Experience is important when juggling all of the complex issues that face Amherst.
I have over 20 years of experience in serving our town as a volunteer on a number of boards and committees.
I currently serve on the Select Board, having been elected in 2014. My major areas of focus on the Select Board have been:
* Ensuring continuity for our town after the tragic death of our Town Manager, John Musante.
* Financial management oversight through the Budget Coordinating Group and Audit Committee.
* Representing Amherst to reach agreement with other towns in the Regional School district to adequately and fairly fund our High School and Middle School.
* Representing the town at the Campus and Community Coalition to address problems of drinking and behavior of a small number of students that affect our neighborhoods and community.
* Developing policies that implement the recreational and medical marijuana initiatives in a way that respects voters and works for Amherst.
* Establishing a new relationship with Amherst Farmers Market that recognizes the value and assures the participation of Amherst farmers.
* Renegotiating the Comcast cable contract to provide funds to adequately support the program and equipment needs for public access, government and educational channels.
* Negotiating a new 10-year agreement with Amherst Media to provide public access, education, and government programming.
* Helped establish the Bike Share program to start this year.
* Representing Amherst in our relationship with our sister city, Kanegasaki, Japan.
In addition to the Select Board, I currently serve as Select Board liaison to the Community Preservation Act Committee; LSSE Commission; Refuse and Recycling Management Committee; Disability Access Advisory Committee; and the Kanegasaki Sister City Committee. During my term on the Select Board I have also served as liason to the Agricultural Commission and the Public Transportation, Bicycling, and Pedestrian Committee.
I also worked with the proponents of the Zero Energy Buildings Bylaw and others from current town government to revise the bylaw to assure that it achieved its goals, can be implemented, and will allow Amherst to build needed energy-efficient buildings.
Finance Committee (Chair)
Prior to my Select Board service, I served as Chair of our town's Finance Committee. In our former government structure, he Finance Committee was responsible for proposing an annual budget to Town Meeting and advising the Town about the financial impact of proposals being considered. The Committee worked with the Town Manager, Superintendent of schools, and Library Director to review their proposed budgets and the services to be provided. The Finance Committee provided an excellent way to learn all the details of how our town works - we reviewed each and every department and their budget. The Committee also considered the town's long-term financial health and developed a strategy to provide all of our town services in future years. We were able to get a first hand view of the complex issues facing our town such as the fact that so much of our property base is owned by the colleges and therefore provides the town no revenue. I served on the FC for 9 years, the last 3 years as Chair.
Budget Coordinating Group (Co-Chair)
I also served as a member and the co-chair of the Budget Coordinating Group (BCG). This group consists of the Town Manager, Superintendent of Schools, Library Director, town and school finance directors, members of the Select Board, School Committee, Finance Committee, and Library Trustees. Our job is to coordinate all of the budgetary priorities and budget development process. Collaboration is critical to making our town work well, and the BCG is a great example of stakeholders with different agendas and priorities getting together to hammer out an overarching plan for Amherst. The Charter provides that the BCG will continue after a Council is elected.
Joint Capital Planning Committee
Our town owns and manages buildings, including the elementary schools, equipment in those buildings, police cars, fire trucks, ambulances, public works machinery, and other equipment needed to provide us with the services we need. We have roads and sidewalks to maintain. The funds available to build and maintain this capital infrastructure are limited. Our town charter creates a Joint Capital Planning Committee to assess the needs and recommend the priorities. I have served on this committee, which provided me with a better understanding of what the town needs in order to provide us with the schools, library, and town services that we expect.
Regional School District Planning Board (Co-Chair)
Amherst, like all towns and cities in Massachusetts, is responsible for educating our children. Towns may get together to form regional schools in order to provide better education than each could achieve with separate schools. Forming a regional school district can also save money and increase long-term financial stability for the towns. Amherst has been in a regional district since 1953 for the Middle School and High School. In 2012, Amherst joined with Leverett, Pelham, and Shutesbury to create a Planning Board to determine whether our elementary schools should also be part of a region. There are many complex educational, financial, and legal issues to understand and resolve. There is also a challenge to understand the unique role that elementary schools play in the lives of each community. By state law, the Planning Board had to include three members from each town, appointed by the Town Moderator. I was honored to be appointed by the Amherst Moderator and further honored to have been chosen by the four-town board to serve as its Chair.
I have been a member of Amherst Town Meeting for over 20 years. Town Meeting is a unique form of government to New England and is the legislative branch of our town governments that have not adopted a charter with a town council. The most important role of the Finance Committee, which I chaired, was to assist Town Meeting to make decisions about budgets and other fiscal matters. As a Select Board member, I continued to do what I could to make our Town Meeting more effective and efficient. You can find my voting record on all recorded Tally Votes.
Western Mass Legal Aid (Director)
In my professional life, I was an attorney, and a member of the Massachusetts Bar. I served as Director of Western Massachusetts Legal Services, now part of Community Legal Aid, for 26 years before my retirement. Legal Aid provides free civil legal services to low-income and elderly families and individuals in Western Massachusetts. It provides critical legal representation to clients who cannot afford to pay for a lawyer to assist them with their most basic needs and advocate for over 5,000 clients each year, helping our area's most vulnerable residents obtain safe and stable housing, access disability and other benefits programs, and break free from domestic violence. I supervised a staff of 60 people. While I was Director of the four-county program, I was also active in state and national legal aid organizations, chaired the board of the organization of federal-funded legal aid programs, and served on the board and as Treasurer of the National Legal Aid and Defender Association.
Hampshire Community Action (Chair)
I served on the board of Hampshire Community Action from 1983 - 1990, and was Chair for three of those years. The mission of the organization is to promote economic justice and improve the quality of life for people with lower incomes in Hampshire County. It is an advocate for low income neighbors, provides fuel assistance, head start, daycare, and helps people find shelter and benefits.
My wife Val and I moved to Amherst 33 years ago to live, work, and raise our family (and our dog, Puna!). We live in Cushman, a wonderful North Amherst neighborhood. We sent our children through the Amherst public schools - Fort River/ARMS/ARHS. We spent a lot of years doing all those things that Amherst parents do - helping to re-build the Fort River playground; raising money for the Tritons Swim Team, officiating at meets, driving to and from swim practices, etc. We love living in Amherst, and want to help keep that quality of life strong for all residents!