Thomas Mathers was appointed to fill the Marblehead School Committee vacancy Monday night. (Libby O'Neill)
Education, Local Government and Politics, News

Mathers appointed to fill Marblehead School Committee vacancy

MARBLEHEAD — At a joint meeting Monday evening, the Select Board and School Committee appointed Thomas Mathers to serve out the remainder of former Vice Chair Emily Barron’s term on the committee, following Barron’s resignation in October. 

Mathers was the only one of the six candidates interviewed Monday to earn a majority of the votes on a second round of voting, after the joint committee was split after one round. He received votes from School Committee Chair Sarah Fox, committee member Alison Taylor, Select Board members Alexa Singer and Erin Noonan, as well as Select Board Chair Moses Grader, who served as the deciding vote.

During his interview, Mathers stressed that he had no interest in running for a term on the committee but said he believed he would be able to hit the ground running due to his experience as a former member of the Masconomet Regional School Committee. 

He also stressed his status as an objective observer of the committee, noting that he did not know any of the current members and had not been following their actions closely. He said he had “no institutional bias” and “no fixed view” of the town’s schools.

Mathers currently serves as the CEO of Allievex Corporation, a company he founded that develops “novel therapies for the treatment of rare pediatric neurodegenerative diseases.” He has spent decades working in biotech after serving in the U.S. Army. A graduate of West Point, Mathers is a licensed commercial rotary wing pilot. 

Fox, in voting for Mathers, cited his prior experience on a School Committee as well as her desire to leave the fate of the permanent position up to town voters.

Grader said he was impressed with Mathers’ “deep understanding” of the School Committee dynamic and viewed him as a “fresh outside voice.”

“His answers were really outstanding,” he said.

The vacancy was originally slated to be filled in December, but the joint meeting had to be delayed pending the availability of all nine members, as Select Board Chair Moses Grader said he wanted to avoid the possibility of a split vote. 

The committee had initially opted, by a vote of 2-2, not to fill the vacancy, but Grader, citing Massachusetts General Law Chapter 41 Section 11 moved ahead with opening the position to applicants. That law states “if a vacancy occurs in any town office, other than the office of selectman, town clerk, treasurer, collector of taxes or auditor, the selectmen shall in writing appoint a person to fill such vacancy.”

The vacancy initially drew eleven applications, with five people withdrawing from consideration for unspecified reasons.

Barron, a residential designer, resigned from the committee after a conflict of interest with her professional work came to light when she appeared before the Zoning Board of Appeals in August on behalf of a client. She subsequently learned that her professional work created a potential conflict of interest with her School Committee service.

Barron said she immediately reached out to the Massachusetts State Ethics Commission, at which point she learned that the only way for her to continue to serve on the committee was for the ethics laws regarding School Committee members to be changed. 

Barron said she consulted with the Ethics Commission and the town to craft and identify a possible solution involving redesignating School Committee members as special employees rather than regular employees. Special employees are allowed to appear before other boards and committees in town in a professional capacity, she said, while regular employees are not.

The School Committee opted not to vote on changing the designation for members, pending the appointment of a fifth member. 

More Stories From Marblehead