Peter Beckett

APPLETON — Less than three months after winning a hard-fought reelection to a third term, Peter Beckett announced Sept. 6 he will resign from the Appleton Select Board when his house sells.

“We really do need to downsize,” was the sole reason he offered his four board colleagues at their weekly Tuesday night meeting. They appeared surprised.

“I think they were stunned,” Beckett later said. Reelected in June and in his seventh year on the governing body, he is board vice chair.

Beckett’s announcement came at the end of a meeting that stalled over a proposal to build a columbarium for cremation ashes at near-capacity Pine Grove Cemetery. The decision was delayed.

Beckett explained he and his wife Zoe decided to put their Sennebec Road home on the market in the next couple of weeks.

He will officially step down from the board when the house sells, he said.

Whether he will stay in Appleton was unclear.

“I don’t know where we are going to go,” he told colleagues.

Reacting to the announcement, Board Chair Lorie Costigan said, “We will be sorry if you leave Appleton and hope that is not the case… it’s bad news indeed.”

In an interview the next morning, Beckett said, “Everything in life moves ahead; it was a tough decision.”

That much tougher, he added, after having made the commitment to run again and serve a full, third, three-year term.

Asked about his responsibility to voters who reelected him, the England-born Beckett said, “We had fully discussed another three-year term… having made the decision (to run again) in March, we decided to carry on with that decision.”

But now, he said, “we are getting into August and September and we just don’t want to continue. It’s just one of those things; time to make a change even though when we decided (to run again) we were committed to staying on,” said Beckett, 71.

He added, given that his home is at the “top end of properties” in Appleton, “It might take a long time to sell,” and he intends to “stay (on the board) as long as I can.”

A review of several real estate websites — not always accurate — suggests the estimated market value of the home and 20.6 acres is somewhere between $548,000 and about $812,000.

The sites indicate the property last sold in 2013 for $485,000 and annual property taxes have been in excess of $8,000 per year for the past several years.

“It’s not a given” the home will sell fast and, until it does, Beckett said, “I haven’t actually resigned.”

Until he does resign, he said, the Select Board cannot act to replace him.

Even if he had resigned Sept. 6, in order to call an election and get his seat on the November ballot, the town would have had to file within 60 days of the Nov. 8 election, or Sept. 8, he said.

Once he officially resigns, the board could appoint his replacement or continue to conduct town business with four members and put the seat on the ballot next June, Beckett said.

In his six-plus years on the board, he said, the town has operated only once with a four-member Select Board.

In addition to the need to downsize, mentioned at the Select Board meeting, the retired computer software developer later shared other motivating factors.

“My wife and I really want to travel a bit more than we have been able to… we want to (cut back on) the amount of work we do and look forward to the next phase of our life.”

While he remains on the board, he said, “I want to give the town as much time as I can. There are a lot of projects I worked on for the town and I want to make sure the transition is smooth.”

Beckett was re-elected in June with 203 votes. His lone challenger, former longtime Select Board Chair Donald Burke, received 171 votes.