August 21, 2014

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Grafton mayor ousted

GRAFTON — Businesswoman Megan Flanigan was elected mayor of Grafton after beating long-time incumbent Shari Szczepanski, who was first elected in 1989.

Flanigan beat Szczepanski by a vote of 556 to 337, or 62 percent to 38 percent, according to unofficial election returns.

“I thank the voters and really want to encourage people to attend meetings and get involved,” said Flanigan, manager of customer service and sales department at General Plug and Mfg. Co., which is owned by her family.

Szczepanski said she thought her loss occurred in part due to an unfair attack by Flanigan’s campaign treasurer, Janet Wirtanen, in a letter to the editor of The Rural Urban on Monday.

Wirtanen’s letter stated Wirtanen had resigned Sunday as an EMT and president of the Grafton Firefighters Association after being reprimanded for collecting food for the needy during the annual Halloween Parade.

Flanigan agreed that the controversy may have played a part in Szczepanski’s defeat.

“I think that was the last straw,” Flanigan said of the effort to discipline Wirtanen, who was told the food the firefighters had collected would be turned over to the Grafton Police Department for its annual Christmas food drive.

Wirtanen’s letter criticized Grafton Fire Chief John Cutter “and his minions” and stated that his actions “were in plain sight of Mayor Szczepanski.”

Flanigan said she hopes Wirtanen eventually returns to the Fire Department.

Contact Cindy Leise at 329-7245 or cleise@chroniclet.com.