ATHOL -- With the election-machine votes counted soon after the polls closed Tuesday night, Evelyn Wood, 33, is close to becoming the youngest Thurman supervisor in history, and she's likely to be the second woman ever to hold the post.
Wood, who lives on her great-grandparents homestead off Elmer Wood Road with her husband and two young children, received 235 votes to 214 votes for Thomas "Tuck" Birdsall on Election Day.
The results aren't conclusive because about 45 absentee ballots are outstanding.
Wood said she was pleased with the results.
"I'm happy I managed to pull it off," she said, noting she had been campaigning under a disadvantage that she was on the ballot as an Independent rather than as a Republican, her party affiliation. Republican candidates generally enjoy a hefty advantage in conservative northern Warren County.
The timing of the resignation of former town Supervisor Red Pitkin in July blocked a Primary race, so Wood launched her campaign as an Independent, and Birdsall, who is town G.O.P. committee chairman, voted in caucus with the other sole committee member Ed Binder, and the two endorsed Birdsall to appear on the ballot as the endorsed Republican. Birdsall, a farrier, is the town's chief Assessor.
Wood said that she was happy that voters looked beyond the traditional age and gender stereotypes and gauged her candidacy on its own merits. She is known to delve into issues and keep well-informed -- since announcing her candidacy, she has attended virtually all county meetings to acquaint herself with government issues. She's been going to all town meetings for well over a year.
"I think we have a lot of forward-thinking folks here in Thurman," she said. "When I was campaigning, people seemed ready for new ideas and a new approach -- they were really receptive."
The winner of the race will be sworn in for the Supervisor's post as soon as results are certified by the county Election Commissioners, because the position has been technically vacant since July. Board member Al Vasak is now serving as interim town Supervisor.
The other race Tuesday in Thurman -- the only Warren County town with contested positions -- was for an open seat on the town board. Incumbent town Board member Becky Hitchcock, appointed after Jim Ligon resigned in July, defeated challenger Andrew Knoll, a computer systems administrator, by a margin of 234 to 170.
County G.O.P. Commissioner Mary Beth Casey said late Tuesday night that outstanding absentee and military ballots may be received by her office as late as Nov. 24. Depending on if only few or none are not yet returned, the race could be certified earlier.
Tuesday at about 10:30 p.m. Tuck Birdsall all but conceded after he saw the 235-214 machine vote tally.
"It's pretty improbable for that margin to be turned around," he said, noting that absentee votes generally follow the trend of the machine votes. "Apparently people liked what Evie said better than what I said, and I accept their decision."
Birdsall, known for his wit and diplomacy, added another thought.
"I tried my best, now I wish her the best," he continued.
Wood said that as soon as she's sworn in, her first objective will to be to examine budgets and financial records, as the town had until recently been in financial turmoil. An audit more than a year ago discovered the town had more than $800,000 in funds that town officials weren't even aware of.
Also, Wood said she wanted to settle the issue of the town's ambulance service. Months ago, the Thurman Emergency Services, Inc. lost its Advanced life Support Certification, primarily due to insufficient staffing, and for months the agency had only been responding to a fraction of its calls. Such lack of response prompted the town board to withhold its annual contract payments, a contentious issue that in part led to Pitkin's resignation.
Recently, the squad has proposed that it re-establish ALS services, and has submitted contract requests reflecting annual sums ranging from $172,000 to about $55,000. The town board has balked at the higher figures, and questioned whether the squad officers were merely creating well-paid jobs for themselves.
Wood said Tuesday it was a high priority of hers to arrive at a reasonable sum for the 2011 contract. She has campaigned that the town should stick with its local independent squad than turn over the services to another agency like the Warrensburg ambulance squad.
As she was fielding late congratulatory calls, Wood said she'd be taking down her campaign signs around town and visiting the county center.
"It was a clean and dignified campaign on both sides," she said. "I knew the vote was going to be close."