FOR SELECT BOARD: Bret Murray

Years in Marblehead: 37

Occupation/education: Director of risk management, local higher education college

New England Law Boston, Juris Doctor

Boston College, MS in Administrative Studies

University of Massachusetts Amherst, BA in History and Political Science

Appointed positions and/or elected offices: 

Marblehead Select Board 2011 to 2017

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

If elected, I would focus on the three main things: a strategic plan, improve our town communications and increase transparency. 

Strategic Plan: Our town has many great initiatives underway, but there is no overall strategic plan unifying them toward the goal of keeping Marblehead a thriving community. A strategic plan is important to ensure our town officials, employees and citizens know longer-term priorities, maintenance goals and capital requirements. It holds everyone accountable.

Communication: Marblehead lacks a formalized communication process. Our town’s website, social media and outreach need to be overhauled and improved to meet today’s standard of communicating and coordinated across departments. 

Transparency: Our citizens deserve to know how our town operates and conducts its business. The CliftonLarsonAllan report, issued December 7, 2021, found that few departments they spoke with have formal written procedure manuals and those that do are outdated. Again, this is part of holding our elected and appointed officials accountable. 

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

Long-term planning. Our town has been reactive for far too long. We need a strategic plan assessment performed to understand what we are doing well and what needs to be improved. The last time the town completed such an assessment was in 1989 with the CRESAP Report. We are long overdue. Once the town has conducted such an analysis, we will be able to determine what areas of municipal government need our attention.

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

Ensuring that we provide the best town services, while at the same time maintaining the lowest possible tax rate for our citizens. This is not going to be an easy task, but it is attainable if we leverage the right internal and external resources. Our Select Board has a fiduciary duty to our town—both in terms of high-quality services and prudent financial management. I think we can do better on both accounts. 

Do you think the infrastructure override will pass? What are you doing to convince the town to support it? If it doesn’t pass, what will you do? 

I am hopeful it will pass. At Town Meeting, it was overwhelmingly approved with a 406-114 vote in favor. As I talk to voters, however, they will often only bring up Question 2, and I remind them there is also a Question 1. Unlike the School Department, which hosted three informational meetings about Article 2 after Town Meeting, the Select Board has hosted none. Article 1 is eight times larger than Article 2, and the Select Board should have sponsored similar sessions to ensure voters are informed. 

Should Question 1 not pass and if I am fortunate enough to be elected to the next Select Board, we will need to work with our building committee to address urgent maintenance needs with limited funding. We will also likely have to bring a modified Question 1 back at Town Meeting next year and focus on gathering support, similar to how the School Department and Committee has been promoting Article 2 this year.

Two-plus years into COVID-19, what do you hope the town has learned about the delivery of services during an emergency like a pandemic? How can you as a selectperson ensure that the value of these lessons is not lost over time?

Our town, like other municipalities and businesses, needed to adapt during the pandemic to provide services to our citizens. Prior to the pandemic, our town still operated much like the DMV from the 1990s: you had to go in person (or use a stamp) and a physical check was the only method of payment. During the pandemic, our town learned that many of these transactions and interactions could be done online, similar to how we engage with our personal bank, credit card company and online shopping sites. Continuing to leverage technology and streamlining how our citizens interact with the town should continue and expand.

The pandemic has also made this a challenging time for local businesses. How would you rate the town’s performance in supporting the local business community? What more could be done to ensure that the town remains home to a vibrant collection of local shops, restaurants and other businesses?

Based upon the real-time information and guidance from federal and state organizations, Marblehead tried to balance the safety of our citizens, while supporting our local business community, the best they could. Since Marblehead is a destination community, we need to continue to find ways to support our local business and allow them to thrive. Utilizing sidewalks, parking spaces and other town-owned property, where appropriate, should continue. Our Town Administrator should engage our business owners on a regular basis, a preset meeting once a month for instance, to bring their ideas and suggestions to the Select Board’s attention. Our town is a wonderful community not only because of its natural beauty, but also because of the charm our local retail shops provide. The town and our business community need to act in unison, and the next Select Board should facilitate it.

As real estate prices continue to soar, Marblehead homes seem to be getting even further out of reach for many of our police officers, teachers and other public servants, to say nothing of those who were raised in town but cannot afford to move back “home.” To what degree is this a problem, and what can be done about it?”

As someone whose parents and grandfather were town employees, this is a deeply personal issue. There is no question affordable housing is a problem. Unfortunately, it is not simply a Marblehead issue, but something many communities across our state and nation are experiencing. Unlike other surrounding communities that have land which can be dedicated to affordable housing either outright or through 40B, Marblehead does not. Our town is currently looking at changes to our zoning laws, including accessory-dwelling units or ADU’s, but clearly more is needed. The solution will likely require changes to our tax levy and/or personal state tax exemption laws by Beacon Hill. Unfortunately, there is no simple solution to this problem—it will take Marblehead, the state and other groups to address this issue.

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