Town Caucus Outcome: No Contests, No Ballot Vacancies

Bedford 2023 Town Election Seal

The outcome of Tuesday evening’s Annual Town Caucus was succinct: No ballot contests and no ballot vacancies.

In dramatic contrast to the intense competition for several offices a year ago, Tuesday’s 60-minute exercise was relaxed and collegial with at least 50 empty chairs in the Reed Room of Town Hall.

Thirteen candidates will be designated “caucus nominee” on the March 11 town election ballot. Nine of them are candidates for re-election. 

That ballot remains open for more than a week. The deadline for submitting nominating petitions with 50 signatures of registered voters to the town clerk’s office is Friday, Jan. 20, at 5 p.m.

The two major units, Select Board and School Committee, each feature an opening because current members are retiring.

Bopha Malone, a candidate for her second board term, was nominated by Planning Board member Jacinda Barbehenn. Malone pointed out that she was first elected simultaneously with the arrival of pandemic restrictions. “I was really proud to be part of the dedicated Bedford public servants” who helped mitigate the impact of the virus, Malone said. 

“Good government is about representation and collaboration,” Malone said. She cited her “passionate advocacy of social justice issues. I’m proud to be able to recruit new members to boards and committees and create flexible ways for them to be able to participate,” Malone said. She added her support for more housing opportunities and community-choice aggregation. 

Paul Mortenson, current Finance Committee chair, also was nominated for a Select Board seat – by his wife Stacy. Mortenson noted that he was a selectman when he lived in Foxborough. “I’m proud of many things, including my prudent financial stewardship there.”

Mortenson said part of his platform is “respectful interaction with all.” He said he plans to “work to build consensus with all stakeholders. I support funding a well-run government while being mindful of balancing the taxpayers’ needs. To me, this is common sense.” He added, “I support thoughtful advancement of our climate goal and being welcoming to all.”

Sarah Scoville, incumbent member of the School Committee, was nominated by her committee colleague, Sheila Mehta-Green. Scoville said her future area of focus includes diversity, equity, and inclusion; social-emotional health; and academic excellence. “All three of these are the foundation of many of the decisions the School Committee is asked to make.”

Scoville emphasized that any accomplishment she mentions represents a “team effort” with fellow members and educators. She cited highlights of her first two terms – “navigating a pandemic, successfully prioritizing student needs,” supporting teachers, three building projects, and an emphasis on literacy.

The other candidate nominated for School Committee was Sarah McGinley, who for the past year has served as a non-voting committee member representing households connected to Hanscom Field. McGinley and her family lived on base from 2016-2019 before moving to Bedford.

McGinley was nominated by retiring committee member Ann Guay. “I will make decisions with an eye toward academic excellence and inclusion,” the candidate said. She pointed out her record of engagement in the classroom and the School Committee, and the relationships she has built with the schools’ and military leadership.

The two candidates for Planning Board are both seeking re-election.

Barbehenn was nominated by Suzanne Koller. The candidate emphasized the upcoming 10-year comprehensive plan preparation, scheduled to begin later this year. This will be an opportunity for residents to find common ground. “Many of us want the same things for our town,” she said. Barbehenn noted the range of areas covered by the comprehensive plan, and said, “I will work to ensure that this plan’s creation is more than a pro forma exercise.” Resident involvement, she said, is key.

Steven Hagan, nominated by Nancy Daugherty, noted he also chairs the Conservation Commission, and there is frequent overlap. Hagan concentrated his remarks on the board’s addressing new state multi-family housing requirements for towns and cities served by the MBTA, including at least 50 acres zoned for high-density residences. “We’ve got our work cut out for us,” Hagan said. 

The two incumbents on the Board of Health, Ann Kiessling and Susan Schwartz, also emerged as caucus nominees.

Kiessling, running for her third term, was nominated by Richard Daugherty. “The first project I started was the bus stop shelters,” she said. “I tried to revive the idea that our adolescents are reporting to school too early in the morning. That has been ongoing.” She also cited her focus on “tick barriers around the athletic fields.”

Schwartz, nominated by Mark Quinn, is seeking her second term. She noted that “throughout the pandemic we worked to inform the community while moving forward with other Board of Health priorities.” She listed accomplishments over the past three years, ranging from ensuring access to reproductive health service information to collaborative efforts with other departments in response to Covid-19.

Two current members of the Board of Assessors were nominated by the caucus.

Dennis Ross was appointed several months ago to a vacancy on the board after Joseph Gilbert moved away. The appointment expires on election day, so Ross is running for the remaining year of the unexpired term. He was nominated by Rebecca Neale, the nominee for the full three-year term on the ballot.

Ross said the appointment gave him the opportunity to promote transparency of government information. He cited the challenges and satisfaction of serving during a revaluation year. Ross also noted that he rewrote the “frequently asked questions” on the assessors’ website page, after reviewing scores of others from around the state.

Neale, nominated by Ross, said it has been “an exciting, interesting three years” on the board. She noted that she gained institutional knowledge from longtime members who retired during her term. “We want to continue to be transparent about what we do,” she said, noting that corrections on the database lessened the number of abatement requests.

Ellis Kriesberg secured the nomination for re-election to the Bedford Housing Authority. The term is for five years. He was nominated by his wife Stephanie.

Kriesberg said he hopes to maintain and improve the life-skills management program, which helps residents of Housing Authority properties in a variety of ways, from counseling sessions to language lessons. The program is covered by community preservation funds. Kriesberg did not fill his three minutes of allotted speaking time because “I have to leave to go to a Housing Authority meeting,”

The caucus also nominated two candidates for the Board of Library Trustees.

Rachel Field, seeking her sixth three-year term on the library board, was nominated by Bea Brunkhorst. Field is the longest-serving office holder. She said continuity and historical memory are “critically important.” Field continued, “Being a library trustee has always felt like a calling.” She said she was involved with drafting the library’s last two five-year strategic plans, which called for expanding programming, services, and resources.

Newcomer Renae Nichols, nominated by Chris Gittins, said the library has always been a comfortable place for her family. A teacher for more than 20 years, Nichols said she is currently an elementary school librarian in Arlington. Nichols said she wants to serve “because I care very deeply about this town and about libraries.”

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