Dennis Ross was chosen from among three applicants at a joint virtual meeting of the Select Board and the remaining two assessors Monday evening.
The vacancy resulted from the resignation of Joseph Gilbert, who has moved out of town. The appointment expires on election day in March 2023. The remaining year of the term will be on the 2023 ballot.
Ross, who holds a Ph.D. in computer science and engineering, said he was inspired to apply for the position after serving as a local election worker in March. The seat on the Board of Assessors “really fits into my skill set.”
“Demystifying the government process is something I’m really interested in,” he said. Asked by Select Board member Bopha Malone about improving communication, Ross suggested “a multi-pronged approach,” including open houses, question-and-answer sessions, and networking with neighborhood organizations.
Select Board members Margot Fleischman, Bopha Malone, and Emily Mitchell joined Nancy Wolk in choosing Ross. Assessor Rebecca Neale and the other Select Board members, Shawn Hanegan and Edward Pierce, preferred Jay Muelhoefer, who is chief marketing officer for a global company.
Also interviewed was longtime resident Jennifer Hurwitz, whose career is in the area of quality assurance. She said she felt especially qualified for a position with financial emphasis; as a volunteer “I’m usually the treasurer or the database keeper.”
Muelhoefer said he is “very comfortable with data and analytics.” But he also noted that “in many cases, there’s a human element to a lot of these things,” such as abatements.
The applicant said he felt the website description of the role of an elected assessor could be improved. Also, “There should be the top three most common questions that people ask, and answer in human terms, so they can understand what to do.”
During their deliberations, Wolk said Ross’s leadership at Lincoln Lab was an important asset. Fleischman cited the value of Ross’s reference to equity. Mitchell, Select Board chair, was impressed by his answer to Wolk’s challenge to define in two words why they wanted to be appointed. Ross replied “government” and “human,” which Mitchell said reflects an effort to bring those entities closer together.
(Hurwitz’s two words were “quality” and “collaborate;” Muelhoefer said “service” and “collaborate.’)
Neale noted that this is a property revaluation year, which will lead to more calls from taxpayers. Hanegan said Muelhoefer’s approach would try to “humanize” the abatement process. Hanegan and Pierce also favored Muelhoefer’s marketing focus.
Mitchell said the quality of applicants reflects “an embarrassment of riches.” Fleischman encouraged the unsuccessful candidates to apply for positions on other volunteer committees.
Mike Rosenberg can be reached at email@example.com, or 781-983-1763