Bedford’s 2021 Town Election ~ Final Candidate Statements and Video PSAs

Final statements submitted by each of the candidates in Bedford’s March 13 election, presented in ballot order.

Statements were due on Monday, March 1.

Thanks to Bedford TV, each candidate was offered the opportunity to share a video PSA; if one was recorded, the link appears beneath the candidate’s statement.

SELECT BOARD ~ One seat for a three-year term

Margot Fleischman (Incumbent)
The challenges Bedford is facing right now are significant: recovering in the aftermath of a year of disruption to our home lives, schools, and workplaces; ensuring town government systems function smoothly as we emerge from the pandemic; reducing greenhouse gas emissions and addressing the growing impacts of climate change; and planning for significant financial needs like new municipal facilities for our first responders.

My volunteer service to the town has spanned many critical areas – housing affordability, transportation, sustainability, the needs of seniors, economic development, and sound financial planning – and I have dedicated myself to being a good listener and a decision-maker who brings people together to get things done.

I have also worked to make Bedford inclusive and welcoming. Everyone in Bedford deserves to be seen and respected by their town government regardless of where they are from, what they look like, whom they love, or what their gender identity is. I will always work to make sure that everyone feels welcome, included, and invited in our community and in our local democracy.

We have a lot to be proud of in how we run our town. Bedford has an outstanding civic reputation as a fiscally well-managed town and a place where direct democracy thrives. We invest in the fundamentals that make Bedford a wonderful community to live in and a highly desirable place for businesses to locate: clean water, well maintained roadways, beautiful natural resources, and an outstanding public school system.

I’m running for re-election to meet our challenges and to continue Bedford’s proud history of thoughtful leadership. I feel incredibly grateful to have been part of so many decisions that have had a positive impact on the lives of everyone who lives and works here, and I’m eager to continue the work to ensure Bedford continues to be well-run and inclusive community.

I am honored to serve on the Select Board and I respectfully ask for your vote on March 13.

Click this link to view Margot Fleischman’s video PSA on Bedford TV

Korben Whitt-Leitner
No response received

ASSESSORS ~ One seat for a three-year term

Joseph Alan Gilbert
No response received

Elliot Lovy
No response received

BOARD OF HEALTH ~ Two seats for a three-year term

Alison Theresa O’Connell

Having made Bedford our new home just a few months ago, I am looking to serve on the Board of Health with a fresh, unbiased perspective, informed by clinical data and best practices.

With a desire to become a contributing member to my new home town, and provide leadership-by-example to our young son, I look forward to the opportunity to drive policy changes, initiatives, and communications that support strong health outcomes in our community.

Professionally, my experience in public-sector healthcare compliance, strategy, and consulting will be useful in ensuring the BOH operates smoothly, objectively, and informed by data. I will leverage my skill set in making clinically informed, purposeful, and highly efficient decisions.

Speaking specifically about COVID, we are in a particularly time-sensitive period where continued access to testing, and, broad adoption of vaccination as soon as it is available will be critical to improving Bedford’s overall quality of life.  This is especially true for the most vulnerable residents, including our seniors, teachers, clinical staff, and those with professions that necessitate them being out in the community daily.

Our collective goal must be remaining nimble with our evolving protocols to create a healthy balance between safety, and reasonable, informed flexibility.

I look forward to serving on the Board of Health as a professionally experienced and collaborative member who will serve as a voice of, and for, the community.

Click this link to view Alison O’Connell’s video PSA on Bedford TV

Maureen Richichi
Why am I a good fit for the Board of Health?

Because, in this time, Bedford needs someone with relevant community health experience…

  • 40 + years as a registered nurse with a Masters’ Degree in Maternal-Child Health
  • Public Health Nursing: in Denver, Boston and nearby Lincoln
  • School Health Nursing: Lincoln Public Schools and The Home for Little Wanderers
  • Prevention Service’s Coordinator for the town of Bedford

Because Bedford needs someone with a proven ability to work with individuals and groups to solve problems…

  • Co-chaired the Bedford Town Center Playground – a multigenerational project involving parents, residents, town departments and businesses
  • As Lincoln’s Town/School Nurse, helped conduct a health needs survey that set priorities and implemented programs related to the identified needs
  • Served as a citizen representative to the Bedford AIDS task Force

Because Bedford needs someone who has a deep understanding of critical public health concerns such as…

Tickborne Diseases

  • An organizer of the Middlesex Regional Tick Task Force – an effort by local communities (including Bedford) to work together to combat tickborne diseases
  • Developed Tickborne disease education programs for residents, students, parents and school staff; the Council on Aging; recreation department; and DPW staff

COVID-19 and Post COVID-19 Mental/Behavioral Health and Social Service Needs

  • As Bedford’s Prevention Coordinator, created the Safe Homes Program for parents, initiated a youth Drug & Alcohol Diversion program with the Bedford Police, co-taught health curriculum at Lane school, and coordinated Youth Risk Behavior surveys for HS and MS students.
  • Participated in a Lincoln Community Coalition – town staff, service providers and volunteer organizations focusing on needs of seniors, youth and vulnerable residents.

Maintaining and Enhancing Bedford’s Emergency Preparedness

  • Member of Lincoln’s Emergency Task Force and the Bedford Citizen Corps (Medical Reserve Corps)

This election is about you and your family, about us as a community.  I’d be honored to use my knowledge and skills to work for our town and to bring your concerns to the table.

I ask for your vote on March 13.

Click this link to view Maureen Richichi’s video PSA on Bedford TV

Catherine Van Praagh
I am really encouraged to see such a strong interest in the work of the Board of Health, particularly at such a critical juncture in the public health of our community. In contributing to the future activities of the Board, I look forward to bringing my education, skills, and life experience, specifically:

  • Over 25 years as a microbiologist, with a diverse background in environmental microbiology, DNA vaccine development, infectious disease, human health and safety.
  • As the lab manager and Environmental Health and Safety officer for a biological research laboratory, direct involvement in planning and executing up-to-date safety protocols to allow our researchers to continue to function safely during the pandemic.
  • Strong connections to Bedford with children in the school system and parents living in town.

As Bedford moves from pandemic crisis to pandemic recovery, I will work with the BOH to develop clear, reliable guidance for our community and businesses to help Bedford citizens make informed decisions as we open back up. Bedford is a diverse town, and I am well aware that public health decisions must balance both individual and community needs. The coming year offers a great deal of hope for us all as infection rates go down and vaccination rates go up. More than ever, people will need access to resources for mental health and substance abuse issues, as well as the financial impacts of the economic downturn.  At the same time, long-term issues such as tick and mosquito-borne diseases will continue to need our attention.

I would be honored to have the opportunity to contribute to that effort as a member of the Board of Health, and I would appreciate your vote on March 13.

Anita Raj (Incumbent)
I am so lucky to be running again for the Bedford Board of Health.  I truly believe in the collaborative work of the Board and Bedford’s Health Department.  As part of the Board, I’ve found ways to support residents through immediate crises (the COVID-19 pandemic, increasing suicides, Vaping amongst our youth, and the Opioid crisis), and long term existing risks (protection from bioresearch projects, restaurant food safety, tobacco use and sales, hoarding and its mental health components, and Tick and Mosquito borne illnesses).

The overarching lesson of all this work shows that improving residents’ basic mental health and physical needs dramatically improves everyone’s resilience to crises. So we now have a psychological therapy referral service to make finding a therapist easier, increased access to co-pay free therapy appointments at the Yellow Building, a Food Bank that serves 400 families per week, support for the ill and elderly through free durable medical equipment, visits from our Town Nurse, and a falls prevention program.

I ask for your vote as I love supporting you and your family in living the healthiest life you can.

PLANNING BOARD ~ One seat for a three-year term

Armen Matthew Zildjian
First and foremost, I want to thank the League of Women Voters and Bedford TV for hosting their candidate forum on February 28 for our Town Election on March 13. Voters are so fortunate to have such a group of neighbors dedicated to ensuring their election day decisions are well-informed. If you were not able to watch, I encourage you to watch here.

Over the past few weeks, as I have campaigned for a seat on the Planning Board, it has amazed me to talk to so many individuals across Bedford that share my worries and concerns, but simultaneously hold the same optimism and love for this great town that we call “home.”

Growing up in a working-class family –– my Mom was a nurse, and my Dad is a state employee, still is today –– I understand the many challenges that families have, especially now more than ever. However, due to my parents’ hard work and dedication, we lived in a community that set me up for success.

Over two decades ago, I graduated from Framingham State College, now University, began a career in the technology sales industry, married my wife Sybil, and we began looking for a community to raise a family in. But as soon as we started, we quickly realized that the towns we grew up in were too expensive for a young couple like ourselves. We were so fortunate to find a community like Bedford when it was still affordable for a newly married couple to come and start a family. We have two children that have gone through the wonderful Bedford school system – currently both attending BHS.

However, as I reflected on my experiences and the ever-so-increasing costs of Bedford, the reality began to set in. The same experience that I had nearly twenty years ago is now impossible for so many young couples who see Bedford’s costs now closer align with the same towns that Sybil and I avoided when we were searching.

With the development rate that Bedford is experiencing, our home is quickly becoming unaffordable for people and families from various demographics and socio-economic backgrounds. We have seniors who want to downsize yet stay in the community that they love. We have working-class families who built this town, like nurses, firefighters, teachers, and other working-class individuals, like my parents, who want to raise families in the best possible environment. And we also have people from other economic classes with little to no access to a community like Bedford.

Many of these issues have led town leaders to propose solutions. Yet, some have led us down a path that would lead us toward a more expensive model, akin to towns like Lexington or Concord. In contrast, other proposals have led us to fast urbanization, reflecting a town of the same ilk as Cambridge or Somerville. Neither outcome is right; we need to continue to preserve the community-oriented, small-town feel that we have grown to love.

The Planning Board needs a balanced, thoughtful approach, a voice that I hope to provide to the board to tackle these challenges effectively. But on so many issues, the Planning Board also needs to listen and engage with a diverse set of underserved and underrepresented communities. I do not have a fixed point of view, I am a listener, and I engage people from different backgrounds. That is the pledge I make to the people of Bedford.

If you have any questions or concerns, I encourage you to check out my website armenforbedford.com. I hope to earn your vote on March 13.

Click this link to view Armen Zildjian’s video PSA on Bedford TV

Brian Paul Jean
No response received

Christopher Gittins
My name is Chris Gittins. I’m asking for your vote for a seat on the Planning Board.  I’ve been a Bedford resident for twenty years.   I’ve seen the dramatic transformation that Bedford has undergone in recent decades.  The decisions we did and didn’t make as a community twenty and thirty years ago are central to shaping what our community is today – our housing, our commercial space, and our public spaces.  I know that we must be pro-active in our long-term planning as well as responsive to current proposed development in order to shape the future that we want.  The decisions that we make now affect us not just our immediate future, but will set the stage for how Bedford evolves in the decades to come.

As a member of Bedford’s Conservation Commission, I have experience participating in hearings and meetings where we must balance laws and regulations with community goals, Town policies, and resident concerns.  I understand how facts, opinions, and the law must be harmonized in order to make good decisions.  Similarly, the decisions that the Planning Board faces involve trade-offs: between property rights and town interests, between development that addresses the wishes of current neighbors and that which is more oriented towards achieving broader long-term community goals.

Here’s where I stand and what you can expect of me:

  • Bedford’s Comprehensive Plan is excellent: I will work to continue to fulfill the vision our Comprehensive Plan describes for transportation, economic development, community services, land use, natural & cultural resources, and housing.   Our current Comprehensive Plan, from 2013, was the result of a year-long participatory process involving town boards, committees, departments and public workshops.  I’m pleased to have contributed to one of those public workshops.  I look forward to contributing again when we update it in a couple of years.
  • Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs): I support the proposed bylaw amendments to make it easier for residents to build ADUs.  Lowering the barriers to building ADUs on owner-occupied property will make it easier for seniors to downsize on their own property or for homeowners to provide a housing option for a parent or adult child otherwise priced out of the Bedford housing market.  In other circumstances, an ADU can provide rental income that some homeowners need in order just to stay in their homes.  Looking at Bedford’s history with accessory apartments as well as other town’s experiences with ADUs, the number of units built is negligible on the town development scale, with per year averages in the single digits, but for the people who choose to build them it makes a big difference.
  • Open Space: I favor preserving open space as much as we can.  I will work to draft an Open Space Residential Development zoning bylaw amendment, as called out in our Comprehensive Plan, so that we have better options for preserving open space when a developer chooses to build housing on their property.
  • Mixed-Use Zoning: Mixed-use zoning benefits our community.  It allows more people to live closer to where they shop and eat, adds to our supply of middle-income-affordable housing, and helps local business – putting high-quality retail space and potential customers next to each other.  It also reduces traffic congestion.  To date, Bedford’s mixed-used zoning has been community-driven but a new state law requires by-right mixed-use along MBTA transit routes.  We need to carefully adopt such zoning to ensure that it works with the existing neighborhood where it’s implemented.  Further, by concentrating multi-unit housing options along our business and transportation corridors, we stabilize our many unique neighbors. The Great Road Center District, from Whole Foods Plaza to Town Common, offers a great opportunity to create vibrant, inviting public space.  Let’s work with residents and property owners to help create it.
  • Climate Change Mitigation and Resilience: Our zoning bylaws need to motivate developers to build for climate resilience and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction.  Energy-efficient (“net zero”) buildings are climate-resilient, reduce GHG emissions and save a lot of money overall, but businesses worry about potential upfront construction costs.  We need to achieve carbon-neutrality as soon as possible.  Doing so requires addressing the practical challenges of building net zero buildings, including using our regulatory authority to lower financial barriers as well as bureaucratic ones.  Don’t compromise on goals.  Lower the barriers to achieving them.  Towards that end, the Planning Board needs to have the option to permit developers expanded development rights in exchange for meeting strong energy efficiency standards and solarizing buildings and parking lots.

In conclusion, I am deeply committed to addressing Bedford’s current and long-term planning challenges.  I would welcome the opportunity to serve on the Planning Board to achieve our vision for Bedford’s future together.  I ask for your vote in this year’s Town Election on March 13.

Click this link to view Christopher Gittin’s video PSA on Bedford TV

LIBRARY TRUSTEE ~ Two seats for a three-year term

Michael Anthony Pulizzi (Incumbent)
As I reflect on my time as a member of the Bedford Free Public Library’s Board of Trustees, no year has been as memorable as this one.  I never could have imagined that the only times I would have entered our library in the past year are when I walked into the meeting room to quickly pick up books that I had checked out online. The fact that the library has been open throughout most of the pandemic and functioning at a high level is due to the creative planning and consistent effort of our library’s dedicated staff.

As a member of the Board of Trustees, my primary focus is to help provide the library director and staff with the tools and resources they need to make our library as welcoming and effective as possible for all of our patrons.  With that in mind, the board has recently facilitated the addition of four new study rooms, carpeting replacement in various parts of the library, and creative additions to the Children’s Room.  Also, during my time as a trustee, the library has always followed the recommendations of the Finance Committee and put forth fiscally responsible budgets.

Click this link to watch Michael Pulizzi’s video PSA on Bedford TV

Dennis Ahern (Incumbent)
Mr. Ahern has withdrawn his candidacy

Fahad Alden
Thank you for taking time out of your day to read this . I am honored to stand alongside Michael as a candidate due to Dennis dropping out.

I’m Fahad Alden, a published author, local TV news anchor, and a candidate for library trustee.

Above all else, I’m a Bedford resident first and I share the concerns of the community. I’m worried about those who rely on the library as a quiet sanctuary to work, and the families who would normally explore its halls and shelves.

I’m worried about a lack of library visibility due to a shortage of promotion during the pandemic.

My job today is to provide the answers about my ideas and credentials that voters deserve when trying to make an informed decision. We need to ensure transparency in our decision-making process, with a genuine commitment to making the right choice given the ever-changing circumstances. Truth and sincerity never damage a good cause.

As we hope to transition from the pandemic in the upcoming year, we need to be responsive to the changing health situation when contemplating the library’s operation. We need courage and wisdom during difficult times, to ensure that the concerns of the community aren’t brushed aside

Click this link to watch Fahad Alden’s video PSA on Bedford TV

SCHOOL COMMITTEE ~ One seat for a three-year term

Daniel Brosgol (Incumbent)
Citizens of Bedford, Last year we held our Town Election just as Covid-19 arrived in Bedford. I’ll never forget that day at JGMS, as everyone took their first stab at social distancing and nobody could really believe what was happening. It’s hard to believe that a full year has passed, and we find ourselves about to have municipal elections again.

For many of us, it’s been a year that has felt like a decade. The changes and disruptions to every facet of our lives have impacted all of us in profound ways, and forced us to change much of how we go through our days.

The same can be said for the work of the School Committee.

Never before have our meetings been so well-attended. Never before have we received so much feedback, email, or public comment. Never before have we had to drastically change our model of educating our children. Never before have we been so fearful cognizant of the health, safety, and well-being of our students and our staff during the school day. Never before have we met so often, and until such a late hour, to face the challenges presented by a public health emergency.

Balancing the weight of the pandemic and the responsibility of providing a world-class education for the 2700 children in our school district has been a delicate task this year, but I am very proud of the course that our committee has steered and that I have helped chart as chairperson. We have consistently moved forwards, and not backwards, on the path towards bringing children back safely, we have engaged in constant dialogue with our staff, our families, and Bedford’s other appointed and elected boards, and we have done so in a process that has been completely public and transparent.

At the same time, our role in the education of our children is minimal compared to the incredible work of our superintendent and principals, and the dedicated efforts of our faculty and staff, who have committed themselves to our children in ways that are really impossible to put into words. Our committee has the luxury of taking votes and then watching what happens, but the implementation of our vision has been nothing short of remarkable. Bedford’s educators are truly exceptional, and without their partnership and buy-in, this year would not have been possible.

Year after year, and especially this year, the Town and its citizens continue to voice their full-throated support for our schools and our children. The past several years of unanimous approvals for our building projects and budgets still give me goosebumps, and this year, as we have made additional budget requests in the face of Covid-19, we have always received the funds that our children need. I take great pride in being a part of that process and remain humbled and amazed by how this town always works together to support the needs not just of the schools, but of all its departments.

I look forward to serving Bedford and our children as we shepherd them through the gradual end of the pandemic and a return to normalcy. Thank you for supporting our schools this year, and thank you for considering casting your vote for me on March 13.

Be well and stay safe…better days are coming soon.

Click this link to watch Daniel Brosgol’s video PSA on Bedford TV

HOUSING AUTHORITY ~ One seat for a five-year term

Kim Lovy
Greetings my fellow townspeople, I would like to remind you that I have decided to run for a vacancy at the Bedford Housing Authority. While the race is uncontested, I do hope that you will consider my background, and my love of Bedford, and elect me to the Bedford Housing Authority. It will be my pleasure to help our town.

 

REGIONAL SCHOOL COMMITTEE ~ One seat for a three-year term

Brian C. O’Donnell
I have appreciated the opportunity in recent weeks to discuss my interest in serving on the Regional School Committee and to use campaign forums to highlight some of the reasons Shawsheen Valley Technical High School is a great resource for our community.

Sharing the news about what Shawsheen has to offer is a particularly important role for the school committee representatives from Bedford.  We need to disseminate facts such as that Shawsheen’s standardized test scores are among the best of its peers, 60-70% of its graduates not only leave high school with specific vocational skills but also go on immediately to two or four-year college programs, its students participate in and excel at Skills USA competitions throughout the state and nationally, its co-op programs allow students to earn income while developing job skills, that it sends students to compete in Microsoft Office competitions as far away as Orlando, FL; it offers foreign language and travel abroad opportunities, dual enrollment programs allow for the earning of college credits, its students have available to them 20 varsity athletic programs using top-notch facilities (with no user fees!), or that competitive E-Sports and Robotics teams are among the many extracurricular and community service programs available to students.

So if you have not paid the Shawsheen part of our public school family a visit in a while, I encourage you to do so, in person once Covid-19 protocols allow and/or through the extensive online materials available on Shawsheen’s website.  For example, one current video includes interesting comments from a Bedford High School alumnus who is now head of the Mathematics Department and a coach at Shawsheen,  reflecting on his own decision process when he was an 8th grader at JGMS and the factors, myths, and uncertainties that students and families need to address when making the decision about taking the journey over to Shawsheen.  It is well worth a look.

Shawsheen and its School Committee are currently facing many of the same challenges confronting nearly all school districts in terms of dealing with limited growth in resources while addressing the need to upgrade facilities and equipment to prepare students for the modern workplace.  A recently approved administrative reorganization which effectively freed up resources to better staff specific academic programs is a good example of what the school is doing to re-enforce its student-centered approach to budgeting.     My observations of vocational programs have convinced me that while they may not be the best choice for every student, they are a great choice for many, and matching the right kids with the right school opportunity is something we all support.

I look forward to an opportunity to serve as one of Bedford’s representatives assisting with the governance of Shawsheen.  In that capacity, I also hope to hear from community members of all ages with ideas and as to how we can expand Shawsheen’s role as part of Bedford’s public school system.  Go Rams!

Click this link to watch Brian O’Donnell’s video PSA on Bedford TV


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