Profiles – Candidates for Shrewsbury Board of Selectmen
Shrewsbury – Three candidates will be on the ballot for two seats on the Board of Selectmen in the Tuesday, May 6 Annual Town Election. Here, in their own words, are the bios and answers to four questions from two of the candidates, both incumbents, Henry Fitzgerald and Maurice DePalo. The third candidate, Benjamin Tartaglia, chose not to comment for this feature.
Maurice DePalo – is the property/maintenance manager at Alternatives, a nonprofit that provides services to adults with psychiatric and developmental disabilities. His wife Barbara teaches in Shrewsbury Public Schools. DePalo has been chair of the Board of Selectmen for five separate terms.? He co-chaired both the 2007 and 2013 Fiscal Study Committees, and was a member of the High School/ Middle School Building Committee. In addition, he is the current regional representative to the Central Mass Metropolitan Planning Commission, which plans and allocates state and federal road funds. He holds a Business Management degree from Worcester State University.
Henry Fitzgerald – is the current chair of the Board of Selectmen. Highlights of his distinguished community service include; elected Town Meeting Member – 29 yrs, School Building Committee Chair and Member – 20 years and co-chair of the 2013 Fiscal Study Committee.? Fitzgerald is the current owner of a small consulting business after having spent a long career as an executive at Genzyme Corporation. Fitzgerald currently is a member of Dean's Council of Academic Advisors to the WPI School of Business and is a WPI Trustee. He has lived in Shrewsbury with his wife Jean for 37 years and has two adult children.
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 also have gained valuable experience dealing with government regulations. 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 – Selectmen make critical decisions on behalf of the community and as such you must trust they can make quality decisions. I have been in key leadership positions throughout my professional and public career. I led the engineering and operations organizations at Genzyme from a start-up to a mature company, was chairman of numerous successful school building projects and currently serve a Chairman of the Board of Selectmen. I take seriously my stewardship as Trustee at WPI and this community.? I have demonstrated that I have both the skill and experience to have earned your trust.
?If you could eliminate Proposition 2-1/2 would you? Why or why not?
DePalo – I would not eliminate Prop. 2-1/2. Although Shrewsbury has always been fiscally conservative, Prop. 2-? forces a yearly scrutiny of all municipal expenditures. The provisions for town wide votes on major spending projects and budget increases outside the levy ensure voter participation in deciding how and if government spending will increase.? I do think that the law should be reviewed to see if some changes could be made to address the current cost drivers (health insurance, pensions, and retiree health insurance) which were not as significant issues when the law was originally passed.
Fitzgerald – I would not eliminate Prop. 2-1/2 but I would modify it. Prop. 2-1/2 had the desired effect on those communities that had large annual property tax increases. That was not the case in Shrewsbury where our tax rate was low and where we had strong fiscally conservative leadership. The last decade of continued underfunded state mandates, rising health care costs and pension catch up have created inherit costs that exceed our ability to live within the limits of Prop. 2-1/2.? Either modify the limits of Prop. 2-1/2 or eliminate underfunded mandates.
?What do you think is the most significant problem facing your community? What do you think should be done short-term and long-term to change it?
DePalo– The most significant issue facing Shrewsbury is the lack of revenue growth within the constraints of Prop. 2-1/2. As I wrote in the 2013 Fiscal Study Report, “there are no viable or realistic alternatives to reduce the expenditures of the town government.” Also, there are no alternatives within the levy limit to raise revenues for the operating budget. Therefore, to maintain the current level of services and properly fund education, I believe an override is necessary. Long term, funding for education and other local aid by the state must be changed and the retiree health insurance law must be reformed.
Fitzgerald – Shrewsbury has primarily a revenue issue. The Fiscal Study Committee concluded the town has done virtually all it can to manage expenses amidst a backdrop of diminished state aid. It distresses me that our schools are not providing the same level of educational opportunities that my children benefited from. ?Our public safety and works departments are stretched and remain close to their staffing levels of the early 1990's even though our current population is 50 percent greater. I will support an operational override. Longer term I will strive for greater commercial development and our fair share of state aid.
?What person in your life has had the most impact on you and why?
?DePalo – The most influential person in my live was my father. He passed on a lot of technical knowledge, and to think about possibilities and follow your dreams. He demonstrated through his actions, the power of lifelong learning. His success in life was not so much financial, his ability to identify trends, learn the subject matter and apply it in real life. Finally and probably most importantly, he taught me that being honest, treating people fairly and with compassion, was a good way to go through life.
Fitzgerald – While there are many who have impacted my life the person who has had the greatest effect has been my wife Jean. Jean and I have shared ups and downs in our personal lives and careers but she is always there to support me in whatever I chose to do. She is passionate in her beliefs, sets her standards high and works incredibly hard. Most of all she has compassion for those less fortunate and those who put forth effort to try to accomplish their goals. She adds balance to my life.