Today, The Bedford Citizen presents part two in a series of profiles on candidates running for Select Board, School Committee, and Planning Board. Although none of the seats for this year’s Town Election on Saturday, March 11 are contested this year, we feel it is important for residents to know where the candidates for three high-profile boards stand on issues.
For a complete list of the candidates, visit https://thebedfordcitizen.org/2023/01/town-election-2023-candidates.
And for information on voting, check https://thebedfordcitizen.org/2023/01/updated-2023-bedford-town-election-schedule-and-information.
Today, the focus is on the Bedford Select Board.
Bopha Malone acknowledges that there are issues in town government that some regard as problems. “I’m not discounting the fact that they are real problems,” she asserted, but added, “We are blessed to have such problems. If you had told me as a little girl, ‘These are going to be your problems…’”
Malone was eight years old when she immigrated to the United States with her parents, refugees from oppression in Cambodia. As Executive Director of Girls Inc. in Lowell, Malone said she is fulfilled by helping “a new generation of girls. I overcame my challenges and fears to not only be where I am but also to have opportunities to advocate for others and help shape policies in the lives of people who are more vulnerable.”
“I am also a perfect example of how public policies and mentorship can positively impact a person’s life,” she said. “I am grateful that I have a chance to serve others and help them the way I’ve been helped.”
She added that she feels respectful discourse and communication remain “a major concern for our community. I’m committed to helping by working together helping each other solve problems. I feel that we work hard to listen but I understand people still don’t feel heard.”
She said, “I’m someone who understands when government doesn’t respond to people. I understand how fortunate we are to live in this community. I hope we look at these differences as a way to solve problems together.”
Recalling that she was elected to her first Select Board term on the day before the coronavirus statewide lockdown, Malone said that first year was replete with challenges.
“I learned so much through that experience and was proud to be part of a group of people working as a team dedicated to keeping our community safe and continuing to make sure our town remains fiscally strong.”
Asked if the pandemic deterred her local government learning curve, Malone said that process is perpetual. “I am a learner and there’s always a ton to learn. I am going to continue to try to learn.”
Malone also commented on the Select Board’s role in expanding housing opportunities, which she said she personally supports. A diverse housing stock is part of the town’s comprehensive plan and thus should be considered “part of our vision,” she said, adding, “But we also have got to listen to residents about their ongoing needs as well.”
Paul Mortenson wants to help heal any residual bad feelings in town as he joins the Select Board.
“I think Bedford has been a little more at odds since I moved in, and I’m really going to strive to bring people together. I do think I have a good ability to tamp down ill feelings,” said Mortenson, a current Finance Committee member.
The Covid-19 pandemic changed local government to a remote experience, and Mortenson observed that platform involved “people who haven’t been active before. But it also caused there to be more anger.” He said he sensed it at the Special Town Meeting in November when more than 1,000 voters turned out.
“I like to see people active,” he said, adding that vigilance is required to sustain and strengthen civil discourse.
Mortenson acknowledged Ed Pierce’s decision not to seek re-election to the Select Board was the key to his candidacy. “I wasn’t going to run against Ed,” he said.
A former Foxborough selectman, Mortenson said he is comfortable understanding this town’s finances as he gets ready to begin his term on the Select Board. He said he is gathering more background and information on plans for a major hangar complex at Hanscom Field. “I think that’s going to be high on people’s minds.”
Asked if the Select Board should be an advocate for more housing opportunities, particularly the so-called “middle housing” for younger buyers or downsizers, Mortenson said he wants to see a leadership role with a clear understanding of any added costs to the town.
He said he sees the current Select Board members as housing advocates, and “I will add to their voice on that.”
The same criterion should be applied to affordable housing, Mortenson said: “clearly articulated goals,” with an understanding of “what are the costs to the town.”