The same group that organized the Candidate Forum with Mansfield Cable Access also put together a questionnaire to be filled out by candidates. Responses were collected by April 22, but as of April 30, have not yet been released. In the interest of ensuring voters have ample time to read our responses to make an informed decision on May 9, I am sharing my responses here.
(Click on a question to expand the answer.)
I went to Northeastern University, where I studied Sociology. I’ve worked in IT for the past 14 years, helping e-commerce companies automate workflows and improve their security postures.
Even outside of work, I’m still very technology-focused. I’ve volunteered with US Digital Response, a nonprofit group that helps governments, nonprofits, and other public entities implement technology solutions to help address critical public needs. I have a strong interest in smart home tech and home automation, and enjoy taking my drone out for flights (far away from Mansfield Airport, don’t worry). I have also been dabbling in woodworking, learning how to use a CNC router and laser engraver.
I’ve been an avid attendee of Select Board meetings for years, and have become very familiar with many of the topics and issues the Board discusses. I don’t think there’s any one issue in particular that inspired me, I’m mostly just interested in helping to drive engagement with residents and ensuring everyone knows what’s going on. I also want to help represent the residents of West Mansfield, which does not currently have any residents on the Select Board, to ensure that the needs and issues experienced on this side of town are getting attention.
I think one of the biggest issues right now is probably how we can continue to grow as a town. We need to continue to attract businesses to our industrial park, and to liven up our downtown area.
We have a lot of great, local businesses on North Main, which you love to see, but it’s hardly the “vibrant” or “thriving downtown” we hear about. These mom-and-pop businesses all serve important roles and contribute to our community and to our tax base, but if we’re looking to attract people to our downtown area and anchor commuters here after they get off the train at night, we need more restaurants and more variety.
We also have a top-notch industrial park (the second largest in the Commonwealth), but unfortunately it’s currently got a number of vacancies – over half a million sq ft of available flex/warehouse space (including the former Amazon distribution center), plus a number of office spaces.
Our Town Manager and our Economic Development Director are doing great work on this front, and as a member of the Select Board, I would work with them and do what I can to help attract more businesses to Mansfield to create more jobs in town and bring in more tax dollars to help reduce the residential tax burden.
I respect all of our candidates and board members and appreciate the time and energy they put into everything they already do for our town, and think our diverse range of experiences
One unique thing I bring to the table is a background in IT and technology. The upper levels of our Town government currently don’t have anyone with a strong tech background like mine, having worked in IT for over a decade. Technology is becoming more and more critical and engrained in all facets of our day-to-day, and we need someone who speaks that language and can help ensure that we’re spending the right money on the right things. One of the most critical skills in the IT field is the ability to solve complex problems while partnering with many different interested parties, and I plan to apply that collaborative problem solving mindset on the Select Board.
Over the past few years, I’ve also been the most frequent audience member at Select Board meetings. I’ve attended countless meetings of the Select Board and other committees and subcommittees, asking questions, seeking clarification, and making suggestions. My time at these meetings, working on elections, and sitting on the two boards I’m on have also let me meet and build relationships with people in many different departments within Town Hall, as well as with our state-level representatives.
I’m just an engaged, active resident with a vested interest in making sure that this town continues to flourish. I’m not a career politician, and I don’t aspire to become one – I have no future goals of running for any state or federal positions. My sole interest in this campaign is in serving the Town of Mansfield and its residents.
The most important thing is that residents and community groups know that they’re always welcome at the biweekly Select Board meetings. Whether they speak during one of the two Resident Comment opportunities every meeting, or get some time scheduled on the agenda to talk about their group, initiatives, concerns, etc., everyone is welcome to attend and speak up at these meetings. The groups can also invite the Select Board to their own meetings.
How can a board best communicate with residents? Do you think that we are currently doing those things?
Various members of the Select Board post updates on their Facebook pages, and the Town Manager and his staff post regular updates on Facebook and the Town website, and just started publishing a monthly newsletter. Important meetings are also advertised on electronic signs around town. I think it’s important to meet folks where they are, and social media is a great outlet for that.
That said, not everyone in Town is on Facebook or regularly checks the Town website. I’d like to see additional outreach options, such as publishing videos on YouTube (which can be more easily found and shared than videos on the Mansfield Cable Access website), as well as regular in-person sessions from the Town Manager, department heads, and Select Board members at the Council on Aging.
What infrastructure capital expenditures should Mansfield make now to make us stronger in five years?
We need to start preparing for the impending needs of our school buildings. This was one of the Top Concerns for the Future listed in the Master Planning document. Over the past few years, we’ve invested heavily in retrofitting some of the school buildings with new HVAC systems and other upgrades, but we should take a broader look at whether the existing facilities can meet projected needs and determine what new buildings or further enhancements to existing buildings are needed.
By being proactive and starting to plan for a large-scale project like this, it will allow us to seek out grants and other funding opportunities, and to start setting aside money so we can hopefully avoid a tax override to pay for a new building, like we had for the Public Safety complex. This will be a large undertaking that will involve a wide range of departments and boards, including the School Committee and Superintendent, the Finance Committee, and the Municipal Building Committee, among others.
I would also like to look at building a parking garage at the Commuter Rail station to remove the need for almost 15 acres of Mansfield’s prime real estate to be devoted to asphalt parking lots, which go almost unused on weekends and holidays, and contribute to heat island effect in the warmer months. Rather than relying on commercial developers to build and manage a structure, the Town should work to do this in a way that fits the desired aesthetic and goals of the area, while also continuing as a revenue source for the Town.
Diversity, inclusion, and belonging are topics that come up frequently. What does that mean to you? How do you see incorporating those principles as a Select Board member?
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion are concepts that are important to me. In my professional life, I have tried to be a strong advocate for under-represented communities. I’ve fought for stronger protections and benefits for LGBTQ+ coworkers and leveraged my position in IT to ensure that cultural differences in names and naming conventions are respected in corporate systems.
In a municipal environment, there are additional challenges. Ensuring everyone has an equal voice is important, and as a Select Board, it’s important to ensure that policies and changes don’t have a disproportionate or unintended impact on any part of our community.
It’s also important to recognize one’s own blindspots, and to listen to others with a different lived experience. The Town’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee unfortunately has yet to meet, but is tasked with drafting a report of findings and recommendations with guidance on topics that need to be addressed in town. I would look to renew the committee past their initial one-year charge, currently set to expire in June, and make this a permanent Committee (which should meet regularly).
Mansfield has experienced a prolonged situation with the police chief Sellon being on paid leave. As a new member of the Select Board, what would be your goals in this area and do you feel the taxpayers deserve resolution?
This is a very costly, ongoing issue that I’m very interested in seeing a resolution to as a taxpayer. However, as it’s a Human Resources issue, there are certain constraints on how much information can be shared with the public. As a Select Board member, I would seek to meet with the Town Manager and other relevant parties to gain a full understanding of the situation, and the potential paths to resolution. I have read the redacted version of the report that was released, and would also read the unredacted version to further my understanding. As mentioned by the Town Manager at a recent Select Board meeting, there is an ongoing mediation process that I’m hoping will be resolved soon.
Economic Development: One of the hottest topics in MA communities, what do you see as some items Mansfield can do to attract business?
I would work with the Economic Development Director, Chris McDermott, to help identify service gaps affecting our area. We don’t necessarily want to try and attract competition for existing business operating in town, and where possible, should seek a diverse base of businesses to help mitigate downturns in specific industries. We should look for unique businesses that can’t be found in adjacent towns, as well.
Grants or incentives for small, town-owned businesses could also be an avenue to explore, along with possible relocation incentives for existing businesses in town that may be better-suited to other parts of town.
The proposals from the Planning Board for the MBTA and TOD districts should help create new commercial spaces near the Commuter Rail station, and it’s important that we convince the future property owners to build for the kinds of businesses we need in this area. How many of the available retail spaces in the downtown area have the necessary accommodations for food service? Building in necessary infrastructure like grease traps and adequate ventilation, and amenities like patio space, will help prospective restaurant tenants get going quickly without having to retrofit these things into existing spaces.
I’m not an expert on this topic, though, and I would partner with the Economic Development Director, Planning Director, and others to support them in their ongoing endeavors in this space. It would be important to learn what has already been tried, what’s been considered but not actioned and why, and work together to come up with new ideas, while working to remove any roadblocks getting in the way of current initiatives.