Peaked Interest: Local Officials Cast Eye Toward State Rep Seat

by Ryan Bray
Michael Herman
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Just two weeks after State Rep. Sarah Peake, D-Provincetown, announced plans to retire at the end of the year, interest in the soon-to-be-vacated seat among local and county officials is heating up.

First elected in 2006, Peake is currently in her ninth term representing the Fourth Barnstable District, which stretches from Harwich to Provincetown. A leader both within the Cape delegation and at the Statehouse, where she is currently second assistant majority leader in the House of Representatives, Peake has strongly advocated for issues including marriage equality, legalized abortion, gun safety and climate change, among others.

Michael Herman, the current chair of the Orleans Select Board, said Tuesday that he will take out nomination papers to run for the seat. A local farmer, Herman was first elected in November 2021 to fill the term vacated by Cecil Newcomb, and was elected to his first full term on the board in May 2022. He also serves on the town’s affordable housing trust fund board.

“I’m excited for the challenge,” he said of pursuing Peake’s seat. “I think I have the energy, the spirit, the persistence and determination, and I’ve proven that with the things I’ve already tackled.”

Orleans is wrestling with a number of local issues, among them wastewater and sewering and the need for more year-round housing. Herman said those issues and others are shared by towns across the Cape. He said he sees opportunities to potentially address those issues regionally at the state level.

“All of the towns have their own unique character,” he said. “But there’s actually more similarities than differences to these modern challenges we all face, whether it’s the environment or the economy or housing or workforce and labor. Education is regional.”

Above all, Herman said he wants to work to help “improve the livability” of people across the Lower and Outer Cape. That includes young families that are currently struggling to set roots in the region.

“But to do that, we have to be able to offer them the three big things of availability of housing they can afford, jobs that will pay for their housing and their life…and education, especially childcare,” he said.

Herman made the decision to run for state representative after conversations with his family, noting his intention to serve in the long term if victorious in the September state primary and in the November general election.

“This isn’t something that I’m looking to do for a term or two,” he said. “Sarah, one of her biggest strengths is the relationships she’s built. Those relationships weren’t built in one or two terms.”

If elected, Herman would still be able to serve on the select board. In the end, he said he would do “whatever [the select board] felt was best.”

“I don’t know the answer right now, to be honest,” he said. “I wouldn’t do anything that was not of course in the best interest of the town.”

Also considering a run for Peake’s seat is Chatham Select Board member Shareen Davis, who was elected to her third term on the board in May.

“It’s as simple as this. I’m taking it into consideration,” she said when reached by phone last week. “I haven’t made a decision, but I will make a decision in the next couple of weeks.”

Davis said she was surprised by Peake’s announcement that she would not seek re-election in the fall.

“I have thought about it in the past,” she said of running for state office, “but Rep. Peake has always been there, and I always thought she would be there, kind of. I didn’t know she was going to step down. It came as quite a surprise.”

Barnstable County Commissioner Sheila Lyons is also “very seriously” weighing the possibility of running for the seat, she said earlier this week.

A Wellfleet resident, Lyons is in the final year of her current four-year term on the board of commissioners. It’s her second stint on the board, having previously served consecutive four-year terms. Prior to that, she served on the Barnstable County Assembly of Delegates, to which she was elected the same year Peake was elected as state representative.

Peake did a “fabulous job” as state representative and “served the district well,” Lyons said. But she said she also understands her decision to step away.

“Once I thought about it, I said ‘That kind of makes sense. I get that,’” she said. “She’s done a great job for 18 years. It’s been a long time.”

While seasoned in county government, Lyons said she’s enticed by the opportunity to serve at the state level.

“I have a real love for the county and what it does, and I see the benefit of the county,” she said. “It’s an entity where we’re able to bring in a lot of money through grants. So that’s my decision. Do I do that again, because I do have a love for it. But on the other hand, I know this area.”

Lyons said her experience at the county level would set her up for success as a state representative. From wastewater to housing, transportation and environmental issues, she said she understands the needs not only of the Fourth District but the Cape as a whole. She added that her experience working for Outer Cape Health Services has also given her insight into the needs facing Cape residents.

“I wouldn’t go up there if I didn’t think I had something to offer and could do the work,” she said.

Nomination papers for the seat are available from the Secretary of the Commonwealth offices in Boston, Springfield and Fall River beginning Feb. 13. Completed papers with 150 signatures from district residents must be returned to local town clerk offices for signature certification by April 30. Signed and certified papers must then be filed with the state Elections Division by May 28.

Email Ryan Bray at ryan@capecodchronicle.com