As a freshman Selectman I’m enjoying every day’s governance challenges, from learning about the tools to reduce our carbon use, to the Pepperell Charter’s direction on the balance of powers for the elected Selectboard and hired Town Administrator.
A central question I hope to frame for the public in the coming months is whether or not we remain a semi-rural town or instead build out most of our remaining open lands with more homes, add a chain supermarket and commercial center that markets attract. In my effort to understand our growth and change choices I’ve been busy connecting to different resources.
I’ve attended Planning Board meetings and learned we need to clean up confusing layers of building code by-laws; Margaret is eager for that detail task and Chairwoman Casey Campetti has asked for a meeting with the Agricultural Advisory Board to learn about farm protection laws.
Listening to the Economic Development Committee (EDAC), I’ve learned that they are worried that the Selectboard may undervalue their efforts and are asking for reassurance that their work will be productive. I applaud our future Selectboard three-party meeting with EDAC and Fin Com as a team effort to agree on a Master Plan direction for Pepperell to purposely pursue. I’ve also participated in meetings to start a commercial incubator kitchen in the Peter Fitzpatrick school and recently had a virtual meeting with Congresswoman Lori Trahan to discuss Covid virus relief efforts for our farmers who suffer from labor and market access issues.
I recently joined the Mass Municipal Association and will be participating in their Financial Workshop this month. I’ve also started a course with New View Communities to improve my community organizing skills with the specific goal of helping Pepperell citizens rally to protect our rural farm qualities from development models that would force the loss of open lands and discourage younger farmers from calling Pepperell their home.
I subscribed to the Mass. Department of Executive Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) and received their municipal handbook on how towns can work towards the zero carbon footprint by 2050, which our State has mandated. I’ll be attending a webinar on August 7th with the EEA on decarbonization. I’m working with Town Administrator Andrew MacLean on solar energy grants to join with so many other towns that have been able to reduce their energy bills and carbon numbers with solar arrays.
Mr. MacLean and I are also working on establishing a Human Resource position for town employees, recognizing that an independent HR entity, other than the Town Administrator acting as such, may relieve some current difficult, town office morale worries. A citizen volunteer committee may be a solution.
I was honored to walk the new community walking path with Andrew MacLean and our new Pepperell social justice group, Pepperell Progressives, to discuss memorializing the international outcry for ending discrimination in all forms. The wish was to find a site on the town field for a plaque and tree planting recognizing that Black Lives Matter. I suggested an outdoor classroom under that tree and others planted in recognition of our progress on achieving a kinder world. I also got the okay to fly a diversity flag and post a sign recognizing National Pride Month at the Community Center.
I was invited by the new VFW leadership team to sit with them and learn about the dedicated efforts for caring for their veterans and community families in distress, as well as providing the town with a very valuable hall and canteen facility. I left confident that they have answered the community's worries and look forward to assisting the VFW staff reach their financial goals.
I’m very excited to be working on restoring a local news source that relies on high journalistic standards to meet the community thirst for knowing what' s going on socially and politically in our town. A group of high school students with journalism experience will be meeting with Bruce Wetherbee from the on line Candle publication. With some mentoring, these students can utilize the Candle platform to inform and invite more citizens to become more active in their community.
Mr. Wetherbee, who has deep roots in the Pepperell Community, also plans to resume Candle coverage of our local governance. We have been discussing the importance of a town's Charter and are working on some suggestions for the Charter Review Committee.
I hope it is obvious that I'm thoroughly enjoying my new work as a Selectman.
Please contact me with your comments, criticism and suggestions, either through the Town of Pepperell web site e-mail address (email@example.com) or on this web site blog. And thank you all for giving me this great opportunity in town leadership!