Candidates Emerge at Caucus to Fill Many Ballot Vacancies

January 10, 2024

A former Finance Committee member who said he is looking for more ways to serve the town was nominated by the Town Caucus on Tuesday to appear on the March 9 election ballot as a candidate for moderator.

David Powell told about 50 voters in Town Hall’s Reed Room that he is “as much interested in the process as the outcome,” and after speaking with former Moderator Betsey Anderson, “I am pretty comfortable with what I am getting into.”

One of the two vacancies on the Board of Library Trustees was also filled by the caucus, which nominated Gyasi Burks-Abbott. Emily Prince confirmed later in the evening that she missed the event because of a family illness and is circulating nominating petitions to secure a place on the ballot.

Also, at the 50-minute caucus, Nicholas Howard was confirmed as a candidate for the Board of Assessors. After no one responded to the call for nominations for that position, Howard nominated himself and declined the speaking opportunity available to nominees. Howard explained after the caucus adjourned that he intended to volunteer for any unfilled positions. The incumbent, Dennis Ross, has said he wasn’t sure he would seek another term and was not present.

School Committee Chair Dan Brosgol was nominated for the sole Select Board vacancy, and the caucus chose Angel Pettit for School Committee. The other caucus nominees were incumbents seeking re-election.

Although no electoral contests emerged from the caucus, the deadline for obtaining nominating petitions from the town clerk’s office isn’t until 5 p.m. next Wednesday.

The moderator’s term is normally for three years, but at this election it is only for the remaining unexpired year of the term of Mark Siegenthaler, who resigned in September, citing personal and professional demands.

Powell, 62, was nominated by his wife Nancy, who is the registrar at Bedford High School. The candidate told the caucus that his local volunteer service began with youth sports leaguers. As a member of the Outdoor Recreation Area Study Committee more than a decade ago, he said, he became familiar with “government in town and contentious positions.”

As a member of the Finance Committee between 2014 and 2022, Powell said he attended every Town Meeting. Since then, “I’ve been considering carefully what I would like to do next, something that fits with my family schedule and my work schedule, something that I think I would be good at and something that the town needs.”

When he resigned from the Finance Committee in April 2022, Powell explained at the time, he was opening the door to other volunteer opportunities. The bylaws prohibit Finance Committee members from serving on virtually any other town position.

Burks-Abbott, a member of the Cultural Council and Disabilities Commission, was nominated by longtime Library Trustee Rachael Field. He told the caucus that he is on the staff of the Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities (LEND) program at Boston Children’s Hospital. A Simmons College library science graduate, Burks-Abbott said “the public library is the heart of any community and that’s certainly true in Bedford.”

Brosgol is running to succeed Select Board member Margot Fleischman, and he saluted her in his remarks as “a fine example of integrity, moral quality, and leadership.” He spoke about his nine years on the School Committee, including as chair during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, “an unimaginably complicated year,” citing a meeting lasting almost six hours that “began in August and ended in September.”

The candidate asserted, “A new fire station must be built. There is no more important issue.” He also pointed out that “the benefits we offer town and school employees lag far behind any and all comparable towns and district,” and cited the challenges of growth and resulting “realities of development and traffic.” 

Pettit, 44, a year younger than Brosgol, told the caucus, “Our school district is the heart of our community shaping the future of our children.” He said his “guiding principle is commitment to excellence in education,” offering “fresh, thoughtful perspectives to the School Committee.” Pettit said he looks forward to “fostering an environment where every child can thrive.”

Chris Gittins, nominated for a second term on the Planning Board, said, “My focus has been making a more livable, sustainable community,” addressing housing costs and greenhouse gas emissions. He cited the board’s recent leadership in expanding housing choices through accessory dwelling units and two-family buildings, as well as the ongoing efforts to comply with a state mandate for multi-unit housing zones. Citing the board’s upcoming comprehensive plan review, Gittins said, “I want to continue serving because we have more work to do.”

Anita Raj was nominated for her fifth term on the Board of Health. Raj said her experiences as a member have ranged from tick-borne diseases and opioid use to regulation of tobacco products and farm animals. The pandemic, she stated, “reinforced my belief in public health.”

Brian O’Donnell is a candidate for reelection to the Regional School Committee.

Her colleague Maureen Richichi, seeking her second term on the board, said her town service began as a member of the AIDS Task Force more than 30 years ago. A retired school nurse, Richichi said she is “particularly proud of the board’s work during the Covid-19 pandemic.” She also cited hard priorities of school start times and safe use of firearms.

Brian O’Donnell was nominated for re-election to the Shawsheen Valley Technical High School Committee by the other Bedford member, Nancy Asbedian. O’Donnell told the caucus that there are still many residents unfamiliar with Shawsheen Tech, and that he and Asbedian are local “evangelists.” He noted that the number of Bedford freshmen at the regional school is double the number of seniors, and credited collaboration with the Bedford schools for encouraging exposure to the vocational option.

Lauren Crews, seeking re-election to a five-year term on the Bedford Housing Authority, explained that her board “provides affordable subsidized rental housing for our neighbors with low incomes.” She noted that residents of the authority’s Ashby Place and Elm Street units attend monthly meetings. The town should take pride in its housing authority, she stated.

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