Three years ago I knocked on 2,327 doors in the Town of Sturbridge seeking your support in my campaign to have the honor of serving as a member of your Board of Selectmen. I chronicled that journey in several posts on this website, highlighting the incredible learning experience it provided as well as the enormous opportunity it provided in meeting so many in this community.
At each door and during every conversation I provided a brochure, which outlined my "7 Point Plan for the First 12 Months" of service, recognizing my obligation to outline the issues facing our community, while providing a definitive timeline for addressing same. This approach assured the highest level of accountability to all residents, while simultaneously establishing a sense of urgency that would dictate not only my first year of service, but each subsequent year of my 3-year term. I am proud to say that without exception, each of those items was addressed within the dedicated timeline and the appropriate mechanisms successfully implemented/initiated to advance those issues towards the desired outcome.
INTEGRITY, TRANSPARENCY, ACCESSIBILITY
Additionally and equally, I committed to service that was based upon principle and grounded in the highest level of integrity. I pledged that my representation of ALL Sturbridge residents would remain completely blind to personal relationships or influences, void of self-serving or selective representation, while ensuring full accessibility to all residents with complete transparency. I am proud to say that without exception I have never wavered from that commitment, nor will I. Residents throughout this community can attest to my extensive availability to them 7 days a week, 365 days a year by way of phone, email, and very often via face-to-face meetings - regardless of the day or the issue as well as their unhindered access to public appearances before the BOS.
I have followed the Sturbridge Town Charter to the letter, ensuring that all actions undertaken by our Town’s leadership is consistent with the Constitution this community is built upon, and I have fulfilled the obligations of office in a manner consistent always with the oath of office.
During some of the most physically and emotionally demanding periods in this community - the unprecedented snowfall (52" in 3 weeks) last winter, the devastation of the June tornado, Hurricane Irene, the October nor'easter - I was on the ground daily providing personal assistance to hundreds/thousands of residents while coordinating thousands of volunteers for countless hours.
This included the establishment and commissioning of the Volunteer Resource Center (VRC) within 24 hours of the Tornado, an approach never previously implemented within our community. Recognizing the challenges faced by the tornado and the vulnerability of residents during this period, I quickly commissioned the VRC and established guidelines for credentialing and coordinating all volunteer efforts within the community. This ensured that all volunteers were properly vetted prior to working within the community, while also providing a high level of accountability for residents and volunteers, assuring that no one was left without the help or support they needed.
As part of this approach, I divided the community into 5 "Sectors" and identified/appointed "Sector Coordinators" within each of the impact zones to serve as points of contact for all disaster recovery work within each of the Sectors. This ensured a highly manageable and coordinated approach to returning/reclaiming each Sector in the shortest possible time frame.
I also reached out to Social Service professionals and brought them in within the first 48 hours to help assess and provide support to those impacted by the tornado. Equally, recognizing the need for quick and definitive action that could not wait 7 days for a public discussion, I "field appointed" Dr. Susan Waters as the Volunteer Resource Center Coordinator, due to her experience with Incident Management Systems, who served as our point of contact for all disaster response efforts. Both the VRC and Dr. Waters were subsequently and enthusiastically endorsed/ratified by the Board of Selectmen.
Just two months later when Hurrican Irene descended upon us leaving many with power and water yet again, I again divided the community into Sectors and identified points of contact in each of the impacted areas to coordinate the delivery and staging of much needed water supplies, support, and information. The VRC is now a fully functional component of our Emergency/Disaster Recovery Operations and provides a valued-added element that few communities have been able to replicate.
Other Leadership actions taken over the past three years include:
- Transitioning from the Planning Board to the Board of Selectmen after my election, I continued my advocacy on behalf of Chapter 43D Expedited Permitting - ultimately approved at Annual Town Meeting, which has significantly reduced the permitting time for business expansion/relocation in Sturbridge.
- Expedited permitting serves as a strong incentive to businesses often looking and needing to shorten the time from proposal to actual permitting. One of the most significant challenges for many expansions/relocation is the overly-extended administrative process. Expedited permitting ensures a shortened and streamlined 180 day process.
- 2009: Established the Merchants of Sturbridge organization as a means of fostering greater communication, collaboration, and coordination between the business community and local government.
- In 2009 during threatened Elderbus cuts to our seniors I personally contacted and worked with senior advocates throughout the region, as well as Legislators and Elderbus officials to reinstate/retain full service.
- In 2009 I led efforts in support of passage of a single tax rate in an effort to demonstrate a true willingness to engage and encourage business development/expansion in Sturbridge.
- After years of sewer moratoriums, which resulted in nearly every request for sewer infrastructure access/increase being denied over the previous 3-year period, I led efforts my first year on the Board to reverse course and provide access consistent with reserve capacities that clearly existed. During my 3-year tenure on the Board, every sewer access/increase request has ultimately been approved, providing greater opportunities for business expansion/relocation in Sturbridge.
- Initiated and led efforts to increase participation in the Senior Municipal Service Program. This program, which provides property tax reductions to qualifying lower income seniors based upon volunteer service provided to Town departments has $10,000 set aside annually for distribution. Prior to my tenure on the Board this program had been enormously under-utilized as most years witnessed only $500-$1,000 being dispersed to qualifying seniors. I initiated a more aggressive education program in addition to a comprehensive outreach program to seniors, which has resulted in maximum utilization of the program over the last two years. During the past two years individually, we have witnessed more participation in the program than the previous 10 years combined. This program is now providing greater opportunity for more seniors to benefit from reduced residential taxes in exchange for volunteerism, which in turn provides valuable service to town departments.
- 2010: Led efforts to maintain the single tax rate as an enticement to business expansion.
- 2010: Initiated & coordinated volunteer efforts that resulted in the removal of 26 truckloads of hazardous waste from the Riverlands site so that this property could move closer towards active use by residents and visitors.
- 2010: In response to violations of the Town's Sexual Harassment Policy involving an elected official, which served to highlight shortcomings in the Town's Board & Committee Handbook, I undertook an extensive review of committee, employee, & workplace policies throughout the region and rewrote the entire handbook. This revised and rewritten Board & Committee Handbook was reviewed/approved by Town Counsel and ultimately by the Board of Selectmen in 2011 with only very minor adjustments to the rewrite I submitted.
- 2010: In an effort to ensure greater access to town government, I initiated & coordinated live broadcast and phone-in questioning for the annual pre-town meeting presentation. This was continued in 2011.
- 2011: Initiated and coordinated the live broadcast & phone-in questioning of the Board of Health public meetings on the PayT program to ensure greater access and participation in the process.
- 2011: Initiated and coordinated the live broadcast & phone-in questioning of the Board of Health's presentation of the Central Massachusetts Mosquito Control Project (CMMCP) in response to concerns about the project. This live broadcast - supported by the Sturbridge Board of Health in partnership with CMMCP helped to provide residents with a greater understanding of the benefits associated with mosquito control, while providing valuable information on alternatives for those choosing such.
- When concerns arose in 2011 specific to potential long-term contamination issues associated with the Riverlands, & the inability of previous entities to address them, I personally conducted extensive review of Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) records, initiated contact with senior DEP officials and worked directly with them to determine & initiate a process for mitigating those hazards. That mitigation work is currently under way.
- In 2011 after learning that front door access was unavailable to Town Hall & the Center Office Building due to failures to address variance requirements by the Architect, I personally worked with and coordinated efforts between the Town and the Architectural Access Board to gain the necessary variances; despite public claims by the Architect that “it couldn’t be done”.
- 2011: Led efforts to extend the Single Tax Rate as an enticement to business expansion
- NOTE: Business expansion into our community the past two years (i.e. Tractor Supply, Ocean State Job Lot, Winebuyers Outlet, a proposed Movie Theater at Hobbs Brook, a proposed Medical Research & Development expansion into the former Hebert Candy Mansion, the proposed Dental Office & Restaurant in the Basketville Building, a proposed restaurant at 420 Main Street, Family Fitness Center now locating in the former Hallmark store, etc.) are certainly not accidental in nature, but rather a response to policies developed over the last 3 years as a direct result of a strong business-positive tone I have led with and have worked to establish as a matter of public policy.
- In 2011 following the unsatisfactory response by National Grid’s Management Team to a series of local disasters, I personally appeared before DPU Investigators and was the only elected official to provide sworn testimony on behalf of our community.
- In addition, I authored an official letter that was submitted to DPU investigators as part of the Public Testimonies Record that outlined National Grid coordination and management failures - as identified by Sturbridge Town Department Heads, residents, and at least two selectmen that was supported, signed, and submitted by Selectman Priscilla Gimas & myself.
- In addition, meetings are currently being held (initiated and coordinated by me) between National Grid management officials and Town representatives in an effort to more proactively and cooperatively address disaster challenges, so as to prevent future coordination/collaboration issues.
As Thomas Jefferson believed, "when a man assumes a public trust, he becomes a public property". For me, those are not hollow words, but rather the obligation of representation.
There is little doubt that my decisions on some issues have not been met with complete support from all residents; clearly that is to be expected and I respect without reservation the need for different viewpoints. I do hope however that in the face of those differences, my approach to deliberations - based always upon a thorough review of information - have demonstrated a complete commitment to principle, integrity, and exhaustive review.
I invite all residents to carefully and thoroughly review my record - by way of all meeting minutes from the last 3 years and news reports, which have accompanied nearly every significant issue facing our community. I will enthusiastically and immediately provide any such material/confirmation requested, as I maintain a database of all meeting minutes and local news reports. Alternately, meeting minutes can be obtained online via the Town website by clicking HERE or through the Town Clerk, while news reports can be obtained directly from the websites of those newspapers covering our community should residents feel more comfortable obtaining materials to authenticate my service from independent sources. I also strongly encourage residents to challenge me on any items of concern or importance to you, as well as challenging my record and/or my approach to representing each of you so that you can be assured of having the most complete picture of my service.
I am available always by email at email@example.com or by phone at 774-696-0903.