2017 Voters’ Guide

Each year, the League of Women Voters of Westford sponsors a Voters’’ Guide. Candidates running for local office are asked to respond to two questions about their candidacy, limiting their responses to 100 words for each question. This year, elections are being held for Board of Selectmen, Board of Health, Moderator, Planning Board, Library Trustee, School Committee, and Housing Authority. All registered voters are encouraged to get out and vote on Tuesday, May 2, 2017!

The League of Women Voters of Westford is a nonpartisan political organization of women and men that encourages the informed and active participation of citizens in government. The League does not support or oppose any candidate or political party.

Click on an office below to see statements from candidates running for that office, or scroll down to see statements from all candidates.


Board of Health Board of Selectmen
Library Trustees Moderator
Planning Board School Committee

Board of Health – Joanne E. Belanger

How is your background related to the board position that you are seeking?

I have been working for almost 30 years in the field of public health.  I have a degrees in Health Administration, with a concentration in Public Administration, Nursing and am a Registered Nurse.  Currently, I am the Assistant Director of Public Health for the town of Andover.  I previously served on the Board of Health for 12 years and was just appointed to fill the open position until the election.  I have in-depth knowledge, experience, and expertise in all aspects of public health; clinical, environmental and administrative, as well as in the laws and regulations regarding public health.

What issues will be a priority for you if elected?

Westford is a rapidly growing and evolving community.  There are environmental issues that concern me, including the asphalt plant and the decline of agricultural land.  As a Board member I intend to always work to protect the health of the residents and the integrity of our land and ecosystem.  We have a strong history as an agricultural community and open space and healthy living is an important aspect of public health.  I am also proud of all the health promotion/prevention programs the health department provides to the community and the schools and will continue to support those efforts.

Board of Health – Zac A. Cataldo

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 running for my 7th term on the Westford Board of Health having been a member since 1999. I am an active Town Meeting member for the past 23 years and I currently serve on the Board of Directors of Sustainable Westford, a non-profit organization that runs the Westford Farmers Market.  I am also co-chair of the Healthy Kids Coalition and I serve as an appointed member of the Healthy Westford Committee.  I was also proud to have worked on the Westford Community Garden Working Group to help establish the Community Gardens at the Day Field.

What issues will be a priority for you if elected?

I worked with my fellow Board of Health members in obtaining the funding and selection of independent legal counsel to assist our Board in making sure that we do everything in our power to protect the public health with regards to the proposed asphalt plant at 540 Groton Road.  Protecting public health, our environment and water supply will continue to be my top priority.

Board of Health – Michele Pitoniak-Crawford

No response received.

Board of Health – Shunhe Xiong

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 hold a Ph.D. degree in engineering and have solid background in science, which gives me an edge in dealing with complex environmental issues.  I audited more than a hundred companies based on ISO 14000 Environmental Management Standards.  With twenty-six years of experience in hi-tech and manufacturing industries, I understand their environmental impact.

I served as treasurer and principal of Chelmsford Chinese Language School, and I am currently on the school board.  I have volunteered for Westford Academy speech and debate team as a judge and for Westford CAT as a cameraman.

What issues will be a priority for you if elected?

My top priority will be environmental protection.


Board of Selectmen – Elizabeth M. Almeida

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 a BS from Ohio State University and an MBA from Case Western Reserve University with a focus on Nonprofit Management. My husband and I have two young children in the Westford Public Schools. I am the owner of a small business, Fat Moon Farm, now a gourmet mushroom farm in Westford, formerly an organic vegetable farm. I serve as Chair of Westford’s Agricultural Commission where I helped launch the Westford Community Garden in 2015, by bringing together many interested parties, securing town CPC funding, and working across town departments and committees to install the infrastructure.

 What issues will be a priority for you if elected?

  • A commitment to openness and transparency. The Selectmen need to make a renewed effort to include the community in the decision-making process.
  • Long-range planning for our community, to ensure we are diligently maintaining our infrastructure and appropriately staffing each town department to match the recent and anticipated residential and commercial growth.
  • Follow through on the Master Plan initiatives to support commercial/economic development in appropriate areas while protecting our residential neighborhoods.
  • Work towards a healthier community preserving open space, implementing improvements in energy efficiency, and encouraging local food production.

Board of Selectmen – G. Thomas Clay

How is your background related to the board position that you are seeking?  Please include your participation in any town or community-wide activities. 

In my 25 years of experience, leading Army Rangers on missions behind enemy lines and as CEO of 2 successful technology start-ups, I recognize the value of utilizing every person, skill and resource you have at your disposal. My leadership style is to be forthright, open and inclusive. I have done this on the Westford School Committee, as a Trustee for Mount Wachusett Community College, as Entrepreneur in Residence at Harvard Business School, on the First Parish Church Prudential Committee, the Marlborough Economic Development Council and the advisory board at UTEC, helping youth in Lowell stay on track.

What issues will be a priority for you if elected?

Westford needs to work for all our citizens.  We need to keep supporting our excellent schools – including equitable pay for our teachers – and town services.  We need to pursue “smart” economic development with companies that work for our community.  And we need to make sure that we don’t price people out of our town.  I’ll bring together different voices to make sure our whole town has a say in what Westford looks like in the future.  Together I know we can make an even stronger community – an even better Westford.

Board of Selectmen – Dennis J. Galvin

How is your background related to the board position that you are seeking?  Please include your participation in any town or community-related activities.

My professional experience and community service has given me a highly relevant background for service as a Selectman. I am a retired Major, Mass State Police; a former Director of Security for the Executive Office of Transportation, and a former business and project manager for a private sector global security provider.  My town service includes twelve years on the Planning Board; two years as Chair.  My range of experiences extends to public safety, transportation- infrastructure, executive level management and municipal planning.  I am ready, willing and able to serve our town.

 What issues will be a priority for you if elected?

My priorities as a member of the Board of Selectmen will be to first;  restore trust and confidence in the Board by making it more responsive, open and reflective of the town’s concerns; second, to provide the highest quality service to our residents, while exercising responsible fiscal management of our resources;  lastly, to address the risks to our children’s health posed by the opioid crisis and the legalization of recreational marijuana.  Crafting and implementing a strategy that will emphasize education, treatment referral and enforcement is essential.


Housing Authority – Diane L. Holmes

No response received.

Library Trustees – Hajo W. Koester

How is your background related to the board position that you are seeking?  Please include your participation in any town or community-related activities.

  • Town of Westford elected & appointed positions:  Member, Treasurer, and currently Chairperson J.V. Fletcher Library Board of Trustees; Member, Vice Chairman, and Chairman Nashoba Tech School Committee; Member and Vice Chairman Cable Advisory Committee; Member and Vice Chairman Westford School Committee.
  • Community Service:  Member, Board member, and Treasurer Friends of the J.V. Fletcher Library; Money Manager Elder Services of the Merrimack Valley; Board Member Westford Education Foundation; Corporator Emerson Hospital; Coach Westford Youth Soccer.

What issues will be a priority for you if elected?

My top priority is to continue to move with the times to provide the excellent library services Westford residents have been accustomed to,  and do so within tight budget constraints.

The current facility does not meet building code specifications and also comes up short meeting current needs.  More importantly, it will not fulfill future needs of Westford’s growing and demographically changing population in an environment that is also changing.  More space is needed for people versus books.  It is a top Trustee priority to obtain first State and second Town funding approval to implement a building renovation/expansion project.

Library Trustees – Robert D. Price

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’ve served on the Board of Library Trustees for the past 18 years, including three years as its chair.  During those years, I’ve taken advantage of various seminars offered by the Massachusetts Library Trustees Association and the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners to become a better-educated Trustee.

Prior to becoming Trustee, I served for 11 years on the Executive Board of the Friends of the J. V. Fletcher Library.  I most recently served two years on the Library Facility Needs Committee that developed an application for a Massachusetts Public Library Construction Program Grant.

What issues will be a priority for you if elected?

My number one priority will be to ensure that the Library facility expansion program is successful.  This will require lobbying for the support of the entire Westford community, the people who are direct or indirect beneficiaries of the Library.

The most obvious deficiencies of the current Library facility may be traced back to lack of space.  Until the construction grant is awarded (probably in 2020), the community will continue to experience these physical deficiencies.  I will work toward maintaining the high level of service currently enjoyed by the community, working around these shortcomings.


Moderator – Thomas J. Severo

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 believe the role of the Moderator boils down to three essential components, passion for your community, firm grasp of the rules of order, and ability to command an audience. As a lifelong resident who has worked many years for Westford Public Schools, I have a deep and abiding passion for my community. As a political science major turned lawyer, I am well versed in the rules of order that govern these meetings. As a comedian, I’m comfortable commanding (and entertaining!) an audience.

What issues will be a priority for you if elected?

I see myself as but a servant. In my view, the beauty of the role of Moderator is that one not only needn’t but in fact shouldn’t express one’s personal views on any issues. The issues that are priorities for our meeting attendees I will ensure get heard and debated fairly and equitable, but I will express no personal agenda.

Moderator – Donald L. Siriani

How is your background related to the board position that you are seeking? Please include your participation in any town or community related activities.

For over two decades I have worked in the State Senate. I am currently the Legislative Director for Senator Bruce Tarr, Republican Senate Leader but worked for a Democrat Senator for many years before that. I prioritize problem solving, working well with people of all political perspectives.

I’ve been an active volunteer in Westford having served on the School Committee and Board of Selectmen. In addition to ten years as President of the Westford Kiwanis, a child focused charity which organizes the Apple Blossom Festival, I volunteer with Boy Scouts, W.A.S.A. Last Night, and other Westford charities.

What issues will be a priority for you if elected?

My priorities will be to lead Town Meeting with knowledge of legislative procedures, a solid understanding of Westford and state issues, and a dedication to preserving for Westford citizens the right to considerate debate and discussion. I will work with the Finance Committee, whose members are appointed by the Moderator, to ensure we are fully prepared for Town Meetings.

I will keep the traditions of our highly regarded Town Meeting and I’ll convene a committee to examine areas for Town Meeting enhancements such as; making it easier to hear speakers, on-site child care opportunities, and visual aids for complex amendments.

Moderator – Susan McNeill Spuhler

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 lived in Westford since 2001.  My town volunteerism includes serving on the Master Plan Implementation Committee as the Vice Chair and Vice Chair of the Registered Marijuana Dispensary Committee where I assisted in the creation of Westford’s nine page by-law pertaining to the usage conditions of medical marijuana dispensaries.  Serving  these committees as well as studying Town Meeting Time and attending copious Town Meetings has further enhanced my knowledge of Westford town government and the committee members therein.  I am fair, articulate, and have common sense.  I run meetings with flair and authority. Goal:  to be Town Moderator.

What issues will be a priority for you if elected?

As Town Moderator, my goal will be to run Town Meeting efficiently and effectively.  Everyone is equal and has the right to express their point of view.  I will work closely with Town Hall Employees and committee members to gather and organize the appropriate information for our Town Meetings.  I have been studying Town Meeting Time extensively and attending town committee meetings which include The Selectmen, Planning Board, Board of Health, Library Trustees and Zoning Board.  Town Moderator is a serious position and deserves someone with the time and talent to execute its responsibilities. That person is me.


Planning Board – Gary W. Lavelle

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 graduated from WA, I worked Lavelle Machinery, and family owned business, for 35 years before starting my own company here in Westford. I have served on WASA, Project Purple, and Westford Business Association, Permanent Town Building Committee, WestFest, WA Alumni Hockey Association to name a few.  My Daughter had leukemia as a young child, I created Team Tabitha as part of Jimmy Fund, raising over $180,000. My work with PTBC has included the renovation and addition Cameron Senior Center, Westford Town Hall, and current project of the new Fire Station.

What issues will be a priority for you if elected?

My Priority will control proper use of land development while allowing for reasonable growth while preserving Westford’s character.

Planning Board – Dylan H. O’Connor

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 been fortunate to find myself in leadership roles throughout my professional career and in my personal life. I am a strong believer in consensus building, process transparency, and bringing good ideas forward for the benefit of the team or community. I think these characteristics would be beneficial to the Planning Board and by extension to the town of Westford. I have been a resident of the town since 2002, and I have volunteered my time towards the Westford Youth Soccer Association since 2008 as a coach and on the board as the equipment coordinator since 2013.

What issues will be a priority for you if elected?

My highest priority will be to ensure that the town’s Zoning Bylaws are reviewed and improved to account for advances in technology and innovation. I believe it’s important that the bylaws are maintained in a way that preserves and ideally improves the quality of life for Westford residents. This need came to my attention when I became very familiar with the current bylaws for the provisioning of cellular communication towers in town. The current bylaws were written several years ago, and are written in a way that fails to minimize the visual impact of large industrial structures from residential neighborhoods.

Planning Board – Thomas F. Spuhler

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 worked for 24 years at Hewlett-Packard, most recently having traveled world-wide as a trouble-shooter, standards body representative, and committee chair.  I am excellent at identifying problems and working with all parties to find inexpensive and effective solutions.  I’ve learned a lot about planning through my involvement with:  Planning Board Taping – first made Planning Board and other meetings available on Cable; Master Plan Implementation Committee – Commercial & Industrial Performance Standards; Master Plan Committee – 2009 Master Plan; Registered Marijuana Dispensary Committeebylaw to protect the community should a dispensary come to town;  Master Plan Implement Committee – implement Master Plan.

What issues will be a priority for you if elected?

While serving on four planning committees has prepared me to be on the Planning Board, my primary goal so to learn the job, both planning and administrative components including becoming familiar with processes and procedures of the Board, more familiar with Section 81 of the Massachusetts General Law, Massachusetts Subdivision Control Law, and the Town Zoning Bylaw.  Additional goals include getting better acquainted with important members of Town Staff (Planning, Town Engineer, et cetera).  I will work to help the Board become more efficient and effective, encourage community and abutter involvement, working with applicants to ensure best results for all.

School Committee – Megan A. Eckroth

How is your background related to the board position that you are seeking? Please include your participation in any town or community-related activities.

Education and community service are of utmost importance to me, guiding my experience and leading me to the decision to run for School Committee. I spent a year as an elementary art teacher and currently teach classes at The Maker Farm. I have been a Girl Scout Troop Leader to two troops for the last five years. I served on an interview committee for an interim teaching position, and have served on the School Advisory Council for Nabnasset for the last three years, exposing me to a School Improvement Plan and highlighting my desire to serve our school system.

What issues will be a priority for you if elected?

I believe the success of our children is rooted in strong connections and open communications between our schools and our families. I have always made that connection a priority as a parent, and intend to make it a priority as a School Committee member. I would prioritize the social-emotional well-being of our students by supporting the Challenge Success Program. Focusing on creative thinking and problem solving in our curriculum, evaluating homework and recess policies, and looking at variables like school start times are all key in supporting and nurturing our diverse community of learners.

School Committee – Alicia D. Mallon

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 spent three years as the Secretary/Treasurer for the Westford Special Education Parent Advisory Council, two years on the School Advisory Council at Nabnasset, one year as a general board member with the Nabnasset PTC, and over 6 years volunteering in my children’s schools. I am also a member of the Steering Committee for the Westford for Equitable Teacher Pay ballot initiative.

In addition, I am the mom of two children in the Westford Public Schools – one with an Individual Education Plan and one without – giving me a firsthand perspective on inclusive public education.

What issues will be a priority for you if elected?
Westford Public Schools have the well-earned reputation of valuing not only high academic achievement, but also instilling in our students a sense of community and citizenship. Integral to those goals is the inclusion and support of all members of the school community. I intend to continue to support those goals, and hopefully further our progress in integration, diversity, critical thinking skills, and addressing social-emotional development of our students in a way that supports the developing child as a whole.

School Committee – Gloria K. Miller

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 the proud mom of three teenage girls.  Volunteering in their elementary classrooms, libraries, and with Destination Imagination are among my cherished memories.  Currently, I am an active volunteer with Blanchard Theater Arts, WA Theater Arts, and WA Last Night.  I hold a BA/MA in Psychology from Johns Hopkins and a JD from the University of Michigan.  I have practiced corporate law, worked for appellate courts, and taught legal research and writing.  With your support, I would like to put my professional background and apparent inability to say “no” to volunteer opportunities to work on the School Committee.

What issues will be a priority for you if elected?

Last year, my oldest daughter graduated from WA so my priorities span all years K through 12.  School Committee needs to monitor new growth to maintain small class sizes, especially at the elementary level.  Westford has recently increased STEM offerings and we should ensure that all students are developing these vital 21st Century skills.  At the high school, mental wellness is a primary concern and creative options to support our students, including the possibility of a later start time, should be explored.  Additionally, I support the override ballot question to provide equitable teacher pay, thereby investing in Westford’s future.