Three-way battle for Westborough’s selectmen seats
Westborough – Three candidates are in contention for the two, three-year term seats on the Westborough Board of Selectmen. Voters will make their choices in the Tuesday, March 5, Annual Town Election. Here, in their own words, are the candidates’ bios and thoughts on four issues:
Tim Dodd- Tim is a life-long resident of Westborough and has served on the Board since 2007. Tim has brought forward many new ideas such as developing pie charts to show residents how their dollars are spent, working with residents to develop the Westborough Farmer’s Market, creating a tax work-off program for veterans, and developing a committee to explore pedestrian and bicycling issues. Tim earned a B.A. from American University, an M.A. from Providence College, and a Doctorate from Northeastern University. Professionally, Tim works as the local government program manager in the Executive Office for Administration and Finance.
Leigh Emery – I grew up in Westborough on my family farm off Chestnut Street. I graduated from Westborough High School in 1963 and New England Deaconess School of Nursing in ’66; later earned a BS and Master’s in pediatric nursing from Boston College. I volunteered in the Peace Corps from 1968 to ’70 in Iran and worked on archeological digs in Mexico for 4 years before returning to a hospital nursing and administrative career. After 30 years at UMass Medical School in clinical, administrative, research, and senior leadership positions, I retired last year to take a position as a school nurse giving me the summers off to assist my two sons on returning our farm to a productive purveyor of organic produce. My husband of 33 years, Timothy Buckalew, is an arbitrator and serves on the Conservation Commission. He was active in scout leadership during our sons’ school years.
Stephen Faris – I was born in Fall River, Mass. and graduated from Durfee High School. From there I went on to graduate from U. Mass. Dartmouth with a BSEE Degree in 1967. I also did graduate work at Northeastern University on specialized courses.
After graduating from U. Mass., I worked in the semi-conductor industry for 40 years for such companies as Honeywell, Digital Equipment, Texas
Instruments and Intel. In these roles, I was an electrical engineer, project manager and consultant. Presently, I perform contract services with various high tech companies.
During these years, my wife and I raised three children. We lived in Southborough for over 20 years. My children attended Southborough schools and Algonquin Regional High School. We have lived in Westborough on Ruggles St. for the past 12 years.
What specific career or personal experience in your past do you feel prepares you for this position and why?
Dodd – Since 2011, I have worked as the local government program manager in the Executive Office for Administration and Finance. In this capacity, I manage over $7 million in grant funds to encourage innovations at the municipal level. I have learned a great deal about how other towns are using technology to better communicate with residents, how they are sharing equipment with their neighbors, and how they are making their delivery of services more efficient. Additionally, I have learned about all facets of municipal service delivery from public safety to public works.
Emery – I served ten years on the Advisory Finance Committee, three consecutive terms on the BOS since 2004 and was elected chair of each several times. I served two terms on the Open Space Committee and was the BOS liaison to the Waste Water Treatment Plant Board from the planning stages for the upgraded facility through completion of the project.
During 30 years at UMass Medical School I managed multimillion dollar budgets, directed work forces of over 400 people, and negotiated and allocated budgets among complex service departments.
I work hard and thoughtfully, listen to and respect all sides of arguments, independently verify facts, and am willing to take tough stands on controversial issues.
Faris – At Texas Instruments I was the project manager on a Chip Development with two of TI’s key customers. First, I needed to gain the confidence of these key customers. We proved that TI could meet their very tight technical specification, cost goals and delivery dates. Then after winning the business for TI, I was assigned as the project manager/lead engineer. After much hard work we met the technical specifications, cost targets and delivery dates. This work required close co-ordination with the customers’ engineers, TI engineers and other third party companies. I was able to get this divergent group of engineers to work together and produce a successful chip development. This also required me to deliver on time and in budget with reduced resources.
Today, the town of Westborough is facing a similar problem. Financial resources are constrained but we would like to maintain our schools and town services. We need to do more with less. As in the TI Project, I will need to work with the proper town leadership to insure we meet the technical requirements, cost goals, and delivery dates.
What level of involvement do you think residents should play in local politics?
Dodd – Residents should be involved in their local government, but citizen involvement is a two way street and local governments owe it to residents to facilitate discussions and provide opportunities for them to provide input to town officials. I am proud of work that I’ve done to provide more information to residents through the development of a committee liaison program, proposing a customer service review, and working to enhance our web presence. If re-elected, I plan to propose an innovation council to bring town residents and officials together to talk about making government as efficient as possible.
Emery – I think all voters should be involved in “the total complex of relations between people living in society” that makes Westborough one of Money Magazine’s top 100 places to live. Involvement could be as simple as choosing one committee, becoming familiar with their work or as complicated as serving on an elected board. We always need new volunteers to fill vacancies.
Concerned about taxes? Get involved in the budget process from the beginning and prepare for the Annual Town Meeting. One can do this by following the BOS, the School Committee, and Advisory Finance Committee meetings, and learning about how the town is financed.
Faris – As I have said on my website (http://sfarus.wix.com/stephen-faris), we need more of our voters to participate in town government. Our voters need education on the important issues facing the town. I would encourage people to serve on boards, study the articles presented at Town Meeting, and vote at Town Meeting. In addition, they can attend board meetings to get an understanding of the issues. If they cannot attend the meetings, they can watch the cable TV saved versions on the town website. Presently, only a small number of our voters attend Town Meeting.
In many towns, the school budget is 50% or more of the overall budget. What ideas do you have that will help ensure equity, so that the needs of the schools as well as the town will be met?
Dodd – A good public school system benefits everyone and enhances the quality of life in a community, but its cost should be balanced with that of the town as a whole. A few years ago, I proposed a “tri board” to bring together the Selectmen, School Committee, and Finance Committee to jointly discuss budget issues as they impact all aspects of the town. Many other towns have seen savings by sharing resources between both the town and school departments. If re-elected, I hope to work with my colleagues to explore ways that the town and school departments can share services.
Emery – The board set a goal of keeping the property tax increase to 2 percent (versus 2.5 percent over fiscal year 2013.
No one likes to pay taxes, but our citizens get a pretty good deal with the needs of the Town met with about 25 percent of the (approximate) $8,000 tax bill for a single family home, most of that dedicated to Police, Fire and DPW. The rest, 75 percent, funds the schools.
The selectmen give the school a framework, asking them to maintain their budget; this year it was an increase of $1,000,000, they came in with an increase around $1,400,000. The board has no authority over their budget; however, we will be reviewing it and will vote on a recommendation to Town Meeting.
Faris – The school budget is over 77 percent of the total expenses. We need to get the state to pay for more of the expenses required by our school system. Also, we need to do a better job of monitoring resources and controlling expenses to insure we continue our high school standards. This will require creative ideas on doing more with less.
What US political figure, local or national, past or present, do you admire the most and why?
Dodd- John Adams. A true son of Massachusetts, he was called to public service to use his considerable talents to help found our country. The Massachusetts Constitution, authored by Adams and world’s oldest functioning written constitution, is a testament to how he used his professional background and understanding of the world around him to develop a document that has stood the test of time. Adams did not impress his contemporaries with flourishing rhetoric or his ability to work a room, but his work ethic and dedication to his country are examples for us today.
Emery – It is impossible to choose one for what they stood for, accomplished, and exemplified. Figures I admire: John Adams for his influence on American political thought; Abraham Lincoln for standing fast to keep the Union and abolish slavery; John Kennedy for inspiring me to join the Peace Corps; Jimmy Carter for the work that won him the Nobel Peace Prize; Karen Polito for her example of public service and passion for being an accessible constituent advocate and Barbara Jordan for courage, integrity, pioneering civil rights and fair work advocacy, and her ability to inspire through speech.
Faris – President Ronald Reagan is my most admired political figure. When Reagan took office, the economic system of our country had double digit inflation and interest rates. The government was controlling our economy and growth had slowed to near zero. Reagan, provided leadership to reverse the poor economic performance by appointing people that promoted a capitalist society while insuring a safety net for those that needed it. For example, the Fed raised interest rates and the growth of small business was promoted. This action resulted in a robust economic system that lifted the lower and middle class to higher income levels without inflation.
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