Westfield votes today

WESTFIELD _City election officials are thankful that they had a week of recovery efforts before having to open the polls.
Most of the polling stations were without power last Tuesday, but a week has made all the difference, as residents will not encounter storm-related challenges to cast their ballots today.
The polls opened at 7 a.m. the morning under blue skies, which temperatures expected to climb to near 70 degrees this afternoon. The polls will close at 7 p.m. this evening.
City Clerk Karen Fanion said weather is one of the key factors in voter turnout.
“It’s going to be a good day, so that will help the turnout,” Fanion said. “And there is interest in the City Council At-large race and the School Committee races.
Residents of Ward 1 will also have an option for the ward representative to the City Council as incumbent Christopher Keefe faces a challenge from Kevin Medeiros, the brother of Charles Medeiros, who was a long-time member of the council and Ward 1 representative.
Two years ago, a third of registered city voters participated in the election that saw Daniel M. Knapik win his first term in office.
However, there were no races for At-large members of the city council when there were only seven candidates for the seven At-large seats. The 2010 class of At-large councilors included four new members and substantially changed the character of the city’s legislative body.
Today, voters will have to select seven At-large councilors from a field of 11 candidates, a decision that could again substantially change the character of the City Council.
Knapik, who is running unopposed for a second term in office, projected a voter turnout of just below 30 percent.
“The relatively low turnout for municipal elections always surprises me because this is the taxpayers opportunity to get the most bang for their buck,” Knapik said. “A big chunk of a person’s tax payment, property and excise taxes, is spent right here at the city level.”
Knapik said that city residents have much greater access to elected municipal officials than to elected state and federal officials.
“When was the last time you bumped into a U.S. Senator or Congressman at the supermarket or a youth sporting event,” he said.
Residents will also select four members of the School Committee today through two races. Five residents are seeking one of the three four-year seats on the school board, while two candidates vie for a two-year seat to complete the term of Laura Maloney who resigned in July.
All six members of the Municipal Light Board will also be selected today, although five of the current members are running unopposed.
The only MLB contest is for the Ward 3 seat where John Callahan, who was appointed to fill the term of the late William Buzzee, faces the challenge of Jane C. Wensley.
City councilors receive a base stipend of $10,000 while school committee members and members of the MLB receive a base stipend of $5,000.

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