By Dot Bergin
As Lisa Mustapich and her husband Chuck prepare for a new chapter in their lives, The Citizen sat down with Lisa for a conversation about her years in Bedford and her many, many hours of service to the town as a 12-year member of the Planning Board. She retired from that Board this past March.
Q: You’ve lived in Bedford since 2003. Why are you planning to leave now?
A: We have loved our years in town but family ties are drawing us to Ohio, where my Mom, sister, and other family members live. We’re planning to relocate to Dayton, OH, rent an apartment on the Wright Patterson AFB (Chuck is a retired military officer) and, after we find jobs, eventually find a house out there. Of course, we must sell our house here first. Neither of us has a job lined up yet but we will be centrally located, near Cincinnati, Columbus, and Indianapolis so there will be a range of opportunities. (Laughs) And the first one who finds a job wins!
Q: You’re not a native New Englander?
A: No, I grew up in Hudson, OH, a small town near Cleveland that is much like Bedford in character. I attended American University in Washington, met Chuck, married, and never went back to Ohio to live. Hudson, my hometown, has done some brilliant planning that I’ve often spoken about to our own Planning Board. For instance, the McDonald’s in town is hidden – it’s on the main drag but they made it look like an old house-no golden arches, no big signs, it’s very discreet. But everyone knows where it is, and it’s always busy. There is also a new mixed-use retail development – First and Main- that blends in with the historic Main street, with retail stores, restaurants, library (with café) and town homes right in the center of town.
Q: What attracted you to Bedford?
A: We lived in Virginia for some years, then in Lexington briefly and finally, for several years on Hanscom AFB. At that point, when Chuck retired from military intelligence, we thought of returning to DC but were attracted to Bedford – the ambiance, the small-town atmosphere, being near a big city – so we thought we’d stay for a couple of years. Then I said, “Let’s stay here – this is a town just like the one I grew up in.”
Q: How did you become interested in town affairs, to the point of running for public office?
A: When we moved in, I became involved with some of our neighbors who at the time were opposed to the Avalon Bay development and to the proposed Princeton Properties development [a large apartment complex] on Concord Road. At one point, Jacquie Edwards said to me, “Why don’t you run?” And so I did, first being elected to the Planning Board in 2005.
Q: Well, we know how the Princeton Properties development idea turned out (it never materialized because of town opposition)– but what about Avalon Bay?
A: I think they have done a good job of blending into the community. The town needs rental properties. I agree with growth, I agree with change, but in moderation. I think they’ve done a nice job melding the appearance with the community. It brings some good diversity to the town; they provide some nice rentals and we needed some rental properties.
Q: What has been your professional career in recent years?
A: I have worked in Human Resources at Raytheon Headquarters, Billerica, for the past three years and before that at the Merrimack Education Center, a non profit affiliated with a special education collaborative. I’ve always been interested in folks with special education needs.
Q: Were you ever involved in town government, in other places where you lived?
A: I had never been on a town board. In Virginia, I was president of our Homeowners Association (condos) and I worked for a Homeowners Association. I did covenant enforcement, which is enforcing the rules of the association.
Q: What do you think was the best accomplishment over the past years?
A: I think Bedford is an exceptionally well-run town. When I look at our fiscal group, the FinCom, Capital Expenditure, and the Selectmen, I think they are thoughtful, they’re careful, and responsible. They recognize we have a lot of affluence – but we also have a lot of non-affluence. I think they are able to strike the balance. To be honest, it’s great to say we welcome affordable housing but if taxes are too high, you can’t afford to live here. You have to find a balance. And our Boards really think about this. This is something we tell people, move to Bedford, you are going to get progressive views with fiscal responsibility.
Q: How do you feel about the new Bedford Marketplace and other recent developments in town? The Coast Guard housing project?
A: I think the Marketplace came out very well. It’s certainly a great improvement over what was there before! I wish we might have been able to have residences above the shops but that was not possible. The Coast Guard Housing [Pine Hill Crossing] is really exciting. It’s a great opportunity – I haven’t been involved since I left the Board in March- but it is something that Bedford’s citizens have said they want – smaller units, for downsizing, for seniors.
Q: What are your thoughts about getting involved in town government? And when you get settled do you think you might “do this again?”
A: I like being involved and I think “it’s put up or shut up,” if you have an issue that concerns you, look for a committee where you can volunteer and make your voice heard. That’s how some of our current boards have attracted new members. If you have a complaint, do something about it!
- What will you miss when you leave Bedford?
- I love the Library! Our schools are so good, the Superintendent really cares. Good schools show in property values. Town Meeting is fantastic – I had never experienced it before I came here. You really can make your voice heard and make a difference. Of course, the proper time to debate the details of an article is in committee, rather than on the floor of TM! I love that people do get passionate about what happens at Town Meeting.
And I’ll miss the people. Bedford is an incredibly friendly town, incredibly welcoming. The weather will be the same in Ohio!