Local Government and Politics, News

A look at Swampscott’s town election candidates

Swampscott Town Hall
Swampscott Town Hall (Owen O'Rourke)

The race is on in Swampscott and there are many names, both familiar and new, on the ballot.

For the two open seats on the Board of Selectmen, there are six names and only one of them is running for re-election. Current Selectman Patrick Jones opted out of a re-election campaign. There are two open seats on the School Committee and it’s a race among two incumbents and one challenger.

The Item will host a candidates forum on Thursday, April 11 in the Swampscott High School auditorium. Board of Selectmen and School Committee candidates will be able to answer an array of questions from the moderator and questions submitted by audience members from 6 to 8 p.m.  

The town election will be Tuesday, April 30.

 

BOARD OF SELECTMEN

 

Dina Maietta

The Swampscott resident of 25 years wants transparency, fiscal accountability, and to be a voice for residents. According to her, some residents get intimidated when they go to speak in front of any of the current selectmen and that is something she wants to resolve.

Maietta, a Revere hair salon owner for 21 years, wants to keep the small town feel in Swampscott. While she believes the town needs to be more welcoming to small businesses to increase revenue, she is opposed to the development of any big buildings in town.

Taxes are too high, she said, and everyone from residents to town officials needs to work together to come up with a resolution. When it comes to the annual budget, she said there is room for improvement and she wants to see, in depth, why the taxes are as high as they are.

She noted there are a lot of studies being down around town, and, to her knowledge, those cost a lot of money. Instead of spending thousands of dollars on outside companies who don’t live in town, ask your residents, she said.

“I am a regular, tax-paying, working Swampscott resident who is not a politician,” she said. “I hope, if elected, I can make a difference in the community.”

 

Donald Hause

Incumbent Donald Hause began his selectman career in 2016 and said he is proud of everything that has been accomplished over the last three years. He said the town’s fiscal house is in order, the handling of taxes was revamped and they have decreased compared to previous years, and the town was able to establish a “rainy day” fund.

He said all the boards and departments have found a way to work extremely well together, even when they disagree, and the town budget process has become more transparent and effective.

Hause’s background knowledge in banking, finance, real estate, architecture, and historical preservation studies make him qualified to help keep the positive momentum going, he said.

In regards to increasing revenue in Swampscott, Hause said there is a lot the town can do through grants and collaborative programs, like the Seaport Advisory Council, which helps coastal communities develop and improve assets to facilitate economic growth.

Hause said he hopes to remain on the board so he can continue the great work being done with the Age Friendly Community and the Waterfront Master Plan.

“We have done a lot but there is a lot more to do,” said Hause. “Anybody can pick up the phone and call me and, if I can help, I’ll do my best. I don’t think as many people take advantage of that as they should.”

 

Mary “Polly” Titcomb

Titcomb has lived in town for six years with her husband and two young children. She is a children and family law attorney and a certified mediator. Since moving to Swampscott, she has served on the Finance Committee for five years and has been a Precinct 1 Town Meeting Member for six years.

The only change Titcomb plans to implement, if elected, would be more dynamic meetings to help selectmen gain insight into the individual questions and concerns of residents.

She said she is excited about all the good things happening in Swampscott and wants to join the current leadership to help see everything through. Her background and advocacy for the town give her the necessary qualifications to ensure that the board continues to make positive changes in a prudent manner, she said.

“I come prepared with the hands-on experience necessary to help develop sound policies and protect Swampscott’s financial future without compromising our quality of life,” she said. “Additionally, my professional background has prepared me not only to handle contentious and complex circumstances with professionalism and tact, but it also has taught me how to truly listen to others’ practical and emotional concerns in order to create consensus.”  

 

Andrea Lee Calamita

The Lynn Public Schools elementary teacher, and former pharmaceutical worker, has been a Swampscott resident since 1971. She believes the town is being overdeveloped, which, according to her, is affecting its history and character.

The infrastructure of the small town does not seem fit for all the development in discussion and it is creating more traffic problems on Humphrey Street, she said. There needs to be a planned vision for Swampscott before the mass development can continue, she said. If elected, Calamita would make sure the vision includes residents’ taxpayer forums.

Calamita volunteered her time on a number of PTO boards and, when the funding for elementary school libraries was taken away, she was in a group of parents that helped implement a library studies committee.

As an active person, Calamita is open to the idea of converting the abandoned railroad tracks into a community rail trail, which is right near her home. What she is not on board with, she said, is how the rail trail plan is laid out and what that means for the town’s taxpaying residents.

“This is a campaign about inclusion and transparency,” Calamita said. “Selectmen hours is a great concept I want to bring back. It’s a time for residents to come in and share and that’s how you bring the community together.”

 

John “Rich” Cassidy

The lifelong Swampscott resident retired from the town’s police department last month after 33 years. He said his family has given more than 300 years of service to the town and following his uncle, father, and brother, former Board of Selectmen members, he is ready to commit his time to Swampscott.

Cassidy said, if elected, he promises to listen to people and not have a personal agenda when it comes to making important town decisions. His eyes are open to all plans, proposals, and developments being discussed in Swampscott, but there is a lot of research he needs to do, he said. If it’s good for the town all around, then Cassidy is in, he said.

He said the taxes are still high and he wants plans to highlight the waterfront more.

Soon after retiring, Cassidy applied to become a special police officer in town but, according to him, Town Administrator Sean Fitzgerald held off on approval because he didn’t want it to seem like he was enhancing Cassidy’s political career. Cassidy said the approval hold off did bother him personally because in his three decades, he had never seen anyone not approved to be a special police officer.

Fitzgerald, hesitant to talk about the logistics of any of the candidates, said the position would be talked about after the election with the State Ethics Commission. If Cassidy is elected as a selectman, he would be an employee of the town and it would become a conflict of interest if he was also a special police officer.

“We have a family tradition of dedicating our lives to Swampscott and doing what we can for the town,” Cassidy said. “Most people here know me and know I am dedicated to this town.”

 

Stephen T. Williams

Williams has owned several businesses across the North Shore, including Rent-A-Tool in Revere which has been in his family for six decades. The long-time Swampscott resident said he has had growing concerns about things going on in town and he never had the time or opportunity to do something about it until now.

His business and real estate background will give the Board of Selectmen a fresh, different perspective, he said. He has concerns over how the town’s new school is going to be funded and how that is going to affect Swampscott’s tax-paying residents.

His main focuses are funding the upkeep of Stacy’s brook and the seawalls that surround it, ensuring the taxes correlate better with the “kind of bang they’re getting for their buck,” and increasing revenue by working more closely with commercial developers. Williams also noted the major developments being built and proposed throughout town and said there are concerns over the increase in traffic.

There isn’t much land left to develop on, he said, so any future proposals should be closely scrutinized before a decision is made.

“A lot of things need to be negotiated in town and I spent years doing that in all my businesses,” said Williams. “The selectmen seem to be removed from the regular community. Having more tie-ins with the community and being more hands-on will be a better feel for the people and would benefit the town.”

 

SCHOOL COMMITTEE

Keiko Zoll

Challenger and Swampscott resident of less than a year, Keiko Zoll wants to be a voice for young families in the school system. She said she wants to get involved with the schools on a broad level, especially when it comes to the budget and policies.

Zoll said her focus will be on the changing town demographic, more specifically with how the aging in place population has a ripple effect on the schools, rallying the community behind whatever the best decision is for the town in regards to the new school, and ensuring every resident has the opportunity to share their ideas.

She did her research and, according to her, there has been a 2 percent enrollment decrease in the schools in the last decade, which translates into dollars the town will be able to receive as part of the Chapter 70 funding. Students with English language barriers, high needs, and disabilities are also increasing throughout Swampscott schools, she said.

As a mother, a journalist, and someone with a decade worth of experience in legislative advocacy on behalf of kids and families, Zoll said, if elected, she plans to do everything in her power to make the town the best place it can be for the next generation.

“Even though I’m new to town, that works to my advantage,” said Zoll. “I would bring a fresh perspective to the table.”

 

Carin Marshall

Seeking a third term on the committee, the 12-year resident said she decided to run for re-election because the committee has unfinished business that she wants to see through to completion. The decision for a new elementary school and negotiations for the contracts of current teachers throughout the system are two items Marshall wants to stay committed to.

She said the administration has the right people in place right now, from the committee to leadership roles, and she wants the great work they are doing to continue. A strengthened relationship between the school department and town government is something that lacked in recent years but, according to Marshall, is something the committee has successfully achieved.

The dance company owner said she feels like, right now, Swampscott has a very high functioning committee in place and the town would benefit most if it remains that way.

“A commitment to experience is very important,” Marshall said. “We are at a critical point in town where we have to be looking at longtime planning and the big picture, so having experience and consistency is key.”

 

Amy O’Connor

O’Connor is running for her third term on the school committee. When she first came on six years ago, she said there was a lot of turnover at almost every level of the school department and that made it difficult to get traction on getting things done.

Consistency is one of the most important things in the success of a school district, she said. The department has been on an upwards trajectory and O’Connor said she wants to see that continue.

She knows the department’s budget needs more work and she said she is dedicated to finding ways to bring spending in line with what is realistic for the town’s affordability. O’Connor said she also wants to see through the decision for the town’s new elementary school and there is a lot of work left to be done there.

O’Connor said most residents don’t understand that the process for building a new school is a broader town process and not solely decided on by the committee members.

The school department can’t afford to have committee members with personal agendas or interest in individual groups, she said. Any elected member needs to focus on the school district as a whole, she said.

“The school district has all the pieces in place to remain successful,” she said. “We can’t upset for the sake of change because things are going really well. If you believe good things are happening, we need to stick with the plan.”

 

BOARD OF HEALTH

Stephanie E. Goodman

Goodman, the only name on the ballot for the single Board of Health seat, has lived in town for six years. She is a wellness coach and exercise physiologist. She has a passion for disease prevention and health promotion and believes there are a lot of different opportunities to help move Swampscott residents forward in a healthy direction.

 

PLANNING BOARD

Michael Proscia

An architect and new to town, Proscia moved to Swampscott last fall. He previously worked on the Cambridge Bicycle Advisory for five years. He believes any future Swampscott developments need to be sensitive to storms and flooding, given the town is bordered by the ocean.

 

CONSTABLE

The last contested race has four people running for the two open town constable seats. Incumbents Stephen Simmons, Jeffrey Blonder, and Gabriel Mongiello will race against challenger  and Michael Bencale.

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