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Foxborough

DeVellis entry shapes race for selectmen

After months of speculation about whether he would or wouldn’t, James DeVellis, chairman of Foxborough’s Board of Selectmen, laid the matter to rest last week when he announced he will run for a second term this spring.

His decision set up a four-way race for two available seats on the panel that has been in the spotlight constantly in recent months. Selectmen serve three-year terms.

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DeVellis has led the five-member board through a controversial 12 months that saw voters oust its former chairman during a volatile debate over a proposed $1 billion casino complex. More recently, selectmen have faced concerns including explosive allegations that a former teacher, Boy Scout leader, and swim coach abused numerous children over his decades in town.

DeVellis, who runs the engineering firm DeVellis Zrein Inc. and lives on McKenzie Lane, agrees his first term was a whirlwind.

“The recession, the casino, four major storms and addressing National Grid, the retirement of our long-serving town manager, restructuring the municipal departments, and the list goes on,’’ he said.

DeVellis said he believes Foxborough is well positioned to thrive in the coming years “and I want to finish what we have started.”

Also seeking reelection on April 30 is Lynda Walsh, who wants a third term. She and DeVellis are being challenged by Advisory Committee member and former chairman John R. Gray Jr., who has served on many town boards and committees and ran an unsuccessful race for selectman almost a decade ago. Also in the race is relative newcomer Richard Letson, who briefly ran for selectman last year before withdrawing.

Walsh, an account manager at Priority Printing and Mailing who lives on Pond Avenue, is the longest-serving current member of the board. She said a look at the long-term picture of the town influenced her decision.

“Now is not the time for a change in these two seats,’’ she said. “It is important that continuity carries us through the next few years as we work to make important choices that will affect all residents.’’

For Walsh, the premier issues are water and sewer expansion, the debate over a new Town Hall building, and ongoing talks with The Kraft Organization, which owns the New England Patriots, Gillette Stadium, the adjoining Patriot Place mall, and has floated plans to flex its economic development arm along Route 1.

“I pride myself on possessing common sense and open communication,” Walsh said. “I believe I have a good working relationship with all town workers, department heads, and managers, and I find if I have questions I am comfortable enough to call and ask, knowing they will be answered.”

Gray, of North High Street, is a founder of Biomedical Structures in Rhode Island, a textile-based medical devices and device components business. He said he is best described as a business development entrepreneur, a level of acumen he said the current board needs.

“I’m not dissatisfied with anyone on the present board; I know them all personally,’’ he said.

But given the breadth and complexity of the decisions they are expected to make, “my position is that the Board of Selectmen needs more professionalism and depth.”

As an example, he said warrant articles board members have presented to Town Meeting over the last few years don’t tie into any semblance of a strategic plan.

“Seems that we approve things because we can, rather than because we should,’’ he said.

What’s worse, Gray said, selectmen sometimes insert articles on the warrant as “placeholders,” without having vetted them thoroughly and often without supporting data and financial impact.

“This lack of commitment has led to articles being pulled from Town Meeting at the last minute, which has led to a tremendous waste of time by other town boards,” he said.

Letson, of East Street, is a safety manager for the Metro West Regional Transportation Authority. An Army veteran, he also worked briefly at Gillette as a part-time security guard.

Letson said the town’s schools are good but they can be better. He wants to ensure the public works, police, and fire departments have the equipment they need, and he wants to address the Town Hall issue. He also said he would like to debate his opponents.

“I know I have zero chance of winning the election,’’ he said, adding that he cares deeply about the town. “I don’t talk as well as everyone else. But I’m doing this all on my own.’’

The deadline to return nomination papers, signed by 50 registered voters, is March 18, Town Clerk Bob Cutler said.

Selectwoman Lorraine Brue and Selectwoman Virginia Coppola, both elected last year, will serve terms to 2015. Selectman Mark Sullivan’s term is up next year.

Michele Morgan Bolton can be reached at michelebolton@live.com.

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