Northborough – Four candidates are vying for two seats on the Northborough Board of Selectmen (BOS) in the Monday, May 14 Annual Town Election. Here, in their own words, are their bios and thoughts on four issues:
Jeff Amberson (incumbent) – Resident of Northborough for 28 years with my wife Joann and our three children. BS Business Administration – Nasson College. Senior Procurement Specialist at IRobot. Coached various youth sports teams, including volunteering as the first Freshman Lacrosse coach at Algonquin Regional High School. Past President of the Northborough Lions Club. Past Treasurer of the MetroWest Chapter of Ducks Unlimited. Northborough Conservation Commission 1994 – 2000. In 2002, received the “Distinguished Public Service Award” from Sudbury Valley Trustees for “leadership in the conservation and preservation of open space in the town of Northborough.” Elected to the BOS in 2000.
Lisa Maselli – Southborough native, graduate of Algonquin Regional High School, graduate of Quinsigamond Community College A.B. with business law minor. CEO of Design Integrity, Inc., a marketing company and Marlana Studios, photography. Community service includes: Board member; Finn Elementary, SOS, Westborough Waste Water Committee, Westborough Finance Committee, HOA Cantabria Shores, volunteer for PMC and Host family for AFS. Civic organizations: Southboro Business Association, Southborough Cultural Arts Council, Tri-Town Exchange Club, Westborough Historical Society, Westborough Players Club, and Chairwoman for American Cancer Society auction. For more information: www.lisa-maselli.com.
William Pantazis (incumbent) – Lifelong resident of Northborough. Married with six children. Owner/Operator of local business. Former head coach Star Hawk Youth Hockey Association. Former member Northborough Baseball Association. 32nd Degree Mason. Member, Aleppo Temple/Shriners. Member, United Brethen Lodge of Massachusetts. Member, Valley of Boston Scottish Rite.
Howie Stone – I am a lifelong resident, the fourth generation to live in Northborough and continue to maintain the farm that has been in my family. I have operated a successful contracting/construction business for more than 35 years, beginning with Stone Bros. Excavating that I founded with my brother and in 1979 I founded Howie Stone Backhoe & Grader Service. My most recent community service was as a member of the Solid Waste Committee, spending two years researching the needs and costs of a very important town service.
What specific career or personal experience in your past do you feel prepares you for this position and why?
Amberson – My 12 years on the BOS have been invaluable. During this time, Northborough has weathered several economic down turns while remaining in excellent financial shape. Over the past two years, while other communities watched their tax base shrink, Northborough has added $142 million in new growth. In 2012 alone, new growth accounted for $1.2 million in new tax dollars. Experience with budgeting is critical. Recently, the town received its second consecutive Government Finance Officers Association of the United States and Canada Distinguished Budget Award. This award is given for “meeting the highest principles of governmental budgeting.” Proven experience is critical, and will be as we move forward.
Maselli – Although owning my own business gives me a better understanding of how to be fiscally responsible, service-oriented and future forecasting, I have had several experiences in working with local politics. One of the more extensive experiences happened in 2000 when together with 700-plus residents of Northborough we were able to prevent a dangerous business entity from developing a corner lot in Business East just 500 feet away from an elementary school. Our final success culminated with my writing and presenting several bylaw changes that were voted in at Town Meeting. I understand how politics works.
Pantazis – As a lifelong resident and a local businessman, I believe I have my finger on the pulse of Northborough, a great place to live and raise a family. I know what Northborough was, what it is today; and what it can be in the future. As a Selectman, I have been involved in the budget process for the last nine years, and have played an integral role in bringing new business and tax revenues to town which has helped to offset the tax burden on residents; i.e., AvalonBay, A. Dui Pyle Trucking, Genzyme Corporation, Northborough Crossing, National Grid, and the new FedEx Hub. Additionally, through negotiations with town employees and retirees the town's health insurance costs have been reduced by $400,000. Despite these challenging economic times, we have kept our town in solid financial shape while sustaining all services.
Stone – If elected to the board I will bring a unique perspective to the Board of Selectmen with my expertise in construction engineering and Department of Public Works (DPW) projects. Our community deserves safe well-maintained roads and buildings. As a member of the board, I will focus attention on these issues which often don's get the attention they deserve. Managing my own contracting business for over 35 years and serving for five years as the Northborough Highway Dept. foreman has provided me with knowledge in the areas of building construction, water, sewer and septic systems, DPW projects, road construction, road grading, snow removal and sanding.
My experience and knowledge will provide the community with a selectman who knows how to get things done.
What level of involvement do you think residents should play in local politics?
Amberson – The more resident involvement, the better. Northborough has many opportunities for folks to become part of the process. Our community has over 30 boards, committees, and commissions that are made up of volunteers. We encourage participation and strive to make understanding town government easier. In 2012, Northborough was awarded the Annual Town Report First Place Award by the Massachusetts Municipal Association. This award recognizes our annual report as an “effective and informative tool in the promoting and understanding of local government.” Understanding the process and active participation are critical to making Northborough successful.
Maselli – That is a great question! They should all get more involved. It's their hard-earned tax dollar that is used to run the town. I am a firm believer in term limits, for every position. Keeping the perspective fresh helps to diversify the tool box of talented board members. We need more interested residents to come forward and “put their hat in the ring.” We also need more participation at public meeting to help those boards get guidance.
Pantazis – Selectmen are elected by the townspeople to represent their voice and to make policies and decisions in their behalf. The town of Northborough is governed by a Town Charter written by the people. An open Town Meeting is held annually where the people vote and make decisions on how their money is to be spent and on what changes they would like in the upcoming year. All selectmen's meetings are posted; are open to the residents; and include a public comment section where the people can ask questions and voice their concerns; so I believe the residents do and should play a big role in our local politics.
Stone – There is not enough involvement from the residents in local politics. We need greater participation at open Town Meeting and more people to run for our boards and committees. The form of local town government that we have in our communities is unique and open to the citizens of the town.
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?
Amberson – Northborough schools are considered among the best in the state. They are what draw many families to our community. Great schools, however do NOT mean that the rest of the community has to suffer. Careful planning is the key. While our schools are among the best, we are still able to invest in the rest of our town. Recently, we have renovated our Town Library, and built a new Senior Center. Through careful planning and communication, we have been able to support all the entities in Northborough in a responsible manner while maintaining a solid financial base.
Maselli – This is quite a lofty question. The Board of Selectmen plays the role of overseer. They set policies and give direction to the Town Administrator. Although they review the budgets, it is only after the Finance Committee has done their due diligence. There is a delicate balance between the needs of the schools and the town, the infrastructure and the tax burden. The best idea I have to help ensure equity is to be present and review the recommendations put forth by the various departments for the yearly budget requests. This is where the balance begins.
Pantazis – Communication is essential. I think what makes Northborough different from most communities is that we have excellent communication between the Board of Selectmen, the Superintendent of Schools, and the Northborough K-8 and Northborough-Southborough Regional (Algonquin) School Committees. We constantly work together in a positive atmosphere and in a relationship of trust to provide the best quality education and level of services that the people in Northborough can be proud of and deserve. We look into the future to find creative ways to sustain these services to which Northborough has grown accustomed, while keeping the town affordable at the same time.
Stone – Our school system has taken cuts to its extracurricular programs in order to help balance the town budget. I have seen the changes and challenges that have taken place throughout the years with that balancing act. As selectman I will carefully look over the budgets and keep a watchful eye on spending.
What US political figure, local or national, past or present do you admire the most and why?
Amberson – Theodore Roosevelt is considered to be one of our first conservationists. As our 26th President he created the National Forest Service and protected over 230,000,000 acres of public land. He saw the value in open space and in preserving it for future generations. Roosevelt is a great example of the benefits reaped by careful and responsible planning. Today, our country has a vast network of National Parks, Forests, and Game Preserves because Roosevelt had the insight to make sure we protected these unique national treasures. We can learn a lot from his example.
Maselli – To be honest, there really is no US political figure I admire. I started my journey into local politics because of a need to rectify a problem not because I took an overall interest in civics. Leadership is a strong calling, it requires a certain personality, and the more I learn about a person who commands the power of being a US political figure the more I realize that it is the embodiment of change and not the person we should admire.
Pantazis – Abraham Lincoln is one of my favorite politicians. He was an ordinary man from a poor family who worked hard. He was self taught; of strong character; and stood by his beliefs among which was “equality for all.” He put the capital “I” in Integrity; and brought a nation ripped apart by hatred and war to be a stronger, unified nation. One could learn a lot from such a simple man.
Stone – Senator Scott Brown, for his commitment to representing the people over the party.