Years in Marblehead: Over 30 years and from multi-generational Marblehead family.
Occupation/education: I am a co-founder and managing partner of Little Harbor Advisors, an investment management firm based in Marblehead. My early career experience includes big five accounting consultancy, investment banking, venture capital and U.S. Marine Corps. I have a BA in economics/English (Tufts) and an MBA (Harvard).
Appointed positions and/or elected offices: I served on the Finance Committee of the town of Marblehead for nine years (2008-2017), the last six years as its chair. I have served as a selectman for the past five years.
What are three reasons/issues as to why you’re running for election?
- I love our town and our form of participatory government, and hope to continue to bring my experience, town service, and collaborative approach to the Select Board;
- I hope to continue my work on both the Select Board’s Budget Working Group and ARPA Working Group, and to be part of the proactive guidance and clear communication that will be needed in the budget process this year; and
- I hope to continue my service on the Housing Production Implementation Committee, the Harbor Plan Working Group, and the Board of Health’s Mental Health Task Force, which reflect my other priorities of service to the town.
What areas of municipal government do you think the town could give more attention to?
The Select Board could give more attention to communicating the level, scope, and coordination of the town’s excellent services that residents deserve.
I am currently serving on the Town Budget Working Group – established over two years ago to work with the UMass Collins Center – with the mandate to raise the town’s budget process and transparency standards to the level prescribed by the national Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA).
The result of this hard work by the departments was that Marblehead was awarded the GFOA Distinguished Budget Presentation Award this year, a significant achievement especially for a first-year attempt. The GFOA presentation of the town’s Fiscal Year 2022 annual budget details the list of the Select Board’s FY20 and FY21 achievements as well as the board’s goals and initiatives contemplated for the FY 22 and beyond (see pages 49-65 https://www.marblehead.org/accounting-office/pages/gfoa-budget-documents). All of the town department achievements and goals are similarly listed within the context of the town’s Six Strategic Goals.
The GFOA Budget Presentation is a foundational communication tool to help orient Marbleheaders to the high level of activity and innovation across all the departments. It is a multi-year working document, suitable for the facilitation of open and transparent discussion.
In addition to effectively pursuing the town’s strategic priorities and facilitating departmental goals, attention must be given to more specific priorities: 1) to facilitate the successful integration and engagement of the new town administrator, who will then have the discretion to fill the finance director’s role and consolidate the town’s finance department; 2) get an early jump on the FY 23 budget with the GFOA process and GFOA Budget Presentation, including capital expenditures; 3) establish an aggressive communication campaign to inform taxpayers of the status of the budget, any structural deficits, and a plan to permanently address those deficits, if any; 4) present the findings of the ARPA Working Group; and 5) facilitate and support the success of the board’s recent decision to consolidate the DPW under the Water & Sewer Commissioner’s purview in order to unify the management and control of all street and sidewalk infrastructure under one person.
What do you feel will be the biggest issues facing the town in the coronavirus pandemic’s wake?
I believe that the biggest issues facing the town in the wake of the coronavirus is supporting the well-being, resilience, and mental health of all our residents.
The most practical expression of addressing these issues is the Select Board’s “Prioritization Criteria for ARPA Implementation in the Town of Marblehead” https://www.marblehead.org/sites/g/files/vyhlif4661/f/uploads/arpa_prioritization_criteria_final.pdf, which was developed to prioritize the spending of available ARPA monies.
In addition to promulgating the criteria, the ARPA Working Group has (i) assembled a very broadly inclusive list of possible projects from every quarter (departments, schools, commissions, and residents) of the town and (ii) conducted a survey asking residents to rank project preferences.
The goal of the Working Group is to present its findings of the top qualifying projects to the public and to demonstrate to residents that the selection of projects is to be based on quantitative measures and objective processes using criteria defined in advance of project selection. The town has until December 2024 to commit ARPA funds and until December 2026 to spend funds, so the ARPA Working Group will continue to evaluate and rank any new project candidates as they emerge in this time frame.
In addition to ARPA, the town worked with the Marblehead’s business community (under the technical assistance of the state’s DHCD and Housing and Economic Development offices) to lay out Marblehead’s Rapid Recovery Plan from the Coronavirus.
The Board of Health’s Mental Health Task Force was also established to provide a centralized location for the town’s mental health resources. It is doing amazing work, especially with outstanding and crucial support of the schools, to raise awareness and lower stigmatization associated with mental health issues.
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?
The residents of the town have leveled very fair criticism of the conditions of our roads and sidewalks. Over five years ago, the DPW developed a Pavement Plan with the goal of augmenting the traditional milling, grading and repaving with crack sealing, chip sealing, and microsurfacing – all technologies deployed for the first time to attempt to extend the life of our roads within the limited Chapter 90 money (about $450,000 per year) from the state. This has helped, but not materially reversed the condition of our pavement.
The town last year sponsored a consultant to conduct a comprehensive and complete review to assess the realistic cost to repair our infrastructure, which was summarized in the Pavement Management Report 2022 https://www.marblehead.org/home/news/pavement-management-presentation-2022.
The infrastructure debt exclusion override was subsequently brought forward by the Select Board this year with an eye toward (i) still low financing costs due to the town’s AAA bond rating and (ii) the high school debt service coming off the books in 2024. This means that we will continue to maintain our debt service burden to within our traditional target of less than 15 percent of the tax levy. The decision to fund a five-year override is grounded in the planning realities of a multi-year project and to issue and seek the most competitive bids for work.
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?
I believe the town has learned that we have the capacity to come together in adversity, to engage in a robust debate to build consensus on how to move forward together, and to rely on our participatory government to make our town a better place in the future.
The value of these lessons must be embedded into long-term written plans, as I described in my prior responses, involving sustained investments in durable projects, budgets, procedures, and innovation, which will benefit Marbleheaders now and our children in the future.
Marbleheaders should take pride in our response to COVID and continue their engagement, through our vibrant and distributed democratic institutions, in making and executing our plans for the future.
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?
I would rate the town’s responsiveness to the business community as very high, especially through the early initiation of Rapid Recovery Plan by the board, town administrator, and town planner.
The Town’s Rapid Recovery Plan for our businesses emphasized the following initiatives:
- Help businesses with online options
- Develop a “shop local” program
- Investigate in public spaces permanent/better designed outdoor dining and shopping.
- Allow outdoor dining permanently
- Address façade improvements, including empty storefronts
Other challenges included a lack of adjacent space for outdoor dining and retail; unfamiliarity with e-commerce and the lack of an online presence for some businesses; and no single entity that could coordinate assistance and information across all businesses. Lack of parking, especially during the typical summer season, is a perennial issue.
The Select Board understands the vital role our businesses and have also prioritized economic recovery programs for future ARPA funding and in support of the implementation of the town’s Rapid Recovery Plan.
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 the Select Board member of the Housing Production Implementation Committee (continuing the work the of the late and great Judy Jacobi), I have long been an advocate for affordable housing, which is essential to housing our public servants and to maintaining the socio-economic diversity so vital to our town’s vibrancy. The Housing Production Plan https://www.marblehead.org/sites/g/files/vyhlif4661/f/uploads/final_marblehead_hpp_for_dhcd_review_06.18.2020_1_0.pdf
lays out the challenges, analysis and the priority strategies to secure a larger affordable housing footprint, including the identification of 11 possible sites for new affordable housing.
There is also a promising new opportunity to explore the potential for affordable housing under the Multi-Family Zoning Requirement for MBTA communities like Marblehead.