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Q & A with Select Board contested race candidates

APRIL 19, 2023

Bolton Select Board candidates Stan Wysocki (incumbent) and Alan DiPietro, both running for a single 3-year seat, were asked a series of questions regarding their views on being a member of the Bolton Select Board. Their answers appear below, unedited, with incumbent Wysocki’s answers appearing first. Brian Boyle is also running for Select Board but in a separate, uncontested candidacy for the position vacated by Emily Winner in January, with two years left on the term.

Question 1: What characteristics, traits and/or skills do you think a person needs to be an effective Select Board member?

Stan Wysocki:
The Select Board functions as the Chief Executive Officers for Bolton. The Select Board is the policy making arm of our municipal government and generally oversees the operations of departments within Town. The Select Board also interacts and interfaces with all the other boards and committees in town as well as the many citizens who come before us on a wide variety of matters. A Select Board member should have a solid foundation of the understandings of how municipal government works (or a willingness to learn), have the ability to listen to all sides and perspectives of an argument and coach and mentor volunteers which comprise the bulk of our town government. Key to be an effective member of the Select Board is looking at all sides of an issue or potential resolution to a problem from the perspective of what is best for the Town and citizens as a whole, not what would be best personally. And when an individual comes before the board a solution or resolution must be fair to all concerned. It is incumbent on the board to provide clear and concise reasons as to the how and why that particular decision was arrived at.

Alan DiPietro:
An ability to practice conflict resolution, not by making people feel heard publicly and then quietly ignored, but by actually listening and internalizing. A willingness Continued on page 14
to change position when faced with new ideas, opinions or facts. Executive management skills, like the ability to communicate across disciplines, and the ability to compile disparate information in a consistent format for time constrained voters. The appetite to ensure that meeting minutes and meeting videos are standardized and released on a single official town website in a timely fashion. Pushing content is nice but some people just want to search for the information, not necessarily have it cluttering up their in-boxes. Select Board members should have the desire to enhance Zoom meetings with participants names clearly called out so that people watching know who is speaking and when. The Historic Commission does a very good job; maybe they can hold a seminar to standardize practices that everyone including the Select Board will adhere to. We need transparent leadership that openly and efficiently provides the information our residents need to vote for the Bolton we all want.

Question 2: The town government runs on volunteers, many of whom interface with the Select Board (also volunteers) at various times. What can you do, as a Select Board member, to encourage and support fellow volunteers.

WYSOCKI: As stated in my response to the previous question, the Select Board does interact and interface with many of the other boards and committees in town. It is important to know and understand what is occurring within those other boards and committees. I try to participate in their meetings to better know the members and understand items and issues being brought forth that may require at some point comment or input from the Select Board. For those committees that are appointed by the Select Board, we schedule periodic meetings with them to get updates on the activities they are involved with at the time. I encourage folks to reach out to me if they are tackling a difficult problem or are trying to make a critical decision. While I may not have all the answers, I do have a long history with the town and its various departments and committees and can lend a perspective of how similar issues might have been managed in the past.

DIPIETRO: Managing volunteers is like herding cats; they are there because they want to be there, but they are also there to do a specific job as well. Identify skills that each volunteer may be under-utilizing and direct these to the appropriate need. Provide positive feedback and let people know their efforts are appreciated. However if someone is not doing their job properly they will need to be gently reminded of this fact. Better communication early on is vital. As a technology manager I learned the hard way that if you let people spend too much time working without feedback they get very invested in what they have done and are not open to critique or to change. When you write your requirements, set your rules and guidelines, or your bylaws you predetermine how people will try to maximize their results. Track metrics, you get what you measure. Make sure everyone knows both when are doing well and where there is room for improvement. Provide and accept frequent feedback both positive and negative. Understand how you are incentivizing people and you will know why you are getting those results.

Question 3: With only three members of the Bolton Select Board, how would you approach a situation in which you disagree with both of your fellow Board members.

For a majority of the items and issues that become before the Select Board, after discussion, there is general agreement on a solution. There have been instances where the vote on a decision is 2-to-1. In those instances when this has occurred, I try my best to outline my perspective and present as many supporting facts to support my position. Personalities should never get in the way of having an objective conversation over differences. One such time was when the Select Board was making a decision on options for the improvements to RT 117 at the intersections of Forbush Mill and Green Roads. The Select Board was in unanimous agreement on the need for improvements. We were given two different options: a traffic circle or traffic control via traffic lights. My colleagues favored the traffic circle; I favored the traffic light solution. In the end, none of us were able to sway our original positions. The decision to move forward with the traffic circle was 2-to-1 with my voting in opposition. In the end, if one is not able to sway opinion you need to live with the decision and respect your colleague’s views.

Since we have been operating with only two selectmen for months now, it probably would not make too much difference, if every vote went down 2-1. However I would try to explain what my colleagues are are missing. Reasonable people have come to hold their opinions for specific reasons, sometimes from lack of information. If you wish to change someone’s mind you must understand the reasoning behind their position. I would show them the light, by providing alternative data and demonstrating the support for alternative positions, and then vote 2-1. I would gather feedback from additional sources not just from the same echo chambers, just because we’ve always done it a certain way is not a good enough reason. I would promote public input by bringing in experts and stakeholders from the community to help persuade and then vote 2-1. I would be happy to be the odd man out but I would also listen to and internalize what everyone has said. I would put myself in their shoes. I would be willing to change my mind and others’. You never know, after enough discussion we might just vote 3-0.

Question 4: What would you recommend as a plan to increase the town’s revenue?

The Commonwealth imposes restrictions on cities and towns to freely raise revenues in town via taxation. Bolton has applied strict fiscal management to live within the guidelines of Proposition 2 ½ and to avoid the need for any tax overrides. Several years ago the town voted to allow the collection of the meals tax and to increase the rate of the hotel room tax. Our Town Administrator continually works with business brokers in order to fill the few vacant commercial buildings in town. Currently we are working with two separate commercial entities to have them occupy the buildings at 58 Main Street (the former Cobham business) and empty retail space at the Country Cupboard. If successful, the new businesses will generate several hundred thousand dollars in new revenue to the town. We are also in the beginning process of issuing building and construction permits for the apartment complex to be situated at 580 Main Street. This complex will generate additional real estate tax revenue for the town. The town is very aggressive in applying for grants. In the past couple of years we have been awarded over $1 Million in grant funding each year to supplement capital spending.

I do not recommend continuing to rely on the unconstitutional taking of home equity from delinquent tax payers to generate revenue. 2/3 of our budget goes towards the schools; we must expand the tax base with businesses that do not require school resources. We must become more business friendly. Is the permitting process too persnickety? Are the bylaws too burdensome? Try mediation instead of litigation. Lets support responsible cannabis business in appropriate places. It will bring other business to town, plus the town gets a cut of the cannabis sales. How was Hudson able to do it? The same State Level hoops needed to be jumped though. Friendly, streamlined, comprehensive, and coordinated permitting can help. How about a town sponsored Small Business Association, to provide cross promotion, maybe pop-up businesses to timeshare some vacant store fronts, more fairs and farmers markets on the common. How about an empowered Ag Com to promote mixed use agricultural districts under FOSD and a Farm to Table program. Wouldn’t it be nice to serve gourmet Bolton meat and produce in our local restaurants. Bolton’s Downtown will never be as big as Hudson’s but we can do better to attract more businesses.

Question 5: Why should voters choose you over your opponent?

I have lived in Bolton for 34 years and have been involved in town government continuously for 24 years, 4 years on the Planning Board, 2 years on Advisory and 18 years as your Selectman. During that time I have developed a detailed understanding of municipal government and its workings. I have worked hard to earn the trust and respect of all town employees, department heads and individuals in other town boards and committees.
In my interactions with residents and businesses, I have tried to do my best to provide unbiased input. My goal has always to try to be fair and understand the other person’s position combined with the interests of the Town of Bolton and its residents.
As we face the realities of escalating costs that are impacting the town budget, the need to update and modernize our regional high school and the myriad of things that will impact our town, the budget and our quality of life, I believe I am the right person to help the town to navigate these issues and challenges. I am very grateful for your past support and ask for your vote to allow me to continue serving the Town of Bolton.

The times they are a changin’. Just because someone has been doing a job for a long time, does not mean they should automatically be allowed to continue doing it. Nor does it mean that there are not other better candidates for the position out there with differing backgrounds and skill sets. I used to coordinate a diverse 100 person team of engineers and support staff, fielding a cutting edge robotic system to the DOD. Often times we hire from the outside because those on the inside are part of the problem that needs to be fixed. How often is a new CEO promoted from within? I have been on the other side of the town bureaucracy and understand what is holding Bolton back and would like to fix it. When people have questions about what is going on in town government: I will not shame them for not knowing, or blame them for not looking hard enough to find the information, nor chastise them for not participating as much as others may have. I will welcome all comers and opinions but they will have to convince me. I’m not a push over.