He’s flattered that some voters will write in his name for Plymouth Select Board member on Saturday’s ballot. But Bill Keohan says he isn’t expecting to win.

“It feels like a George Bailey in ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ moment,” said Keohan, the embattled chair of the Community Preservation Committee. “It’s heartwarming to hear your fellow residents feel that strongly about you.”

He’s buoyed by the outpouring but even though there’s only one candidate – David Golden – on the ballot, Keohan says winning a write-in campaign is an exceedingly tough proposition.

“Write-in campaigns are very difficult to win,” he said. “This impromptu effort by residents was something they did on their own. I’m not campaigning, but I would respect the votes if they were to write me in.”

Some supporters said that more than anything they want to show Keohan their appreciation for his 22 years of service on the Community Preservation Committee. His current term is up at the end of June, and he hopes to be appointed.

In recent days, Keohan supporters say, their efforts have picked up steam and winning doesn’t seem so far-fetched. Given the relative lack of competitive races on the May 18 ballot, a low turnout at the polls is expected. That means a small number of votes could have an outsize impact on the outcome.

Emails touting Keohan’s long record of service have been circulating around town in recent weeks.

“If you are concerned about rampant development, clearcutting and sandmining in Plymouth, please vote for SELECTMAN: Write in BILL KEOHAN, 19 FREMONT ST., and fill in the oval,” resident Sandy Fosgate wrote in one.

“Bill had planned to continue serving as Community Preservation Committee chair, but our current Select Board reportedly does not plan to reappoint him, as they feel he isn’t sufficiently friendly to private developers,” she wrote.

Keohan believes that people are rallying around him after a recent dressing down by outgoing select board member Harry Helm.

At the April Town Meeting, Keohan said the construction of affordable housing at 132-134 Court St. would add 40 units to the town’s affordable housing inventory.

But it turned out that only 10 units will be added.

The amount of inventory matters because if less than 10 percent of a community’s housing is classified as affordable, state law allows developers to circumvent some zoning restrictions. Currently, Plymouth is far below that 10 percent threshold. After Keohan’s presentation, Town Meeting members voted to spend $960,000 in Community Preservation funds to help subsidize the project. The total cost of the development, helmed by developer Rick Vayo, is estimated at $4.5 million.

At a subsequent Select Board meeting, Helm accused Keohan of “misrepresentation,” adding that this was “not the only incident of misrepresentation,” though he didn’t elaborate.

Keohan apologized for what he described as a mistake. But that didn’t end the controversy.

Some frustrated residents were put off by how Keohan was treated.

“Unbeknownst to me, residents were talking amongst themselves,” Keohan said. “They were frustrated by what they were seeing.”

He said he had nothing to do with the ad hoc effort.

“I’m not organizing it,” Keohan said, adding that he had considered running the usual way by collecting signatures to place his name on the ballot.

But he said he’s been singularly focused on completing his term on the CPC and, hopefully, being reappointed.

Supporters pointed to several of Keohan’s major accomplishments.

A post on chiltonville.org – the website of an active neighborhood group – cited several major projects Keohan envisioned and saw through to completion including the renovation of The Spire performing arts venue, the Plymouth Center for the Arts, and the new Town Hall, which was formerly a county courthouse. The projects he championed “benefit open space/recreation, historic preservation, and community housing,” the group wrote.

Select Board candidate David Golden says he’s “put in the work.” Credit: (David Golden campaign)

Golden said he feels good about his own chances, regardless of the effort to elect Keohan.

“I appreciate residents being engaged, which is why I have spent months attending every event and forum, meeting with residents, listening to their concerns and sharing my vision for Plymouth’s future,” he said.

“I’ve put in the work, and I feel confident going into the election.”

Andrea Estes can be reached at andrea@plymouthindependent.org.

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