By Chris Gittins
Town Election was one week ago today. One week isn’t a great deal of time to reflect – particularly as much of my week has been spent catching up on things which took a backseat for the past two months! I’m sure that I’ll have more thoughts as time passes, but allow me to share my initial thoughts.
Congratulations to Emily and Bill on their election as Selectmen. Emily’s commitment to accessibility, livability, and inclusivity will build community in ways that are important to me, my family, and to Bedford. I value Bill’s commitment to creating a Bedford Museum and to establishing a Bedford Cultural District. I appreciate his offer to work together on matters that I spoke to, including environmental issues. I will take him up on that.
I began my campaign just two months ago. I had core values, a belief that those values were broadly shared, and a commitment to building a winning coalition around them. I had no campaign infrastructure. I was not well-known and I didn’t have an extensive record of experience in town government to run on. I mention the latter things because if you ever consider running for office please don’t consider them a barrier either. The only requirements are commitments to listen to your fellow citizens and to building a better future. What we created we built from scratch. I could not have run on my own and I didn’t. It was a team effort. I simply had the privilege of having my name on the ballot. Last Saturday 769 people trusted me with one of their votes. That’s over half of all ballots cast. We received more votes than total ballots cast in recent elections Those are strong statements. It wasn’t quite enough to win a seat but I believe that it was a demonstration of trust and that our values are broadly shared. It was an excellent start.
From talking with people at coffee hours and other social events I learned how strongly our community feels about sustaining Spring Brook Park and making it more accessible. To Selectmen who aren’t already doing so, I encourage you to engage with families who have school-aged kids and hear how important it is to have a public place where they can take their kids to swim, get swimming lessons, and socialize with friends. Please engage with families with two working parents and hear how important it is to have community spaces like Spring Brook Park open and available after they get home from work. We fund our schools because we value education. We fund our Council on Aging because we know how much its programs improve the quality of life of our seniors. Our library is a jewel. We fund it because we appreciate how much it improves our quality of life. Similarly, let’s recognize Spring Brook Park as the valuable community space that it is. Our Selectmen have the authority to make stable and steadfast funding of Springs Brook Park a priority. I hope that they will.
Making Bedford more walkable and bikeable is intimately connected with reducing local traffic congestion and the extent to which we must bear the burden of it. When we or, perhaps more frequently, our kids can’t safely walk or bike across town then we get in our car to get where we need to go. I know firsthand that there’s tremendous grassroots support for improved connectivity. Our Selectmen can prioritize making Bedford more walkable and more bikeable than it is now. I hope that they will.
I heard from residents at community forums and at campaign events that they are deeply concerned about climate change. They want to act now to mitigate it and to build resilience. Bedford has made steady progress on clean energy use and environmental issues but the gap between where we are and where we need to be has continued to grow. The issue isn’t that Bedford hasn’t taken action but that we haven’t acted as assertively as we need to. Our Selectmen can work to close that gap in many ways, such as prioritizing completion and implementation of Bedford’s Net Zero plan, installing solar panels over Town parking lots, and creating a Town Center micro-grid based on self-generated power. Improving energy efficiency of existing buildings and new construction and transitioning to clean energy is good environmental stewardship and fiscally prudent. Towns in eastern MA are already doing it. The Selectmen can make “green” issues a priority for Bedford too. I hope that they will.
Finally, I will state again that this was a team effort. To all of you who called friends, mailed postcards, wrote letters of support, put up a yard sign, offered kind words, and provided support in any one of a myriad of other ways, “Thank you.”
Previously, when I’ve watched elected officials say to their supporters after an election “I am humbled by your support,” I was a bit cynical. I wasn’t convinced that they meant it. Now having run for office myself I believe them. I am both humbled and inspired by your support and your trust. I look forward to working with you in the future. To close, I especially want to thank three people without whom I could not have done this: Rebecca Neale, Stacey Katz, and my wife Stacy Chandler. They made the day-to-day campaign happen. They organized campaign events and social media, distributed yard signs, encouraged me to keep working on my prep for campaign forums when I really, really wanted just to get a few additional hours of sleep and did all the other large and small things necessary to run a successful campaign. I am indebted to them not only for the tremendous amount of work they did but also for their honesty, thoughtfulness, and kindness. It was a privilege to have their support. Thank you.