Board of Selectmen candidates talk development, conservation and their vision for Wareham
All of the candidates vying for the single open seat on the Board of Selectmen took part in WCTV’s Candidate Night event.
On the ballot, voters will find incumbent Selectman Alan Slavin and challenger Glenn Lawrence — but they’ll also have a third option: write-in candidate and late-stage addition to the race, Tricia Wurts.
When asked to introduce himself, Slavin kept things short. He said that rather than listing his past accomplishments, he wanted to look forward: “What is important is what I will accomplish today and in the future,” he said.
Glenn Lawrence explained that he moved to Wareham with his family about five years ago. He said he’s felt the pull toward public service for some time and has pursued a master’s of public administration. He also noted that he has served on the town’s Finance Committee for five years, which he has enjoyed doing.
“I just wanted to put myself forward,” Lawrence said, to explain his decision to run for office. “I know a lot of times we have limited volunteers for a lot of positions in town, and I have a specific background, education and experiences, and I thought if they could be a value add for the Town of Wareham, I wanted to offer that.”
While introducing herself, Wurts recalled fond memories of Wareham when she was a child. She said she worked in the technology industry, on the marketing side, for years. Wurts said she hopes to bring new talent to the Board of Selectmen.
“I have experience; I have knowledge; I have time and I have creativity,” Wurts said. “I bring a new set of eyes and a new set of attributes to Wareham, and I believe it could add tremendous value to the government in this town.”
Host Indiana Troupe asked the candidates about their vision for Wareham.
Slavin said he appreciates “the diversity of the people and the geography of the town.” He also emphasized the need to prioritize making it easier to work in Wareham — not just “play” and “live.”
Lawrence reflected on his decision to make Wareham home and talked of his hometown in Georgia, which he said grew from a small community to the tenth-largest city in Georgia — “you go back there, and you don’t really recognize the place anymore,” he said.
Lawrence said his vision for the town would be to find ways to address the town’s financial problems and continue providing municipal services while preserving the small-town feel that sets Wareham apart.
“I think what’s important is that we remember the community comes first, and to represent their interests, and to protect what’s important to the people who live here,” he said.
Wurts said that the town’s public image varies depending on who you ask. Some people know Wareham as “The Gateway to the Cape,” others refer to it as a “Cape Cod town,” and some — mostly outsiders, she said — call Wareham “Brockton by the sea.” She said she believes Wareham has the potential to be a Cape Cod town, and expressed a desire for the town to implement its plans to achieve that goal.
Wurts explained that she decided to run because of the controversial Hospitality, Entertainment and Recreation Overlay District that was recently defeated at Town Meeting. In her mind, the proposal was so disliked by voters that it should have never made it on a Town Meeting warrant.
“Currently, when we look at projects like that project, we appear to basically use two filters. We use a land filter — do we have land? — and does it make money?” Wurts said.
But additional considerations are needed, she said, such as: How will this impact the environment? and “Does [the proposed project] work for the citizens of the town totally, and specifically, does it work for the citizens in the area that is going to be impacted? Is it going to affect their quality of life?”
The question of balancing development opportunities with environmental protections was also a hot-button issue of the night.
Lawrence said that his background as a liaison between various departments at the manufacturing company he works for helps him understand how to work toward one goal — even when specific needs within the community are different.
“I think the degree to which we as elected leadership can make certain that all of the relevant stakeholders are included in the process is crucial for us as a community to be able to make a decision, weighing all of the costs, benefits and the tradeoffs that are going to be involved with either taking option A, option B or discovering an option C,” Lawrence said.
There are pros and cons to development, Slavin said, before noting that conservation is essentially opposite to development — making it impossible for the two to truly coexist. Slavin noted that as a part of the Wareham Land Trust, the Buzzards Bay Coalition the Southeastern Regional Planning and Economic Development District, he understands the competing needs.
“At the end of the day, you have to have your revenues and you have to have everything in place to be able to provide things — but you do also have to have conservation,” Slavin said.
He said his strategy for evaluating potential developments is a long-term approach — thinking about the benefits and drawbacks of a project 15, 20, 30 or 40 years down the line.
Wurts proposed taking a strong revitalization approach to development in Wareham.
“We have a lot of property in the town that is blighted,” she said. Her approach would be to keep a detailed inventory of existing properties that are available for development. “We need, I believe, to work against that inventory first.”
She also emphasized the importance of honoring Wareham’s existing zoning — rather than rezoning properties zoned for residential use so they can be used for some other development, for example.
To see the full discussion, go to www.youtube.com/warehamtv