Council president’s race nears its conclusion; election set for Tuesday

Thursday, October 29, 2009
By Cary Shuman

The three campaigns for president of the Winthrop Town Council for the next two years are winding down and the final decision rests in the hands of the voters who will go to the polls on Tuesday, Nov. 3 and select the individual who will lead the Council.

Candidates Susan Bolster, Jeffrey Turco, and Barbara Survilas are seeking to succeed Thomas Reilly, the first and only council president since the new form of government was adopted in the town four years ago.

As Boston faces a competitive mayoral election on Tuesday and four candidates battle it out statewide for the Democratic nomination for a U.S. Senate seat (in a Dec. 8 election), the town of Winthrop also has a very exciting election on tap, one that even the most astute political observers in the town consider too close to call.

Turco and Survilas have been the more visible campaigners in the town, with Turco conducting daily sign-holdings and going to door-to-door, while Survilas has also taken her message directly to the people. Bolster, who is the town’s current representative on the Northeast Regional School Committee and has served as a selectwoman, has opted not to knock on doors, instead choosing a lower-key approach than her two opponents as she has campaigned for the office. Bolster’s name recognition – her family has owned an automobile service/gas station business in town for 55 years – and her successful showings in past elections have boosted her campaign.

Turco, an attorney, has brought a high level energy to the race in his first bid for municipal office. He has been a daily presence with his sign-holdings and door-to-door visits over the past seven weeks.

“It’s been a long road but the amount of time and effort that I put into the campaign – holding signs, going door-to-door, is representative of the amount of time and commitment that I’m going to put in to the job as council president for the benefit of the people of the town,” said Turco.

Turco said he has met many residents at coffee hours in homes. “They’ve invited their neighbors and their friends to come and listen to why I’m running and how I believe I can serve the community – and the response has been overwhelming.”

Turco has been able to build some momentum from what many considered a strong performance in a televised debate for council president, although Bolster and Survilas have also generated a lot of positive feedback about their solid performances in the forum held at WCAT studios.

“I’ve been amazed at how many people have seen the debate,” said Turco. “About 80 percent of the people I’ve met in door-to-door visits, they’ve commented on seeing the debate and they thought I did fairly well.”

Turco said the overriding message of his campaign is that he brings experienced leadership to the town, with the belief that the town needs a plan for the future, “so we can get Winthrop through these difficult times.”

Survilas said her campaign isn’t winding down but in fact is “revving up” for the final days leading up to Tuesday’s election. “I’ve visited a lot of neighborhoods and talked to a lot of residents and I’ll continue to do that in the next few days,” said Survilas.

She has also spent considerable time interviewing town department heads and business people and members of town committees. Survilas has been a regular visitor to town council meetings and can be seeing taking notes.

“I’ve been working in my campaign since Aug. 3,” said Survilas, who ran for council president four years ago and finished second behind Reilly. “I’ve haven’t been holding [political] signs because I don’t like to bother people when they’re traveling through the town. I do have plenty of lawn signs out, but as far as interrupting people when they’re trying to go about their busy schedules – it’s not something I happen to believe in, although I will be at the [Belle Isle] Bridge the night before the election.”

Survilas said the response from the Winthrop electorate has made her feel confident about her campaign. “I feel very exhilarated. The people have been very warm and welcoming.”

Survilas said her family had to deal with “a personal issue” during the course of a busy campaign. “My son was very ill during the campaign (Her 41-year-old son, Eric, who is married and has a daughter, had an aneurysm just below the brain and underwent surgery on Oct. 14 and is recovering) But the people have just been great. We had a rough 15 days but we didn’t miss a beat with the campaign. I felt I had an obligation to the people who are supporting me, to make sure that I kept two campaigns going, one for the life of our son and one for the life of the community.”

Survilas’s prevailing message: “I promise residents communication and an open-door policy and full accountability. It’s really important and I think people want that. I will be our citizens’ bridge to their government.”

Though Bolster hasn’t conducted her campaign in door-to-door fashion, she has been out in the community daily. She was present, along with Turco and Survilas, at the well-attended Precinct 3 Community Meeting at the Winthrop Yacht Club. Bolster decided not to conduct coffee hours or other scheduled meet-and-greets in her campaign.

“Part of my campaign is that I wasn’t accepting any campaign donations, so my campaign was self funded,” said Bolster. “I’m coming from the angle of view that a lot of people already know me and a lot of people know what I stand for. I talk to people, out and about, but I’m not so presumptuous as to invite myself in to their homes.”

Bolster said she was encouraged by the positive feedback about her performance in the debate. “I went in there to answer the questions that were asked. I didn’t go in there to turn every question in to the message I wanted to get out. I won’t say in 100 words what can be said in 25.”

Bolster concedes that the race for council president is a closely contested election.

“We all bring something different to the table,” said Bolster. “I feel good about the election. I feel the quiet vote is going to win out. I certainly hope they’re thinking of me.”

Town Clerk Carla Vitale said the polls on Election Day (Tuesday) will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. at three locations: Winthrop Middle School (Precincts 1, 2, and 5), Winthrop High School (Precincts 3 and 6) and Golden Drive (Precinct 4).

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