2016 LWV Westford Voters’ Guide
Board of Selectmen – John Scott Hazelton
How is your background related to the board position that you are seeking? Please include your participation in any town of community-related activities. Professionally, I am an economist advising clients on the allocation of scarce resources, a skill clearly relevant. Prior to becoming a Selectman, I served on the Westford Housing Authority and the Community Preservation Committee. I know the challenge of state mandates, funding among competing priorities, and the importance of working with other boards, agencies and even towns to accomplish goals, such as Westford’s Veterans’ Housing.
One of my current committees is the Master Plan Implementation Committee, realizing the goals and objectives of residents through current and future Town activities to keep Westford a leader educationally, environmentally, recreationally, and commercially.
What issues will be a priority for you if elected? The top priority remains delivering the highest quality town and school services, cost effectively, in a challenging growth environment.
Consistent with service delivery, we need to build our combined dispatch center and new headquarters fire station, respecting the Town appropriation. I am working with the Permanent Town Building Committee toward this goal.
We need to remedy 12 North Main Street within the vision of the neighborhood and Town. We have stabilized the structure, but need to progress with re-development or other uses. We need to resolve the ultimate disposition of the Town Farm and more permanently locate the Recreation Department.
Why do you want to serve on the Board of Selectmen? Westford has been home for 30 years. We have raised three children here. I want to preserve the Westford that we cherish. It’s about budgets, but also securing priority open space, protecting historic structures, developing recreational opportunities and planning for suitable development. I have enjoyed our Community Gardens, the extension of the Bruce Freeman Rail Trail and the purchase of additional open space over my term.
I want Westford to be open, accessible and welcome to all residents. I’m privileged to serve on our new Disabilities Commission and witness the opening of our Veterans’ Housing, also during my term.
What fiscal policies need to be in place for Westford to continue to have a balanced budget? We must limit new positions. Over the past two years, we have added one net new non-school employee. We must budget for the full cost of new employees, including post-retirement benefits, and we must aggressively manage the cost of these benefits.
We must establish a long-term capital plan, prioritizing and timing major known investments in town buildings, infrastructure and capital equipment, and plan for the acquisition of open space.
Fiscal policy also needs to incorporate revenues, and we will need to work with Town staff and Economic Development Committee to expand and diversify our tax base and employment opportunities.
Board of Selectmen – Anthony Martinez
How is your background related to the board position that you are seeking? Please include your participation in any town of community-related activities. Upon my return from three tours in Vietnam, for which I was awarded 2 Distinguished Flying Crosses, 8 Air Medals and 11 Vietnam Service Medals, I established residency in Westford. I developed a love for its bucolic rural environment and unique character of Westford residents. I coached baseball, basketball and soccer teams and served on School and Master Plan Committees. I have been an active, informed participant in town meetings.
Awarded BSEE, MSEE and MSCS degrees with highest honors. Adjunct professor ULowell and Northeastern.
Thirty years experience technical management and contributor on international projects valued over $300 million
What issues will be a priority for you if elected?
• Elimination of inefficient expenditures and improving quality of services.
• Current budget protocols use current allocation plus a division of increased revenues from taxes and fees. Bottom-up budget process would identify funds to be reallocated to underfunded tasks, reduce real estate taxes and bus transportation fees.
• Elimination of the “Federal and State Mandates” by appealing to State Auditor or Congressional delegation.
• Institute a climate on the Board of Selectmen of respect for town meeting actions and citizens concerns.
• Advocate merit pay for all employees
• Elimination of private use by town employees of town-owned cars.
Why do you want to serve on the Board of Selectmen? To apply my management, technical, analytical skills and experience to the solution of the multitude problems facing Westford.
• Over $30 million in capital requests for municipal facilities should be re-evaluated and prioritized.
• Maintain Westford’s historic, rural character.
• Learn from secretive Drew Farms transactions, failure to inspect 14 elevators causing a $20,000 fine, 50% cost growth of new fire station preventing similar errors from happening.
• Elimination of “Executive Sessions” and “waiving of the reading of correspondence” used to keep information from the public.
• Institute policies that treat all communications including e-mails as public records.
What fiscal policies need to be in place for Westford to continue to have a balanced budget?
• Implement Municipal Zero Based Budgeting to replace the current policy of current year spending plus the increase in town revenue.
• Identify inefficient processes and modify to improve efficiency, reduce costs and improve quality of services.
• Examine why the Ambulance Service runs a yearly deficit of over $400,0000 while Lowell and Chelmsford contract out ambulance services and receive $468,000 and $68,000 respectively, from contracts with private companies.
• Request School Committee reconsider implementation of the Digital Learning Program using Chromebooks, a very inefficient use of network bandwidth causing a reduction of services to employees and students.
Board of Selectmen – Andrea Peraner-Sweet
How is your background related to the board position that you are seeking? Please include your participation in any town of community-related activities. For more than twenty years, I have been actively involved in Town government. I have a proven record of accomplishment and an ability to foster collaboration and build consensus.
During my six years as a Selectman, I have served on the Budget Solutions Task Force (Chair), Economic Development Committee, Drew Farms Task Force (Chair), Affordable Housing Trust Fund, and Town Center Parking and Traffic Study Committee.
Other Board and committee experience includes: Planning Board (13 years; 6 as Chair); Stony Brook Master Plan, Chair; Stepinski Land Acquisition, Co-Chair; Community Preservation; Affordable Housing, Co-Chair; Master Plan; and Master Plan Implementation.
What issues will be a priority for you if elected? Westford faces numerous major decisions over the next several years. We will have to ask ourselves do we want to renovate the Library and Roudenbush? Build a Recreational Center? Construct sidewalks? Leading the discussion on prioritizing these projects and determining how to fund them in a fiscally sound manner will be one of my main priorities. I want to hear from residents what their priorities are. I want to ensure that we create opportunities for all residents to voice their opinions, so that we may plan for Westford’s future in a responsive and responsible manner.
Why do you want to serve on the Board of Selectmen? Simply put…I love Westford. I want to continue to work towards making it the best possible Town it can be. I want to lead Westford into the future, but at the same time preserve what is best about it. I want to continue to foster an environment of free and open discussion where people with differing viewpoints and opinions come together to explore new and innovative ways to provide the level of services we have all come to expect in what continue to be fiscally challenging times. I want to make sure that Westford works for all our residents.
What fiscal policies need to be in place for Westford to continue to have a balanced budget? To meet the fiscal challenges that Westford will face over the next several years, Westford must continue to look for opportunities to deliver town services in new and creative ways and recognize when the “old” ways no longer work. We need to break away from approaching problems from the perspective of an individual department or special interest group and move towards an interdepartmental/collaborative approach. We must explore new ways to provide services and for departments to work together. The combined police and fire dispatch is an example of such an approach and one we need to continue to follow.
Board of Health – Stephanie Granger
How is your background related to the board position that you are seeking? Please include participation in any town or community-related activities. I have been interested in public health since living in Haiti over 25 years ago. I earned a masters degree in Health Policy and Management from Harvard School of Public Health and worked for the Massachusetts Department of Public Health in maternal and child health, for Blue Cross Blue Shield and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care. After the earthquake, I volunteered in Haiti as a medical interpreter. I have volunteered for many years in the Westford schools, Westford Youth Soccer, the library, Conservation Commission and my church. I have attended and participated in a number of Westford Board of Health meetings.
What issues will be a priority for you if elected? Some of my top priorities are prevention of and education about tick/mosquito-borne illnesses, making sure we have a safe water supply, emergency preparedness and continuing to improve communication and awareness about town health-related resources.
What should be done with the health survey data collected by the Health Department last year? The collected health survey data gives us a place to start. We need to keep in mind that the sample might not be a complete picture of the town but it does highlight some issues that are of concern to members of the community and some areas where we might provide and focus our services. The survey definitely demonstrates that we should try to increase awareness of and utilization of existing health related resources, and perhaps try to provide some additional services, particularly in the evenings.
Is there more that Westford could be doing for emergency preparedness? Yes. Just over half of the respondents to the health survey said they had a basic emergency kit and only about ¼ said they have a family emergency plan. I think we can encourage and help residents of the town to have an emergency plan, to prepare for basic emergencies and have basic supplies, such as 72 hour kits. Emergencies are not just “possible” they happen, being prepared at the household and community level will enable Westford families to weather these situations when they arise.
Board of Health – Susan M. Hanly
How is your background related to the board position that you are seeking? Please include participation in any town or community-related activities. I have been a member of the Board of Health for the past 7 years. I graduated from Boston College in 1986 and have worked as a registered nurse ever since. The past 16 years I have been a Westford middle school nurse. I think it is important to have some health care professionals on the Board of Health. Besides being a nurse, I am also the married mother of 4 children and one grandchild! I have volunteered in many capacities in town over the years. I was a coach, age director and for the past 7 years WYBA president.
What issues will be a priority for you if elected? I am passionate about mental health initiatives. That will always be a priority for me. For the past several years, I have run a monthly parent support group with Dianne Walsh who is an LICSW. Our support group is available to any parent who is concerned their child might be suffering from a mental health issue. We are very grateful for the Westford Health Department who co-sponsors us. Other priorities for me include health and wellness—physically and emotionally. I have loved the recent initiatives that have come before the Board of Health including safe sidewalks and the healthy gardens!
What should be done with the health survey data collected by the Health Department last year? I know that the Health Department has built the data they receive into their yearly strategic planning efforts and work to address known health concerns, resident program requests and residential concerns. I found the results very interesting. When looking at participant’s health conditions; high cholesterol and high blood pressure are the most prevalent but depression/anxiety are not far behind. I would like to see more programming to help with stress-relief. Interestingly, further in the survey, participants were asked about programs and what they would like to see: stress management was one of the top responses.
Is there more that Westford could be doing for emergency preparedness? I believe Westford has done a great job with emergency preparedness. We have an impressive town emergency operations team which includes the Fire Chief, Police Chief, Highway Superintendent, Health Director, School Superintendent, Senior Center Director, Town Managers and the IT Director. They meet before and during all emergencies to plan and coordinate events. Westford also has their own licensed emergency information AM radio station (1630) which can broadcast 24/7 during an emergency. Sandy Collins (Director) and Nancy Burns (Coordinator) have done an impressive job with the Medical Reserve Corps (UMVMRC); training medical and non-medical volunteers to assist if called upon.
Board of Health – C. Anastasia O’Malley
How is your background related to the board position that you are seeking? Please include participation in any town or community-related activities. I have education and/or experience in architecture, engineering, food-prep, nutrition, food safety and kitchen management. Having attended many months of BoH meetings, it is clear that building and food safety come up often. I also enjoy volunteering with Westford elementary students, teaching about healthy foods and with Sustainable Westford, teaching healthy habits. Most importantly, I am passionate about the fact that everyone deserves to be healthy and that that is more easily achieved with support in the form of healthy programs, being surrounded by other health conscious people and being in a community that prioritizes health.
What issues will be a priority for you if elected? Month to month my priority will be to attentively and open-mindedly listen to and address concerns and problems which members of my town bring forward. Throughout my three years I will also increase educational and informational events on health retention and improvement. There are so many easy regular habits and small changes we can make which can have a big effect on our physical, mental and emotional wellbeing. I want people to be aware of these, and I want to work with the town to make it easier for residents to adopt such practices.
What should be done with the health survey data collected by the Health Department last year? We should comb through the data to determine people’s main concerns. Where we already provide services which address those concerns, we should find a way to better communicate the ways we can be of service. Where more can be done, we should research the possibilities and then act to help people and/or educate people on their options to help themselves.
Is there more that Westford could be doing for emergency preparedness? There always is; however, Westford has a great base in place for all sorts of possible emergencies; so, it should be easy to keep fine tuned. Westford is the lead for half a dozen surrounding communities for public health and weather/natural/manmade disaster response. We have hundreds of medically trained volunteers in place to act on behalf of Merrimack Valley! Sandy Collins has worked hard to secure grants for training and maintaining our local reserve corp.
Housing Authority – Carol Engel
How is your background related to the board position that you are seeking? Please include your participation in any town or community-related activities. I have served four terms on the Westford Housing Authority. I have been a resident of Westford since 1961.
What issues will be a priority for you if elected? The “you” in your questionnaire has to mean the entire Board, not just one individual. The most important priority is to continue looking for ways to expand affordable housing for those who need it now. The Housing Authority is committed to making affordable housing available to ensure that seniors and the disabled have safe and decent housing. To preserve the housing portfolio to ensure that the Housing Authority is meeting its objectives. The Housing Authority is the monitoring agent for many of the affordable apartments and homes, helping to ensure that they remain affordable. Many are affordable in perpetuity.
What have you accomplished as a member of the housing Authority? The Housing Authority is fortunate to have our new director, Paul Teixeira.
- Decided on policies that are in the best interest of the residents – to provide a healthy and safe environment – new fire and safety policy – new no smoking policy.
- Replacement of some windows; adding roll-in showers for handicap units; new roof at the Line Road unit.
- Contributed to suggestions on the design of what steps should be taken at the Route 110 and Tadmuck Road intersection.
- Met with the Historical Commission regarding the Sargent School.
- Added a surveillance system in the Community Room at Tadmuck Road
Library Trustees – Kathleen Canavan
How is your background related to the board position that you are seeking? Please include your participation in any town or community-related activities. As Public Facilities Manager for the Town of Chelmsford, I bring an expertise in developing capital improvement plans, overseeing capital construction projects and managing the operation and maintenance of public buildings and grounds.
I serve as Chairman of the Library Facilities Needs Committee, a joint Board with members from the Permanent Town Building Committee charged with overseeing the implementation of the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners Planning and Design Grant. This two-year grant serves to study the feasibility of a potential renovation and/or addition to the J.V. Fletcher Library.
I served as Vice-Chair on the Energy Committee.
What issues will be a priority for you if elected? As Library Trustee, I will prioritize the governance of programs that implement policies to serve all the interests of the general public. For example, I think a traditional library can sustain alongside a digital library; offer current periodicals and newspapers; and maintain historical town records and documents.
Spearheading the planning and design grant into an actual construction project, by successfully competing for a Massachusetts Public Library Construction Grant, is definitely a goal. This goal could take three years.
What shortcomings of the library are patrons complaining about, and how will the expansion address those issues? The J.V. Fletcher Library serves many groups with dynamic interests. Common complaints we hear from library patrons are: the lack of on-site parking; insufficient public meeting spaces; and a children’s room which is over- crowed and not conducive to early childhood learning programs and play areas.
The design grant addresses the majority of these concerns. The schematic design plan creates a twenty-first century library. The re-design shows improved traffic flow, adding additional spaces. The plan includes a community meeting room, silent and group study rooms, a spacious children’s area with a story hour room, preschool and elementary reading areas.
Library Trustees – Elizabeth S. “Buffy” Diercks
How is your background related to the board position that you are seeking? Please include your participation in any town or community-related activities. Beginning with an appointment to the board in June 2006, I have continued to serve on the Board of Library Trustees through election in 2007 to the current year. I am a school library teacher/librarian in the Westford Public Schools at the Robinson and Crisafulli Schools. This background of membership on the Board and work in the schools provides the opportunity to collaboratively bridge the public library setting with the needs of the school community of students, parents, and teachers. Westford excels in the collaboration between the public library and all nine school libraries. I will continue Westford’s strong collaboration.
What issues will be a priority for you if elected? A 21st century library needs space and flexibility to meet the needs of the growing Westford community. Expanding space must be the priority by moving the library expansion plan forward. To accomplish this we must compete for a Massachusetts Public Library Construction Grant Award in January 2017. Another priority is to be flexible in developing the collection. This means embracing new technologies and formats for the future, to supplement the traditional print materials that have the highest current usage. Prioritizing space and flexibility will position us well for the next 20 years of growth and change.
What shortcomings of the library are patrons complaining about, and how will the expansion address those issues? Shortcomings can be summed up by a word that affects everyone – SPACE. Parking and a Larger Children’s Area were the top two facility space complaints in the 2012 patrons’ survey. Additional issues from the survey which would be addressed by the expansion include: an imaginative and collaborative Young Adult area; more meeting rooms for study, research, or groups; more browsing and new collections spaces; a space to preserve and catalog local history; relaxing and inviting reading areas; and updated safety and building codes. The expansion plan has taken each of these into account. Expanded library space benefits everyone.
Planning Board – Katherine M. Hollister
How is your background related to the board position that you are seeking? Please include your participation in any town or community-related activities. I have served on the Planning Board for 6 years. Before that, I was Chair of the 2009 Comprehensive Master Plan Committee. I was a member of the 2001 Open Space & Recreation Plan committee and on the Trail Stewards steering committee for 10 years. I am still a volunteer trail steward. I co-lead the Stream Team that monitors the health of our two watersheds under the sponsorship of the Conservation Commission and Westford Conservation Trust. I am the Planning Board’s representative on the Community Preservation Committee, Pedestrian Safety Committee, and Drew Garden Task Force.
What issue will be a priority for you if elected? There are not a lot of large parcels in town left for development, so there has been an increase in smaller developments on less-than-ideal land. I want to ensure that these applications benefit the town as well as the developer. This means saving unique features such as special trees or geological formations, tying in to existing trail or sidewalk networks, and providing a variety of housing stock so that all income levels and age groups can call Westford “home.”
What changes would you propose to Westford Zoning Bylaws to encourage affordable housing, open space, and “town character?” One of the recommendations in the 2009 Comprehensive Master Plan was to review our Open Space and Flexible Development Bylaws. For example, The MA Association of Conservation Commissioners developed a model open-space bylaw a few years ago. Westford’s Master Plan Implementation Committee has been researching these bylaws over the past year and is almost ready to present modifications to the Planning Board. Town Character, to me, means the villages and Town Center. If the neighborhoods are interested, we could work to encourage multi-use with small businesses and upstairs housing.
What motivated you to decide to run for the Planning Board? In Uxbridge, I watched a large tract with a gorgeous rock outcropping and a field of lady slippers get leveled and converted to housing. I learned that the Planning Board has a large role in influencing development for the future good of the community. My tenure on the master plan committee broadened my knowledge of all the factors to consider. I have enjoyed my 6 years on the board and am excited about proposed changes at the local and state planning levels that we could leverage to continue Westford’s legacy as a great town to live in.
School Committee – Arthur F. Benoit
How is your background related to the board position that you are seeking? Please include your participation in any town or community-related activities. I am currently Chairman of the Westford School Committee, a member of Capital Planning, and Red Hat Inc. Community Relations committees. I am also a member of the Westford Kiwanis and Boy Scout Troop 159. I have volunteered on the school committee for 10 years and have helped in our community far longer. While my own children are now in college, I still have nieces and nephews who are now or soon will be attending our schools. I am extremely honored to serve on a School Committee that has great community support.
What issues will be a priority for you if elected? Our first issue is to maintain academic excellence within the Westford school district. Like most other towns around us, Westford has many financial challenges. As a school district, we can’t rest on our current way of educating children. We must continue to evolve new ways to provide updated skills and to modernize our curriculum While doing this, we must continuing to keep cost at a level our residents can afford. Education is important, but so are our police, fire, ambulance and trash to mention a few. This balance is what makes living in Westford so great.
What changes could be made in the daily school schedules to improve student health and scholastic performance? I am by no means an expert on daily schedules for our students, or how schedules promote wellness and encourage performance. Currently, I listen to our administration, staff, students and student families for advice. This allows me to make informed decisions. Whenever possible, I try to support and encourage collaboration on solutions which meet student need and help to balance social emotional well-being of students. Our entire staff and administration are second to none and deserve our thanks. The same must be said for the support we receive from student families and other residents in Westford. Thanks to you all.
School Committee – George Thomas Clay
How is your background related to the board position that you are seeking? Please include your participation in any town or community-related activities. I have served one term as a School Committee member during which I served one year as Chair. My wife and I have three girls in the Westford Schools and have been active in the past as a soccer coach, Pancake Breakfast chair and a range of other town activities. I was appointed by Governor Patrick to serve as a trustee in the Community College System and have a special interest in technology and workforce development. I am CEO of a technology company and have been invited to judge student business plan competitions at Harvard, MIT and Northeastern.
What issues will be a priority for you if elected? My area of greatest focus in terms of student learning is classroom innovation. Westford’s teachers, parents and students have built an excellent school system, but for students to have the greatest opportunities to succeed in today’s competitive workforce we need to harness new approaches, new technology and a focus on teamwork. We also need to ensure that we focus on the success of all learners at all ability levels. I also believe strongly that Westford should pay our teachers fairly and close the long running pay gap between our teachers and the average pay in comparable communities.
What changes could be made in the daily school schedules to improve student health and scholastic performance? The biggest opportunity to improve student success is in using new curriculum design and technology tools to “flip” the classroom experience – rather than classroom lectures and homework the instructional content can be delivered to students in the format in which they learn best and classroom time can be used for small group projects and problem solving. The biggest health risk we focus on is helping to manage the high pressure environment in today’s competitive schools that can lead to hospitalization and other problems. Recent changes in the WA schedule and programs added to help reintegrate students work towards this goal.