Holdgate Wins Select Board Race By Just Eight Votes As Incumbents Sweep Election Races

JohnCarl McGrady and Jason Graziadei •

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Dawn Hill Holdgate outside the polls. Photo by Jason Graziadei

Incumbent Select Board chair Dawn Hill Holdgate claimed a narrow victory over former Select Board member Rick Atherton by just eight votes at the polls on Tuesday. The final count was 842 votes for Hill Holdgate and 834 votes for Atherton. That is the narrowest margin of victory in any Select Board race since 2019.

For Hill Holdgate, the close victory propels her to a fourth term on the Select Board, and she became the first woman on Nantucket to win four elections to the island’s lead policymaking body. Hill Holdgate did not immediately return a message seeking comment Tuesday night following Town Clerk Nancy Holmes’ announcement of the results at the Nantucket High School polling station.

Massachusetts has no limit on the margin of victory at which local election candidates can request a recount, but with Holdgate and Atherton separated by barely 0.4 percent of the vote, Atherton is under the 0.5 percent threshold used for state and district elections. For now, Atherton told the Current he is uncommitted as to whether to call for a recount. Massachusetts’ state law gives him 10 days to make the decision. All that would be required for Atherton to initiate a recount would be for him to submit a petition with 10 valid signatures.

“Between me and Clifford [Williams], that’s 1,404 votes to Dawn [Hill Holdgate’s] 842. That clearly indicates the citizens as a whole are looking for a change,” Atherton said Tuesday night after the results were announced. “Whether a recount is appropriate, I won’t know for a while. A number of our citizens, a significant majority, think we need a new direction.”

Clifford Williams, in his 14th run for Select Board, finished a distant third with 570 votes. His tally was far shy of the two frontrunners but more than enough to influence the result of the tight contest between the candidates who finished ahead of him.

In another close race, incumbent Land Bank Commission member John Stackpole defeated two challengers - John Bartlett and Kelly Steffen - to win reelection. Stackpole, the former head of Harbor Fuel who has served on the Land Bank Commission since 2004, earned 903 votes, finishing just 21 votes ahead of Bartlett, the CEO of Bartlett’s Farm. Steffen, who had a strong showing in his first run for Land Bank in 2023 when he garnered 719 votes, saw his vote total fall to 365 on Tuesday as he faced two well-established candidates with long track records on the island.

Incumbents won across the board in other races, with David Iverson securing re-election to the Planning Board over challenger Campbell Sutton by a wide margin, while Esmeralda Martinez and Laura Gallagher Byrne won new terms on the School Committee. Neville Richen and Tim Soverino will both return to the Community Preservation Committee, defeating two challengers in Jesse Dutra and Kit Murphy.

In the race for the open seat on the Historic District Commission, architect and Nantucket Historical Commission member Angus McLeod, who had outgoing commissioner Diane Coomb’s endorsement, defeated Historic District Commission alternate member Joe Paul 1,209 to 735.

A total of 2,324 voters turned out to the polls on Tuesday, 23.9 percent of the island’s 9,832 registered voters, up slightly from last year’s 22.8 percent turnout in the 2023 annual town election.

2024 Nantucket Annual Town Election result for contested races:

Select Board (one seat)

  • Dawn Hill Holdgate: 842
  • Rick Atherton: 834
  • Clifford Williams: 570

Planning Board (one seat)

  • David Iverson: 1,292
  • Campbell Sutton: 876

School Committee (two seats)

  • Laura Gallagher Byrne: 1,512
  • Esmeralda Martinez: 1,396
  • Diane Flaherty: 802

Land Bank Commission (one seat)

  • John Stackpole: 903
  • John Bartlett: 882
  • Kelly Steffen: 365

Historic District Commission (one seat)

  • Angus MacLeod: 1,209
  • Joseph Paul: 735

Community Preservation Committee (two seats)

  • Neville Richen: 1,203
  • Timothy Soverino: 1,148
  • Jesse Dutra: 770
  • Kit Murphy: 685
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