March 15, 2011

Benton residents elect deceased man as town's road commissioner

By Scott Monroe
Staff Writer

BENTON -- Kenneth Dudley was handily re-elected as the town's road commissioner Friday.

One problem: Dudley died more than a month ago.

He was running unopposed and it was too late to remove his name from the ballot following his death last month. Residents had the option of writing in other candidates, of which there were at least two who had actively expressed an interest by posting signs around town.

But Dudley still garnered the most votes: 107. The next highest vote-winner was Preston Foster, with 64 votes, followed by Robert Morrissette, with 35. Twenty-three other votes were cast for other write-ins, while 82 voters left the space blank.

It's unclear whether voters were paying homage to the longtime road commissioner, or if some just didn't know Dudley had died. Probably a bit of both, said Foster.

"I never heard anything bad about what he did for the town; everyone I talked to said he did well," Foster said Monday. "I think a lot of people didn't realize he had passed."

Deputy Town Clerk Patrick Turlo also wasn't sure how to explain Dudley's election.

"Whether people voted for him in his memory, or honor, we have no way of knowing," Turlo said. "Absentee ballots had come in after he passed."

Select board member Melissa Patterson, who was re-elected in Friday's election, said selectmen will most likely accept applications for the road commissioner job and appoint someone from that pool. Selectmen are next scheduled to meet March 21 at 7 p.m. at the Town Office and Benton's annual Town Meeting will be March 26 at 10 a.m. at the Grange Hall.

Foster said he plans to apply to selectmen for the road commissioner job. He used to contract with the town to do curbside mowing and he was hired by Dudley.

Dudley, who had been the town's road commissioner for the last 11 years, died Feb. 8, 2011, at home. He was 80.

According to his obituary, Dudley had served in the Army and had a long career in construction, beginning with C.C. Church Construction in Benton in 1948. He worked for several local companies until arriving at Cianbro, where he worked for more than 25 years on bridges, dams and power plants from Maine to Florida as a heavy equipment operator and mechanic.

First Selectman Ryan Liberty has assumed the duties of road commissioner since Dudley died. Liberty said he has working with the town's plow contractor to keep the roads clear.

He has also been meeting with contractors to obtain quotes for the annual Town Meeting. Liberty, whose full-time job is in sales for Irving Oil, estimated he's working about five hours per week as acting road commissioner.

Dudley, Liberty said, "performed his job admirably."

"He took a lot of pride in the quality of roads here in Benton and he will be sadly missed," Liberty said.

At last year's annual Town Meeting, Dudley was asked by a resident about the town budget proposal for no wage increases. Dudley stood up and replied, "Sounds fine to me, when I hear of other towns staying the way they have been." He drew applause from the town-meeting audience.

Scott Monroe -- 861-9239

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