Shrewsbury – Three candidates will be on the ballot for two seats on the Board of Selectmen in the Tuesday, June 16 Annual Town Election. The Community Advocate has invited the candidates to share a bit about their backgrounds and why they are running for selectmen. Here, in their own words, are the answers from the candidates – incumbents Beth Casavant and Maurice DePalo, as well as challenger Benjamin Tartaglia.
Please give a brief introductory statement on your background.
Beth Casavant (Incumbent) – My husband and I chose to move to Shrewsbury with our two daughters in the fall of 2008, attracted to this well-run, close-knit community with excellent schools. Since then I have been committed to doing my part to add value to the community serving as a Town Meeting Member, a Library Trustee, and a PTO President. I have been involved with many campaigns aimed at improving and investing in our community, most recently Community Supporters for Beal, which I co-chaired. I am currently a board member of the Shrewsbury Rotary Club and a Trustee for Framingham State University.
Maurice DePalo (Incumbent) – I am currently the Chair of the Board of Selectmen and Town Meeting member from Precinct two. As a Selectman, I’ve served on many town and state committees. Currently, I am a representative to the Central Mass Metropolitan Organization which allocates federal road funds locally.
I grew up in town, attended Shrewsbury public schools, and graduated from Worcester State College with a business administration degree. Last year, I retired as the property manager at Open Sky Community Services, a nonprofit serving people with psychiatric and developmental disabilities. My wife Barbara is a retired Shrewsbury teacher. We are the proud parents of two children and grandparents of five grandchildren.
Benjamin Tartaglia – Lillian, my wife of 55 years, and I have lived in Shrewsbury for 43 years. Our three sons and five grandchildren attended schools here. In 2006 I became chairman of “Seniors for Responsible Taxation (SRT),” a grass roots citizens group dedicated to advocating for senior citizens, young families and those of modest means regarding town financial policies, fees and taxes. Our SRT motto is “Living Within Our Means”. In 2008 I joined the Board of Selectmen (BOS). Currently, I’m a Town Meeting Member. On the Senior Center “Operations Improvement Committee” I supported handicapped rest room safety and automatic doors. I worked with the Shrewsbury Credit Union obtaining the Senior Center lobby television.
What do feel in your experience would make you the best candidate for this position?
Casavant – My first term on the Board of Selectmen was spent understanding the complexities of the position, working collaboratively with my colleagues and our new town manager, and finding ways to improve communication with residents. If re-elected, I will leverage my experience to continue leading Shrewsbury in a fiscally responsible manner given the financial challenges related to the pandemic. I am a problem-solver and have displayed a balanced and consistent approach when making important decisions. Working together with other stakeholders is critical to navigate a landscape changed by COVID-19, and I possess the temperament to do so effectively.
DePalo – My professional background has provided me broad business experience, from management to finance, construction and more. Through my private sector work and selectman’s experience, I’ve acquired the skillset to develop and implement a vision, lead diverse groups and develop consensus. I possess a long history of accomplishments for our town. While I respect precedent, I advocate for positive change and will lead to achieve it. I practice lifelong learning and continuous improvement which leads to innovation and openness to new ideas. Most importantly, I care for people and am empathetic to their situations. It is the basis of everything I do.
Tartaglia – My professional experience has been helping organizations to better manage their resources using technical and management tools. My education includes an MBA in Information Systems and BS in Industrial Management. I also studied engineering at Northeastern University and Business at Stonehill College. For 30 years I worked in manufacturing, healthcare, insurance, banking, state government and education environments as an employee and independent consultant. I have directed 50 people through direct reports and managed multi-million dollar budgets. I created three small businesses: Independent Consulting, National Conferences and Office Services.
What committees would you most enjoy working with if you were selected for this position and why?
Casavant – In Shrewsbury, we maintain our public buildings and renovate or replace them when they have surpassed their useful life. If re-elected I want to be involved with bringing forth a police station building project that meets the needs of our growing community. The current police station is no longer sufficient and other buildings in town have been prioritized to take advantage of state funding and grant money. It is beyond time to look critically at the police station and address space and programmatic needs and to understand if there is a path forward for a new building given the financial challenges caused by the pandemic.
DePalo – My first committee choice always is a building committee. Due to my background, I enjoy getting into the nuts and bolts of construction projects. I enjoy the dynamics of working collaboratively with various professionals and contractors, as a team, to get the project completed. Beyond that, I have enjoyed serving on any committee involving finance and planning. I like to step back and look at an issue from the 10,000 foot level, but also to get down into the details to understand how we got there. I research issues to learn as much as I can to be knowledgeable on the subject.
Tartaglia – I’m open to working on any committee that would effectively utilize my experience including my service on the BOS as a Town Meeting Member. My interest areas include restoring Jordan Pond to its former glory. Constructing 100 units for Housing Authority tenants. Changing the form of government from a town to a city. Enacting term limits. Electing the Finance committee. Determining the alternatives to using our town wells for drinking water. Finally, a committee to examine high-quality alternative educational delivery systems. Serving our senior citizens.
What is the primary problem you feel the town is facing and what do you think should be done to rectify it?
Casavant – The primary problem facing Shrewsbury is the financial impact from the COVID-19 pandemic. Prior to this crisis we were grappling with a revenue shortfall impacting our municipal departments and schools. COVID-19 further complicates an already difficult budget year, creating lasting impacts that will challenge us for years to come. This economic downturn is unlike anything we have seen before. The full impact on town budgets will depend upon how much funding we receive in state aid and how much less funding we generate from local receipts. If re-elected, I will work with my colleagues and the town manager to make decisions about the budget that prioritize public safety, our schools, and maintaining our infrastructure.
DePalo – The most pressing problem before us is the COVID-19 crisis financial impact. The town manager and selectmen have been working on the two to five year budget plan and the related financial impact of opening the new Beal School. The COVID-19 crisis has changed the focus from long range to immediate, as FY21 budget preparation is delayed pending state revenue projections. Dealing with this severe economic slowdown requires operational changes based upon what we are learning during this crisis. We need to develop new ways to deliver services while maintaining the same service levels. Most importantly, we need to study and implement new approaches for administering town government.
Tartaglia – The most frequently asked question I receive is, “Why don’t we have term limits?” Another is the increasing use of vendors for services. An overriding problem is the overreaching by unelected regulators. What is the plan for when our ash landfill is at capacity? How can we increase our North South traffic flow? What is happening with the mystery road through the land between Main Street and Maple Ave? How will all the vacant office space along Route 9 affect our commercial development? Determining the toxic land in Shrewsbury?