Williamstown Moderator Adam Filson was the tie-breaking vote to put Gary Fuls on the Mount Greylock School Committee.
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Director Woody Allen is credited with saying "80 percent of success is showing up."
It was 100 percent of success for Williamstown's Gary Fuls on Tuesday evening.
Fuls was elected to serve out the remainder of a vacant seat on the Mount Greylock Regional School Committee in a joint meeting of that committee and the Boards of Selectmen from the regional school district's two member towns.
The 12 elected officials in the room were split down the middle between Fuls and the only other candidate nominated, leaving the meeting's chairman, Williamstown Moderator Adam Filson, to break the tie.
Filson had a simple explanation for his decision.
"Seeing that Mr. Fuls is here and has answered questions, I'm going to vote for Mr. Fuls," Filson said, clearing the way for Fuls to fill the remaining months on the term of David Backus, who resigned from the committee because of a move out of state.
Fuls was vying with Wendy Penner for one of four seats on the seven-member panel reserved for residents of Williamstown, the larger of the two member towns.
Although Penner, who was unable to attend Tuesday's meeting because of a prior commitment, missed out on a chance to serve immediately, she likely will be a strong contender on the ballot in November, when both she and Fuls are expected to be candidates for two open seats: the seat now held by Fuls and the seat occupied by David Langston, who has decided not to run for another term on the committee.
Those two spots plus one from Lanesborough will be on the November ballot, when residents of both towns will cast ballots for all three positions.
It was clear on Tuesday evening that both Fuls and Penner would have the support of many of the towns' officials.
"Wendy [Penner] did serve as an environmental consultant to the earlier stages of the [Mount Greylock] School Building Committee," School Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Greene said. "She has served on the COOL Committee. She's worked with the Center for EcoTechnology. ... She brings a good deal of experience in terms of sustainability as well as education."
Sustainability likely will be a major concern for Mount Greylock as it moves through the Massachusetts School Building Authority process — perhaps the biggest issue the School Committee will have on its plate over the next couple of years.
"Wendy's been an active member of the Williamstown community for a long time," Williamstown Selectman Andrew Hogeland said. "She has a reputation for getting things done. She's a strategic thinker. She's very personable.
"Nothing against Gary [Fuls], who I met a few months ago, but I have a longer, deeper relationship with Wendy."
Hogeland and Greene ended up among the six who voted for Penner, along with Williamstown Selectmen Thomas Sheldon, Jane Patton and Ronald Turbin. The other Williamstown representative on the Mount Greylock School Committee present on Tuesday, David Langston, also voted for Penner. School Committee member Colleen Taylor did not attend the meeting.
All three Lanesborough representatives on the School Committee — Chris Dodig, Sheila Hebert and Robert Ericson — voted for Fuls along with Williamstown Selectman Hugh Daley and both Lanesborough Selectmen John Goerlach and Henry Sayers. Ericson cast one vote, although he serves on both the Lanesborough Selectmen and the Mount Greylock School Committee.
Fuls told the joint meeting of town and school district officials that he would have children in the school for the next 16 years.
In introducing himself to the joint meeting, Fuls returned to one of the themes that drove his spring campaign for the Williamstown Board of Selectmen: the fact that starting next year and for the next 16 years he will have at least one of his four daughters attending school at Mount Greylock.
Fuls also noted that the regional school district committee presents a unique opportunity for him as a public servant.
"There are not too many spots where you would have two towns to learn from," he said.
Given the opportunity to question Fuls, Ericson tried to pin down the candidate on a couple of issues.
"No. 1 is the issue of us being one of the smallest school districts in the county but having one of the most expensive superintendent positions," Ericson said.
Fuls said he was not qualified to make any statements on such a sensitive topic without having studied the issue as members of the committee have and would.
"I don't know if I feel comfortable talking about the superintendent's pay at this point," he said.
Mount Greylock Superintendent Rose Ellis, who is entering the last year of what she has announced will be her final contract with the district, did not attend Tuesday's meeting.
Ericson then attempted to get Fuls to comment on whether he thought the district needed to rebuild or renovate its existing school building.
Before Fuls could respond, Greene interjected.
"We're about to undergo a feasibility study [mandated by MSBA]," Greene said. "To comment on what the outcome might be seems a little out of order."
Ericson defended the question.
"This is a democracy, and any candidate can answer a question," he said. "I don't know why you're trying to throttle discussion."
Greene said she was not trying to throttle the discussion but thought that particular question was ill advised.
Fuls' answer echoed Greene's concern.
"I know there's a feasibility study, and I think it's best to wait and see what the numbers say," he said. "That will give you a guideline. There are experts going at this right now, and i think it would be best to wait and see what they say."
After Filson's tie-breaking vote gave Fuls the seat, he was sworn in by Williamstown Town Clerk Mary Kennedy. He then participated in his first meeting of the Mount Greylock School Committee, which covered topics ranging from the composition of the Building Committee to the future of Mount Greylock's relationship with Superintendency Union 71 as it enters into a search for Ellis' replacement.
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