FOR BOARD OF HEALTH: Thomas McMahon

Years in Marblehead: 40 years (with some back and forth in my 20s / early 30s in Boston / Salem)

Occupation/education:  Investment Management.  Bachelor’s degree in economics and history from University of Colorado at Boulder.  Graduate of Marblehead High School class of 2000.

Appointed positions and/or elected offices: Seeking election to the Marblehead Board of Health.

What are three reasons/issues as to why you’re running for election? 

The follow-up questions will put these into more detail but I actually have four issues I’d like to tackle which are easily attainable:

  1. Provide better guidance, transparency, and responsible spending in the Transfer Station project completion.
  2. Change the role of the Board of Health with regards to Covid into an advisory position rather than a mandate setting authority.
  3. Create more impactful engagement with youth regarding education on substance abuse and overall life changing decision making.
  4. Help provide immediate relief to the mental health backlog.

Good spot to apologize in advance as many of the next questions lead me to repeat myself quite a bit.

What areas of municipal government do you think the town could give more attention to? 

Transparency and responsible spending.  I actually believe they go hand and hand and have experience in fixing group spending which previously had no transparency.  You’d be amazed what you can fix when you have people looking through different lenses.  When you open the books to the community you get suggestions you may not have known that can save money with the same, and often times better, quality outcome.  We are fortunate to have a town with extremely talented and educated professionals that could provide insight if everything is accessible.  Lack of transparency only raises questions and removes trust.  We can’t keep turning to overrides and pricing out vital members of our community.  

What do you feel will be the biggest issues facing the town in the coronavirus pandemic’s wake? 

Regaining the trust of the Board of Health is an issue I’d like to take head on.  We also need to learn to come together as a friendly community again like the Marblehead I grew up in.  You can see that individuals’ responses to covid has put an unnecessary divide in the public.  We need to respect each other’s decisions on how we want to individually handle covid going forward.  We also need to address the mental health backlog that covid created.  We have a wealth of professionals in this town that I would like to reach out to to ask to donate time to help the community with the backlog the counseling center is facing.  I strongly believe in a special town like this, local therapists would donate time, they just haven’t been asked / organized.

Some would say that the Board of Health has lacked transparency in recent years. Is this criticism valid? Fair or unfair, how do you dispel this perception? 

That is 100% fair / valid.  There are two specific areas where the board lacked transparency.  The transfer station project would be the first.  A common question in town / on Board of Health calls was “what happened to the $6 million.”  The question was dodged for about five years with responses like “nothing nefarious, trust us.”  When talking about people’s tax dollars for unintended expenses based on the original plan, that is an unacceptable answer.  Naturally projects go over budget.  Anyone that has done a home renovation has seen that.  But when you go drastically over budget, there needs to be an explanation for additional expenditures.  If you look on the Board of Health page on Marblehead’s website there is just listed line items.  No details.  That is not transparency.  The second area was with the mask mandate imposed by the Board of Health late December 2021.  The businesses repeatedly asked, “what metrics are you using” and were never given an answer.  That question is more than fair.  The businesses should be able to have some understanding / means of expectation for when something that financially impacts them will happen.  These are mom and pop shops, not large corporations.  They deserve transparency and instead were actively muted on the Zoom call and shamed for even asking.

What are the most significant issues facing the Board of Health, and how would you address them if elected? 

Transfer Station Phase 2:  Create a board of local residents with a focus on Transfer Station workers / biggest users to ensure the design for Phase 2 covers all needs and stays within budget.  Immediately replace the rodent infested rented trailer at the request of the Transfer Station workers and their union rep.

Educating Our Youth:  Rather than bring in traveling speakers on issues like addiction / making responsible decisions, create a group of local families who have lost brothers, sisters, children or even close friends too early to speak to the high schoolers and even middle schoolers.  Make the impact real by showing that this does happen here.  I firmly believe this will make a much bigger / relatable impression.

Mental Health:  Tap into our local professionals to donate time to help relieve the mental health backlog faced by the counseling center.  We can’t wait for potential room in future budgets.  This is an immediate need and I believe local professionals will help but they haven’t been asked.  Coming together in support of the community is a special thing we have in Marblehead that you won’t see in other cities / towns.

Dealing with the future of Coronavirus:  The Board of Health should provide information rather than mandates.  I’ve detailed this more in the next question.

How do you feel about mask mandates? 

The highest level of scientists have acknowledged that Covid is here to stay and new variants will come.  We have to learn to live with this and can’t keep going on and off with mask mandates / fines on our local businesses.  I do not support future mask mandates.  Instead, I think the Board of Health’s role going forward should be to provide the most up to date information on Covid so the public / businesses can make decisions that are best for them.  And those decisions should be respected.  If a business wants to require a mask, you need to wear one if you want to use that business.  If they don’t, that needs to be respected also.  The same goes with an individual’s decision to wear or not wear a mask in public where it is not required.

In recent years, the Board of Health has taken the lead with somewhat controversial environmental initiatives, like the ban on single-use plastic bags. What, if anything, should be the next frontier for the board in this respect? 

The next frontier has already been decided at the last town meeting.  The town voted on moving from gas to electric leaf blowers between Memorial Day and Labor Day.  This was a very divided vote so the solution needs to be handled respectfully and carefully.  I don’t want any Marblehead residents deputizing themselves and running around telling on their community.  This was a democratically decided move so we have to respect the process.  I have a couple ideas on how we can get there but its going to involve working with passionate people on both sides of this decision.  Personally, I do see both sides, so I think I can act as a moderator as we find the best solution moving forward. 

When we think of “public health,” we tend to think about disease and other impacts on our physical condition, but awareness has been growing about the importance of our psychological well-being as well. How can the Board of Health be a force for improving the collective mental health of Marblehead?

I think we can attack this from two angles.  We have to look at the Marblehead Counseling Center and the current backlog of people looking for assistance with mental health.  That’s the immediate need and I’ve outlined that I think we can work to get local professionals to volunteer time to assist with this.  Further I think this will show that we are a community that cares about each other if we’re able to have success with this strategy and I think that will help improve everyone’s outlook in town that we do in fact live in a caring community.

Second, the Board of Health needs to be leaders in their own meetings to show that they are willing to listen to different perspectives in the community.  No muting, and no 2 minute time limits on public comment.  We also need hybrid style meetings to show the community that we are fully engaged be being in person but also providing a Zoom option.  The Board set off a lot of people in town with the “we are not required to allow the public to speak” statement and that was no okay.  It needs to be acknowledged that it will never happen again and we need to move forward and lead by example.

Submitted content
+ posts

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: