training who was asked to take care of the von Trapp children.

Lorli was born in 1931. In 1936, the family began touring Europe as the Trapp Family Singers. They eventually fled their home country of Austria, which had been taken over by the Nazis, and emigrated to the U.S. in the late 1930s. They settled in Vermont where they started the Trapp Family Lodge, and continued to tour the country as a singing group.

According to the 1998 book “The World of the Trapp Family,” by William Anderson and David Wade, Lorli was part of her family’s singing group from 1943 to 1953, and was the first soprano. Even after 1953, Lorli continued to sing with the group.

(1966 picture of the Trapp Family Singers in Stowe, Vermont. Lorli Campbell is at far left.)

Lorli married Hugh David Campbell in 1954. Her family performed its last concert in 1956. The Campbells originally lived in Vermont after marriage, but Walpole street listings indicate the Campbells lived in Connecticut immediately prior to moving to town in 1958. Lorli’s occupation in street listings during her entire ten-year residence in Walpole was listed as “Housewife,” while her husband was listed as a “Teacher.” Hugh apparently taught French, and coached soccer, at the Roxbury Latin School in Boston.

Lorli’s name was listed in the street listings as “Eleanor E. Campbell.” This Americanized incorrect spelling of her first name, Eleonore, appears to be accidental, as there is no record of her spelling it at any other time in any other way than her given name.

The Campbells had seven daughters, Elizabeth (“Libet”), Peggy, Jeanie, Polly, Erika, Hope and Martina. The oldest children did attend the Stone School in Walpole briefly, but eventually transferred to Beaver Country Day School.

Carol Johnson, who has lived on Elm Road most of her life and often babysat for the oldest Campbell daughters, said Lorli did not speak in a noticeable dialect, but often dressed in what appeared to be Austrian attire. Her dark brown hair was typically braided, Johnson recalled.

Johnson also recalls that Lorli’s mother, Maria, occasionally visited the family in Walpole. The Campbells frequently entertained guests.

The house occupies a large 1.67-acre property that adjoins Elm Street, that also included a large barn. The interior of the house remains largely unchanged from the time that the Von Trapps lived there. The Campbells also built an underground bomb shelter at the home, which remains to this day. Photos posted online by the home’s recent listing agent indicate that the house still possesses many of its original 1700s-era characteristics. Johnson recalls that the Campbells heated the house primarily with fireplaces, and the interior temperature could be frigid at times. Probably because Hugh’s teaching salary was the family’s only source of income, the family seemed to live a relatively frugal life.

“The Sound of Music” play, based on the family, made its debut in Broadway in 1959, and the legendary film based on that play won several Academy Awards in 1965, after its release, including an Oscar for Best Picture.

Johnson said she eagerly watched the film soon after it came out, but doesn’t recall the Campbells ever mentioning it. Although residents of the neighborhood knew of her family’s fame, the family itself never seemed to discuss it.

Outside of the immediate neighborhood, she was not particularly well known, and there do not appear to have been any reports in the local media that mentioned her during her time in Walpole.

Johnson said the family frequently visited the family lodge in Vermont.

Lorli and her family left Walpole in 1968, to move to Rhode Island, so that Hugh could take a job as headmaster of the Rocky Hill Preparatory School.

Both of the Campbells are still alive today, living in Waitsfield, Vermont. None of Lorli’s seven half-siblings, the original members of the singing group, are alive, however both of her siblings, Rosmarie and Johannes, are alive. The Campbell daughters now reside in various parts of the country.

One document available online seems to indicate that Hugh Campbell once served on the Waitsfield town Selectboard, but this could not be directly confirmed.

Snuffer elevated to chairman

June 15, 2015

Walpole Selectman Cliff Snuffer finally secured a prize he has been coveting for decades.

Snuffer became the chairman of the Board of Selectmen at the Board’s reorganizational meeting on Monday evening.

Snuffer, who is finishing up the last year of his second non-consecutive term as Selectman, has never held the board’s top post until now. However, during the 1990s, he served several eventful years as chairman of the Finance Committee, where he developed a reputation as a well-spoken budget hawk.

The Board voted unanimously to make Snuffer the chairman, with Jim Stanton making the motion, and Eric Kraus seconding it.

The Board also unanimously chose Stanton as its Vice Chair, and David Salvatore as Clerk.

With some exceptions over the years, the Clerk role traditionally goes to the newest member of the Board, while the chairmanship traditionally goes to the member with only one year left in their term.

Monday was also the first meeting for newly elected Selectmen Salvatore and Kraus. Salvatore is expected to lead on a number of significant issues, many of them budgetary in nature, during his tenure.

Shield will be Recreation Director

June 10, 2015

Former School Committee member Patrick Shield will take over as the new director of the Walpole Recreation Department.

Shield, who just ended his one term in the Saturday town election, previously worked for State Sen. Jim Timilty as a legislative aide.

The Recreation Director position has been vacant since earlier this year, when Michael Doyle departed after just a few months on the job.

The department’s Assistant Director, Chad Norton, was also let go earlier in the year. Norton was replaced by former Recreation Department staffer Brendan Croak.

Election results by precinct

June 10, 2015

Here you can download a precinct-by-precinct breakdown of the results of the town-wide races in Saturday’s election.

The document also includes results for Town Meeting races.

Salvatore, Brady win

June 6, 2015

Full results here

17 percent of Walpole voters turned out today to send a clear message of change and reform, booting out incumbent Selectwoman Nancy Mackenzie, and electing a brand new face to the Moderator’s seat.

Conservative Precinct 4 Town Meeting Representative David Salvatore secured 1,681 votes town-wide in a stunning finish as the second highest vote-getter in a three-person field for two seats on the Board of Selectmen. Former Selectman Eric Kraus collected 1,804 votes to reclaim a seat on the Board, while Mackenzie did not make the cut to win re-election, with only 1,300 votes.

Kraus won five of eight precincts. Salvatore won the remaining three precincts, Precincts 1, 5, and 6. CORRECTED

Salvatore, a political newcomer with only three years of experience in Town Meeting and no other civic service, began his campaign in early April as a reluctant candidate with little name recognition even inside his Precinct 4 constituency. But Salvatore, using skills he honed during his childhood working for his father’s successful City Council campaigns in Providence, knocked on thousands of doors in every precinct, and relentlessly hammered a platform of fiscal conservatism and Town Hall reform.

Salvatore also developed a sophisticated campaign machine that included a downtown campaign headquarters and dozens of volunteers flooding neighborhoods with his campaign literature. As a result of his political apparatus, Salvatore had coattails down the ballot, helping Tom Brady to become Moderator, helping to elect one ardent conservative to the Sewer and Water Commission, and enabling fiscal conservatives to win additional seats in Town Meeting.

Brady scored 1,662 votes, and won all precincts, against Selectman Chris Timson who received 1,089 votes. Brady won every precinct.

Conservative Thomas Brown beat fellow conservative incumbent Ken Fettig to gain a seat on the powerful Sewer and Water Commission. During the campaign, Brown, who scored the most votes, 1,326 votes, criticized the Commission’s inattention to wasteful spending and wasted water.

Incumbent Pat Fasanello finished second, hauling in 1,198 votes, while challenger Ken Guyette finished just 12 votes behind, with 1,186 votes. Fettig came in last place, with 898 votes.

Challenger Liz Gaffey defeated Ed Forsberg.

The most extraordinary RTM win came in Precinct 8 where one conservative challenger – Victor Scena – secured a seat. In Precinct 4, challenger David Luongo won a seat, while former Selectman Bill Ryan lost re-election.

Former Selectman candidate Joe Monahan also won a RTM seat in Precinct 1, and 18-year-old Eagle Scout Ross Doty won a seat in Precinct 3 to become the youngest elected officeholder in Walpole history. State rep. candidate Tim Hempton won a seat in Precinct 1.

…this is a flash update…stay tuned to 180 for further election developments…

Check here for election results tomorrow

June 5, 2015

The results for Walpole’s town election will be posted here, and on the Sam Obar 180 Twitter beginning when polls close at 8 p.m. tomorrow, June 6.

All indications are that many races in this year’s election will be nail-biters.

The Selectmen race, with two seats up for grabs between David Salvatore, Eric Kraus, and Nancy Mackenzie, remains too close to call. Most analysts, if they had to guess, expect Salvatore and Kraus to win, but a major question will be whether enough Kraus voters give Mackenzie their second vote, which is her only real path to victory. Kraus is expected to win a seat on the Board, but the issue is whether Salvatore or Mackenzie will also win, and if Salvatore wins, whether he will garner more votes than Kraus. If Mackenzie somehow manages to win a seat on the board, it will be by a small margin. If Salvatore wins more votes than Kraus, expect his coattails to extend down the ballot to other races, including RTM.

The race for Town Moderator, between Chris Timson and Tom Brady, will be close. Both candidates are well-known, and have significant bases. Brady came within 100 votes of beating Jon Rockwood for the post last year, but the dynamics of the race have changed considerably since then, because, although Timson is a stronger candidate than Rockwood, many Rockwood voters supported him only out of loyalty and would have supported Brady against any other candidate. Although Timson has run a more energetic campaign than Brady, Timson is so well-known as a three-term Selectman that he hasn’t really changed anybody’s minds on who to vote for. There aren’t too many Brady voters from last year who have switched to Timson this year, so Brady’s base seems to be pretty stable from last year. Brady has run a campaign much like he did last year – quietly building coalitions behind the scenes, and relying on his involvement in youth sports and as a lifelong resident to earn him support. That strategy almost paid off for him last year, and could work out for him again this year.

The Sewer and Water Commission race, between incumbents Pat Fasanello and Ken Fettig, and Kenneth Guyette and Tom Brown, will be a close election by any measure. Guyette, who is the strongest candidate of the four, will likely beat out Fettig, who is the weakest candidate of the four, for a seat on the Commission. Brown, meanwhile, has run a stronger than expected campaign, and woke up Fasanello’s sleeping campaign apparatus which in recent days has been desperately attempting to stop Brown’s momentum. Brown has Fasanello on the ropes, but it will still take a lot to unseat a 35-year incumbent like Fasanello. Expect this race to be close as well. Even if Brown loses, he will not disappear from the Walpole political scene anytime soon.

The Planning Board race, between incumbent Ed Forsberg and challenger Liz Gaffey, will be a lot closer than originally expected when the race began. The anti-incumbent fervor that could derail Mackenzie, Timson, some Town Meeting Representatives, and potentially Fettig and Fasanello, is also unexpectedly extending to longtime incumbent and “townie” Forsberg. Several months ago, 180 would have expected this race to be a yawner in favor of Forsberg. But Gaffey has cobbled together a coalition of both anti-development and pro-development voters who are all unsatisfied in one way or another with the Planning Board’s work, and she is benefiting from Forsberg’s low-profile campaign. In other words, Gaffey is running a classic “anti-incumbent, anti-status quo” campaign against an overconfident incumbent. Sound familiar? Gaffey also collected a few big endorsements, including from The Walpole Times; from the grassroots group that opposed a proposal to create a cemetery on top of the aquifer on Route 1; and from Selectman Cliff Snuffer and Precinct 8 activist and Town Meeting Representative Joseph Moraski, who both command significant influence among many of Forsberg’s longtime supporters. Snuffer’s and Moraski’s endorsements might, if nothing else, give some of Forsberg’s loyalists “permission” to switch sides. Forsberg’s absence from the campaign trail essentially allowed Gaffey to control the message in this race. Gaffey will likely win at least a few precincts, at a minimum. It’s not apparent that Gaffey is a compelling enough candidate to cause most of Forsberg’s longtime supporters to abandon him, but the race will be close in any event. Gaffey certainly seems to have the momentum going into Election Day.

The races for Town Meeting seats will be interesting as well. In Precinct 1, former Selectman candidate Joe Monahan will win a RTM seat unopposed. In Precinct 4, Debbie Driscoll, widow of the late conservative RTM Tom Driscoll, will win unopposed to fill the remainder of her husband’s term. In Precinct 3, expect Ross Doty to become the youngest Town Meeting Representative in Walpole history; expect at least one or two RTM incumbents to lose in Precincts 4 and 6; and look for fiscally conservative rising star Victor Scena, an energetic campaigner and likely future Selectman with a massive network of supporters, to win a seat in Precinct 8. The only question will be which incumbent Scena unseats in Precinct 8 and whether he will finish in or near first place.

No matter how you plan to vote, or who you plan to vote for, the most important thing is to remember to VOTE.

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