ELECTION: One spot open in Westborough Board of Selectmen race

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Ian Johnson and Gary Wells

Ian P. Johnson – Lifelong Westborough resident and 1985 graduate of Westborough High. Eckerd College graduate and Masters Degree in Finance from Boston College. Married with a seven-year-old son. Nine-year member of Advisory Finance Committee. Vice President/Head of Investment Operations for Pyramis Global Advisors, a Fidelity Investments company.

Gary P. Wells – Born in Westborough in 1953, a graduate of Westborough High 1971, homeowner and resident of Grafton since 1979, resumed residency in Westborough in 2008. I have been married now for 16 years with no children. Professionally, I have a 35-year career in the CNC Machine Tool Industry.

What specific career or personal experience in your past do you feel prepares you for this position and why?

IJ – Spending the past nine years as a member of the Advisory Finance Committee provides me with invaluable insight into the financial operations of the town. At a time when increasing property taxes are the top issue facing residents of Westborough, having an in depth knowledge of the full financial picture of the town will allow me to help make strategic and tactical decisions in the best interest of the taxpayers. Having met with each department and committee head over the past nine years also provides me with a detailed understanding of the duties performed and issues faced by each department.

GW – My experience is primarily business oriented with 20 years in a corporate environment and 15 years as a business owner; this is my first foray into the public sector. While my background is electro-mechanical engineering, through the years my career diverged into management, sales, marketing, customer service and corporate relationships. As a business owner and employer I have had to deal with budgets, balance sheets, profit and losses, credit issues, financial forecasts, human resource, insurance and legal matters, all while providing leadership and direction for my company along with customer relations.

What level of involvement do you think residents should play in local politics?

IJ – Active participation of residents in town government is essential to its operation. Westborough enjoys one of the purest forms of democracy, the open Town Meeting. This political format allows all residents to play an active role in the management of the town, including the approval of all fiscal spending that ultimately impacts the level of taxation. Residents are provided with other opportunities to get involved via the various volunteer positions on boards, committees, and commissions. The more involved residents are, the more informed they become which leads to a better town for all.

GW – In a perfect world all residents would be fully engaged on all issues, in the real world people become passionate and involved usually only when the issue at hand affects them directly. In a general election we often have to vote for the bigger picture, conversely, in a town environment, citizens have the unique opportunity to be directly involved through the town meeting process, free to express their opinions and cast their votes on issues that directly affect them more on a day-to-day basis.

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?

IJ – The tradition and success of the Westborough schools is extremely important to the town and its residents. A strong school system elevates property values and attracts business to the town. It is important, however, to maintain a proper balance between the schools and the other town departments. In order to ensure equity, I would encourage tri-board meetings between the Board of Selectmen, School Committee, and Advisory Finance Committee to openly discuss priorities, issues, and potential resolutions, while still allowing each committee their charter-directed independence.

GW – Philosophically I believe the school budget should not exceed 50% of the town's operating budget. The town must provide for all of its citizens and dedicating more than 50% of the resources to a small segment of the town's population is by definition an unfair practice. In reality this may not always be possible, but exceeding that 50% margin should occur rarely and with good cause, with definable end results. While it is the responsibility of the community to provide a comprehensive education for all of its children, this does not mean at all costs, or where those costs are detrimental to the majority of the population.

What US political figure, local or national, past or present, do you admire the most and why?

IJ – Former State Representative Karyn Polito exemplified the qualities that I'se come to admire from a local public servant. I had the opportunity to attend many Westborough events, such as Eagle Scout Court of Honors, Cultural Council award presentations, and many others and Karyn was always there. She also sent frequent communications and updates to all local officials making the work being done in the State House more transparent. Effective communication and accessibility were two of her most admirable qualities which are qualities that I will try to emulate as a Westborough Selectman.

GW – I admire both Tip O”Neil and Ronald Regan, a true odd couple of politics. Speaker O”Neil understood, “all politics are local,” he had the talent to be the man next door to everyone. President Regan, who was “the great communicator,” had the ability to speak to, and for, all of us as one. While these men were on opposite sides politically and battled fiercely during the day, they understood how to put their differences aside at the end of the day. Together they accomplish both legislation and direction for the country in ways that have benefited all of us.