By Barbara Tetreault
BERLIN — Mayor Paul Grenier won a historic fifth consecutive term in Tuesday’s municipal election but saw his margin of victory cut almost in half over 2015. While voters returned incumbents in both the city council and school board races, results were tighter as the “New Leadership for Berlin” team made a stronger showing than two years ago.
In a rematch of the 2015 mayoralty race, Grenier defeated Berlin businessman Richard Mattos by 324 votes, 1,027 to 703. The spread two years ago was 630 votes, and Grenier acknowledged the race had tightened.
“They made a very spirited challenge this time,” Grenier said.
After eight years as mayor and 16 years prior to that as city councilor, Grenier said voter fatigue may have played a role. But he said he believes “the community, by and large, recognizes the work we have done to make Berlin a better place to live.”
When he became mayor, Grenier said the mill was closed, unemployment was at 11 percent, the federal prison was not yet open and there was a debate over two different power plant proposals. Shortly after he took office, Isaacson Structural Steel, Inc., went bankrupt and Car Freshner moved its plant out of Berlin.
Since then, Burgess BioPower was built and is operating, the federal prison is operating, Capone Iron North Woods has set up operations at the industrial park, and Deflex Composite moved here from Quebec. And, Grenier said, he believes North Country Growers will break ground on its greenhouse project. He said the city has made major improvements in Route 110, Route 16 and Hutchins Street.
Mattos said he was pleased with his showing and that of his team. He pointed out that more residents came out and voted for a change of leadership than in 2015.
“We had a good run,” he said.
Grenier becomes the first mayor in the city's history to win five consecutive terms. The only other mayor to serve five terms was Aimee Tondreau, and he served two terms from 1939 to 1943, and then served three more terms from 1950 to 1957.
Incumbent City Councilors Diane Nelson (1,045), Lucie Remillard (1,009) Mike Rozek (956), and Russell Otis (835) all won re-election. But the race for the fourth position was close with Christine Dickinson (791) coming within 44 votes of unseating Otis in her first run for office. Also running were Jeffrey LaGrange (607), Andre Martel (611) and Lane Strahan (523).
Grenier said he feels the current council works well together as a team despite a mix of political philosophies. While he believes the city is on solid financial footing, the mayor said the council has to remain focused and continue to work on various projects.
He urged the New Leadership team to get involved with the community and the various boards.
“I think they do have something to offer,” he said.
On the school board side, incumbents Nicole Plourde (1,161), Denise Valerino (1,070) and Louise Valliere (880) were re-elected to two-year terms.
Running gainst them were Heidi Richard (485), (Debra Ackerman (208) and Robert Hill (441 ). Scott Losier was unopposed in his bid for re-election to a four-year term.
Overall, approximately 32 percent of registered voters turned out to vote Tuesday — considered an average turnout for a municipal election.