FREEPORT — Political neophyte Tawni Whitney defeated incumbent Town Councilor Leland Arris Jr. for the at-large seat on the council Tuesday, 2,720 to 1,690.

Also Tuesday, Maura Pillsbury won a one-year term on the Regional School Unit 5 Board of Directors, with 1,658 votes, topping Tiffany Jones, who received 1,526 votes, and Christopher Grimm, who received 835. The vacancy was created when Sarah Woodard resigned, effective Nov. 7. 

Whitney won the seat vacated by Councilor Melanie Sachs, who announced in July that she wouldn’t seek re-election after two terms.

Henry “Chip” Lawrence, 53, of Hunter Road, ran uncontested to fill Arris’ District 4 seat, which represents the northwestern portion of town.

Whitney on Wednesday said she feels grateful to have won and the experience of running was “unlike anything” she’s ever experienced.

“It was a privilege,” she said.

Looking ahead, Whitney said one of the important issues she hopes to tackle is helping Freeport’s seniors age in place.

She said she is also looking forward to keeping Freeport “an excellent town that people enjoy visiting.”

“(I’ve been) so honored to go door to door and meet so many fabulous people in this town that I love even more now,” she said.

Arris said Nov. 7 that while he is “a little disappointed” in the outcome, he wishes Whitney well. He was elected to the council as a write-in candidate three years ago. 

“I’ve certainly enjoyed and appreciated the term that I served on the council,” he said. “My opponent, I wish her well. I think she ran a really strong campaign; she was well organized (and) she was energetic.”

On Tuesday night, Pillsbury said it was a close race, but she feels great.

“I feel so humbled and grateful that the voters of Freeport supported me and gave me their vote of confidence,” she said. “I’m looking forward to serving them.”

Looking ahead, Pillsbury said a major issue the School Board will face this year is proficiency-based education, and learning how to interact with the community and stakeholders on that topic.

She also said “re-doing” the cost-sharing formula among the communities involved in RSU 5 will be another issue for the board.

Pillsbury said the campaign for her seat was very cordial and positive, which she felt was significant in today’s political climate.

“It was a really close race,” she said. “And I think it’s always a great thing when we have as many passionate people involved in our local races as possible.”

Town Clerk Christine Wolfe said Tuesday that voting at Freeport High School was “very, very busy” all day, especially for what she called “an off year.”

She also said the town processed more than 1,908 absentee ballots.

An election warden at Freeport High School also reported at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday that more than 60 percent of registered voters had filled out ballots.

Elizabeth Clemente can be reached at 780-9123 or [email protected]. Follow Elizabeth on Twitter @epclemente

Maura Pillsbury, left, greets voters Nov. 6 in Freeport, where she defeated two opponents for a one-year seat on the Regional School Unit 5 Board of Directors.