Two spots open in Shrewsbury Board of Selectmen race

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Four candidates are vying for two seats on the Shrewsbury Board of Selectmen this spring. Here, in their own words, are their bios and thoughts on four issues –

Maurice DePalo (Incumbent) – Selectman Maurice DePalo is a 6-term selectman and has chaired the board on four occasions. He has been a Town Meeting Member since 1992. He is currently the Property Manager at Alternatives, Inc. He holds a Business Management degree from Worcester State College.

Henry J. Fitzgerald – 58, has been an elected Town Meeting Member since 1985 and School Building Committee Chairman for the past 17 years. His professional career included VP Operations, Genzyme, and Director in the MetroWest Chamber of Commerce. Henry was the recipient of the 2010 “Business Leader of the Year” award.

George J. Smith – I's George Smith and my family and I have lived in Shrewsbury for 15 years. I'se worked in the high tech industry for 35 years, the last 11 years at Extreme Networks as a senior engineer. I'se served as an alternate Zoning Board and Town Meeting Member for several years.

Benjamin W. Tartaglia, Sr. (Incumbent) – My wife of 46 years, Lillian, and I have lived in Shrewsbury for 35 years. Our three sons attended Shrewsbury Public Schools. I have an MBA, a BS in Industrial Management and Doctoral studies in management. I am founding Chair of Seniors for Responsible Taxation. My experience includes manufacturing, healthcare, insurance, banking, retail, education, 10 years teaching MBA and undergraduate college classes, multi-million-dollar budgets and managing 50 people, and, now, thanks to the voters, Municipal.

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

DePalo – I have extensive private sector experience in dealing with people and large budgets. Through that I learned how to interact with the public and how to make difficult, but necessary, decisions. Due to my tenure on the Board of Selectmen I have been through multiple budget cycles, so I know how the budget comes together. I have learned how to build consensus, which is critical in decision making. I learned early on in life that people need to be treated with respect and dignity.

Fitzgerald – I have a strong and balanced business and civic background of demonstrated leadership ability. I was Vice President, Operations at Genzyme Corporation with responsibility for worldwide capital projects and significant expense budgets. I have also been a Director in the MetroWest Chamber of Commerce, Chairman of the School Building Committee for the past 17 years, President of our youth soccer program, and have been an elected Town Meeting Member since 1985. In all these leadership positions I have tackled tough issues, encouraged discussion of different points of view and led us to consensus on the best alternative.

Smith – My career as an engineer has prepared me to be a problem solver. My job is to see all the possible ways to approach problems and using my knowledge and best judgment, come up with the best possible answer. Through the years I'se had to work with various departments simultaneously to resolve issues. I'se gained experience on how to work well with others and draw upon their strengths and knowledge to find solutions. I will use these skills to help our community resolve our problems.

Tartaglia – I worked for and with the best executives in the country. Their combined guidance gave me a unique management perspective. In 30 plus years experience, I held management and consulting positions in large and small, private, public, state and nonprofi t organizations. I managed multi-million-dollar-budgets and 50 subordinates. Community work includes: three years Seniors for Responsible Taxation; three years Board of Selectmen; seven years with Jaycees and president of professional associations. I have owned and operated 3 small businesses.

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

DePalo – I believe that residents should be as involved as possible, particularly by voting. Although decisions at the local level probably have the most direct effect on everyday quality of life issues, voter turnout in local elections is very low. I encourage people to apply to work on one of the many town boards and commissions or run for Town Meeting Member. I encourage residents to engage in discussions with public offi cials. Government works best when transparent, so individual involvement is important. Just attending or watching the televised public meetings is a great start.

Fitzgerald – As a responsible citizen, I would hope that our residents would take the time to understand the issues, know key elected officials and exercise their right to vote at each election. I would also hope that residents would want to give back to the community in some manner such as volunteering where practical to support key organizations and committees. Everyone can participate in some manner such as a member of a PTO to recognized political leagues and organizations such as the League of Women Voters. It is our community involvement that keeps us informed, organized and sustainable.

Smith – We in Shrewsbury are fortunate to have a passionate, informed and involved citizenry. I would hope we would be able to use this local knowledge and skills base to help guide our local government. It is through an informed and active citizenry that we will be able to jointly solve the problems that face us. No one person or board has all the answers. We live in a wonderful town and working together we will ensure that it stays that way.

Tartaglia – Residents should keep informed regarding town issues; they should speak to their neighbors and request information from town offi cials; they should form their own opinion, making those opinions known; they should write letters to the editors and commentaries; they should hold officials responsible; and most importantly, they should VOTE for those candidates best representing their considered views.

In many towns, the school budget is 50 percent 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?

DePalo – Clearly we see competing interests for funding. We need to continue to fight against unfunded mandates, which continue to drive costs. Both school and municipal administrations need to do more work on creating operating efficiencies. Regionalization is another way to save on costs that are duplicated in each community. Although our budgets are put together responsibly, we need to continue to budget for needs, not wants.

Fitzgerald – I believe that our town has the responsibility to provide basic services as our top priority. As citizens we should want and expect that we give equal priority to educating our children, keeping us safe and maintaining our infrastructure. With those as our priority, it may mean that expenses that fall out of those general guides may have to be reduced in scope and budget to ensure the main priorities are maintained. By keeping focused on our priorities it will ensure that the proper balance is maintained from both a school and town budget perspective.

Smith – Whether it's the school or municipal departments, they all contribute to making Shrewsbury a great place to live. Both school and municipal departments should break down their budget requests into three basic areas: must do, should do, and nice to have. We need all departments to prioritize their needs into these three categories. It is our duty as part of town government to divide each department's budget based on its functioning necessity first. Then improvements and updating would be next. Any excess would be for used for any superfluous items.

Tartaglia – I believe the educational model needs modification. The School budget is 70% personnel costs. The town cannot sustain the annual growth in school expenses. Controlling school personnel costs, while providing a good education, is the challenge. We need the creative efforts of our professional education and administration staff to meet that challenge. Factors include: educational technology advances, decreasing student population and funding other town departments. The plan must address short, medium and long range needs.

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

DePalo – I admire Abraham Lincoln. He was able to articulate and implement difficult policy decisions that shaped the country. He was inclusionary in his decision making and willing to listen to opposing points of view. He also had the determination and courage to see things through.

Fitzgerald – The person I admire most is Abraham Lincoln, our sixteenth president. He put the priorities of the nation ahead of the desires of others and in doing so not only saved this nation but made it a great society in the process. He did not compromise on his moral and ethical base but extended it to the nation for which we are profoundly grateful.

Smith – The political figure I admire most is John Adams. He had no intention of entering into politics, but had the driving passion to help this country gain its independence. His creative thinking and open mindedness laid the basis for our form of government today. He had a great enthusiasm and was a tremendous advocate and champion of freedom. He became president because he so loved this country and he wanted to serve the people of the United States. I'se always admired his altruistic spirit when it comes to public service.

Tartaglia – George Washington (obvious); Abraham Lincoln (obvious); Harry (give “em hell) Truman (saved millions of American lives); Dwight Eisenhower (WWII service and interstate highway system); Barry Goldwater (true conservative); Richard Nixon (got us off gold standard and China relations); Ronald Reagan (Berlin Wall and collapsed Soviet Union); William Clinton (surplus budget); Bush “41 (WWII pilot and CIA Chief, 1st Gulf War, and sky diving at 80); and “Tip” O”Neil (true Democrat and classy).