Candidates speak to voters at COA forum

by Frank Schroth

Candidates for town wide offices addressed voter questions regarding their positions and why they are running at a forum held last Monday at the Milton Council on Aging. Candidates provided opening statements which were followed by questions from the audience.

All three candidates for Town Clerk, Susan Galvin, Mike Joyce, and Marion McEttrick, were present. Candidates gave opening statements in alphabetical order. Ms. Galvin who mentioned she was born and raised here in town spoke of her desire to  “give back to the people and the community” and noted she was the only candidate running that had direct experience with managing elections, recording votes at town meeting and handling vital records. She is “ready to take the helm day one.” Mr. Joyce noted that the clerk’s office was the first point of contact for people in town and that he would provide a “friendly, responsive, and respectful” office both at Town Hall and online. He also spoke of making the office accessible and promoting voter registration. He has heard that votes want polling locations within their precincts and said he would bring “new ideas and a fresh perspective.” Ms. McEttrick pointed to her 12 years of experience as a selectman as a key qualification. She was also on Board of Appeals and a research analyst. “Experience is the best teacher in life.” She acknowledged that the clerk’s office often “looks like a lot of paperwork but it’s important.” McEttrick believes her independence, experience and range of knowledge qualify her for and will if elected serve her well in the position of Town Clerk.

The first question, directed at Mike Joyce, asked what professional qualities had for the position, “what do you do now?” Joyce, a senior at Boston College,  responded that had experience as a Town Meeting Member and worked part-time in real estate. While experience “is important,” it is “also good to have a fresh perspective.” The question was followed up with another assuming that the first 6-8 months would be a learning experience Joyce noted that there was no incumbent in the race as none are serving as Town Clerk. Later he would comment that he would bring what Mr. Mullen brought. Mullen the long time Town Clerk was elected to the school committee at 21. He did not have a college degree.

Mullen’s educational level was cited by another questioner who asked Ms. McEttrick why/if a law degree was necessary. McEttrick admitted it was not but that her background was unique, it is what she could offer and that given “every responsibility is a legal responsibility” that experience would serve her well.

Galvin spoke of her 2 years of experience under Mullen and said she looked forward “to servicing the people and being there for them.”

The Assessor candidates, Bill Bennett and Jim Henderson, represent two different approaches to the position. Mr. Bennett, a real estate appraiser with 27 years experience, lives in Milton with his family and has been active in town. He coaches youth sports and is on the pastoral council at St. Agatha’s Parish. As an assessor he would seek to assist residents seeking an abatement through the process which is one they may not understand. If elected he plans on “doing a great job for many years.” Mr. Henderson is a practicing CPA with several offices in the area. He serves on the board of the Milton Foundation for Education and is a Rotarian. He believes that “Givers gain.” Hs intends to focus on improving ease of access to documents and forms. He has looked at what other town assessor departments to and is asking, “Why can’t Milton do those things?” As an assessor he would be “an advocate for the taxpayer.” Henderson did not have an opportunity to elaborate as he ran out of time. The one question they received they agreed on. The question pertained to non-profits and payment in lieu of taxes. Henderson said the system was a little “out of whack” where certain non-profits were concerned. Milton has several large non-profits in town such as Curry College and Milton Academy. Bennett agreed that it was something that needed to be looked at.

Two of the four library trustee candidates appeared; Brendan McLaughlin, the current chair of the committee who is up for re-election, and Herb Voigt who is vying for one of the three seats. Also running but not present are incumbent Barbara Mason and Sheryl Fleitman. McLaughlin, a veteran of the Warrant Committee, noted that the library is a great asset for everyone in the community from children to home bound seniors. Circulation figures continue to break records, he said. He also acknowledged the tremendous support the library receives from the community and in particular the Friends and the volunteers. But he stated, “We can do more and we should” to expand services and programming. Mr. Voigt, who recently stepped down as chair of the Milton Library Foundation, provided one of the lighter moments of the afternoon when he quipped that, while he was sorry Ms. Mason and Ms. Fleitman were absent, folks could “vote for Brendan twice and me once.”

Both candidates for a seat on the Planning Board were present, Mike Kelly and Cheryl Tougias. in his opening remarks Mr. Kelly mentioned he wa a graduate of the Wentworth Institute. He manages projects for JF White. If elected he would seek to maintain the “exceptional quality of life” and protect the residential neighborhoods. Tougias, an architect who founded her own firm, spoke of characteristics that attracted her to Milton: strong schools, access to Boston via the T, and the overall “beautiful character.” She is a member of the Warrant Committee but stressed her experience as an architect who has been on “both sides” of the table and has knowledge and experience with special permit process and site plan review.

The first question to the Planning Board candidates asked what the legal authority of the board was. Kelly said it was in a sense like the Supreme Court. If an application abides by the zoning it should move forward and if not, it should not. Tougias said that in addition to reviewing site plans and special permits for subdivisions, the board should be proactive in updating the Master Plan and in doing so be proactive rather than reactive.

When asked if the Planning Board process got bogged down in unnecessary details Kelly acknowledged that he understood the frustration. Tougias said design details could be important and noted how design tastes change over time, referencing Boston City Hall and Milton’s current Town hall as examples.

Lastly, they were asked about the Hendries building. Mr. Kelly said he did not know the specifics but that the neighborhood deserved something that would suit it well and see “something other than an abandoned building. Tougias said it was “a great site for mixed use. . .and should move forward with some tweaks.”



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