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.

Planning Board Candidates Offer Different Approaches to Key Issues

Differing priorities emerged between two of the candidates for the vacant Bedford Planning Board seat during the League of Women Voters candidate forum broadcast on Sunday.

Armen Zildjian said the cornerstone of his campaign is diversifying housing inventory. Housing affordability affects residents who wish to downsize, “working-class families who built this town,” and people of other socio-economic backgrounds with little or no access.”

Chris Gittins emphasized “proactive” long-term planning, guided by the specific components of the Comprehensive Plan.

Zildjian, Gittins, and Bryan Jean are running for the three-year term on the March 13 ballot. Incumbent Jeffrey Cohen is not seeking reelection. Jean did not participate in Sunday’s forum; there was no explanation.

Youthful Candidate Challenges Long-time Select Board Member

Korben Whitt-Leitner, 19, lives down the street from Margot Fleischman. Growing up, he said, she “has been a great inspiration to me.”

He also wants to replace her on the Select Board.

Each responded to questions and offered statements to lead off the Bedford League of Women Voters candidate forum on Bedford TV last Sunday. Both are on the ballot for a single seat in the  March 13 town election.

Fleischman is seeking her fourth three-year term; she was elected twice to the Planning Board before that. Whitt-Leitner is a 2020 Bedford High School graduate and a student at Norwich University in central Vermont. Norwich is the nation’s oldest private military college. (Contacted this week, Whitt-Leitner said he would transfer to a school closer to home if elected.)

Contrast was exemplified in their closing statements. Whitt-Leitner said the town is beginning “a new era” and needs “a change in leadership, a new way forward, a different type of thinking – someone to push us forward to make us better.” Fleischman asserted that Bedford is “one of the safest communities with an excellent quality of life. We have an outstanding civic reputation as a fiscally well-managed town.”

“I really want to change this town. I worry about what the town will be in the future,” Whitt-Leitner said. He noted that the ethos at Norwich teaches active citizenship and he is following that model. He added that he would like to be Bedford’s first Black Select Board member.

Fleischman said she has tried to be a “voice of balance” and “have used my platform to help bridge differences and come to collaborative decisions,” Those are especially critical as the town moves toward post-pandemic days, she said, when she will continue to “bring to bear all of the experiences I have had as a parent, a taxpayer and a public servant.”

Library Trustee Dennis Ahern Suspends Reelection Campaign

Dennis J. Ahern has suspended his campaign for reelection as a trustee of the Bedford Free Public Library. Citing health concerns in a message to The Bedford Citizen, Ahern expressed confidence that the Town will be well-served by the two remaining candidates, incumbent Michael Pulizzi and newcomer Fahad Alden.

Four Board of Health Candidates but Few Policy Differences

The differences among the four candidates seeking two seats on the Board of Health in the March 13 town election are not about policy.

That was clear Sunday afternoon following a high-level round-table among the four candidates as they answered questions presented by a moderator from the League of Women Voters during a candidate forum.

The virtual event was broadcast live by Bedford TV; it is still available through this link,  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ofdYRAnOSMI&t=6103s.

Incumbent Anita Raj and newcomers Alison O’Connell, Maureen Richichi, and Catherine Van Praagh agreed that dealing with the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic remains the top issue for the board. They all anticipated challenges of managing the recovery from the pandemic and concurred about the effectiveness of the board’s performance. They also were in step about the importance of dealing with mosquito- and tick-borne illnesses.

There will be at least one new board member as Sarah Thompson chose not to seek re-election. 

FinCom Approves ‘Pandemic’ Spending for Schools; Discusses Funding for FY2022 Budget

The Finance Committee Thursday implicitly endorsed the School Committee’s proposal for up to $1,445,000 in supplemental spending to cover “recovery” from the effects of the pandemic, including sustaining personnel and equipment to allow safe in-school learning beginning in September.

The committee by a vote of 8-1 approved a budget scenario that also supported continuing this year’s $450,000 reserve to cover out-of-district costs for students with serious learning needs. The Finance Committee separately approved the base school budget for fiscal 2022.

Discussion will continue at a Finance Committee meeting on March 4 on how to apportion three sources of funding to best cover fiscal 2022 expenditures.

Candidate Pages for the Town of Bedford’s 2021 Election

The 2021 Town Election is replete with candidates — there is someone running for every office, and several offices are contested with more candidates than available positions.

Readers will find all the candidate information gathered on the following page links.

Each of the 17 candidates has submitted initial statements and answered questions posed by the League of Women Voters of Bedford, and if Letters to the Editor were submitted, there are links to them.

SELECT BOARD
One seat for a three-year term
Margot Fleischman (Incumbent)
Korben Whitt-Leitner

BOARD OF ASSESSORS
One seat for a three-year term
Joseph Alan Gilbert
Elliot Lovy

BOARD OF HEALTH
Two seats for a three-year term
Alison Theresa O’Connell
Maureen Richichi
Catherine Van Praagh
Anita Raj (Incumbent)

PLANNING BOARD
One seat for a three-year term
Armen Matthew Zildjian
Brian Paul Jean
Christopher Gittins

LIBRARY TRUSTEES
Two seats for a three-year term
Michael Anthony Pulizzi (Incumbent)
Dennis Ahern (Incumbent)
Fahad Alden

SCHOOL COMMITTEE
One seat for a three-year term
Dan Brosgol (Incumbent)

HOUSING AUTHORITY
One seat for a five-year term
Kim Lovy

REGIONAL SCHOOL COMMITTEE
One seat for a three-year term
Brian C. O’Donnell

Editor’s Note: A final set of candidate pages, complete with each wrap-up statement will post on Friday, March 5.

Bedford Candidate Forum ~ Watch LIVE on Sunday, Feb. 28 ~ 1 to 6 pm

The League of Women Voters of Bedford will sponsor a Candidate Forum for our local election on Sunday, February 28, 2021, beginning at 1 pm. All of the candidates for contested offices have agreed to take part.

The forum format will not allow members of the audience to participate in the Zoom meeting, but the League will take questions in advance at lwvbedfordma@gmail.com.

Bedford TV will show the Forum live at https://youtu.be/ofdYRAnOSMI.  It will also be recorded with indexing and be available on Monday at the Bedford TV YouTube page.

Elliot Lovy: Candidate for Assessor

Hello. My name is Elliot Lovy and I am running for a seat on the town Board of Assessors in 2021. I have lived in Bedford for over 15 years with my wife, Kim, and our three children. My two sons graduated with the BHS class of 2020. My daughter started Bedford High School this year. Go Bucs 2024!

Mail-In Ballots for Bedford’s Town Election Mailed on Thursday, Feb. 25

Preparation paid off: When the mail-in ballots for Bedford’s town election were late in arriving at the Town Clerk’s office, the staff went into overdrive.

“We had the labels printed and sorted when the ballots arrived Thursday morning,” declared Town Clerk Bridget Rodrigue. “Using the Select Board office, we set up an assembly line and prepared all 2,128 ballots for mailing.”

The ballots were delivered to the Burlington post office on Thursday afternoon, Feb. 25.

Joseph Gilbert: Candidate for Assessor

Hello everyone, my name is Joseph Gilbert, and it would be an honor to represent you on Bedford’s Board of Assessors.  I am a husband and father of two young children.  I’m also a Marine Corps veteran, a graduate of UMass Boston with a Bachelor’s in Finance, and a former realtor.   After the military, I continued my service as a government civilian with the Navy and a defense contractor.  While my family is relatively new to Bedford, I believe my experience and education provide me with both the necessary skills and a unique perspective to execute the duties required by the Board.

I recently became aware of the proposal to remove selection of the Assessors from the public and place the decision solely in the hands of the Select Board.  I adamantly agree with outgoing Board Chair, Ron Cordes, that independence is integral to the Assessors.  While the Select Board is always aligned with our town’s greater interests, they may not always directly align with those of the individual taxpayers in our town. It’s important that all interests are heard, represented, and balanced.  This balancing of interests – an important role of the Board of Assessors – is an important check on the Select Board and is the primary reason the Assessors should remain independently elected.  The feeling of paying our tax bill should be weighed against Bedford’s great services – both perspectives are important, and both should be considered, especially given the changes to Bedford in these unprecedented times.

Select Board Affirms Elected Assessors by 3:2 Vote

The Select Board Monday voted 3-2 to sustain the current elective status of the Board of Assessors.

Members Margot Fleischman, Bopha Malone, and Emily Mitchell voted against proposed bylaw and charter amendments that would convert the position to appointed. Board member William Moonan, who has been an advocate of the change for more than a year, was joined by Chair Ed Pierce in support of including the proposed change on this year’s town meeting warrant.

These amendments would ultimately give appointment power to the Select Board.

Letter to the Editor Supporting Margot Fleischman for Select Board

I am supporting the candidacy of Margot Fleischman for Bedford’s Select Board.  I’ve been attending Select Board meetings for many years, which has given me a good opportunity to see Margot at work and follow her accomplishments.

I find that she is a very hard worker with a goal of maintaining and improving the services and quality of life that we enjoy in Bedford.  She goes out of her way to include all opinions and data as part of her decision process.  

Brian O’Donnell: Candidate for Regional School Committee

I am Brian O’Donnell and I am seeking a first term as one of Bedford’s two representatives to the Shawsheen Regional School Committee.  In that capacity, I would like to represent our community in the governance of a school that has established itself as one of the Commonwealth’s pre-eminent secondary vocational programs.  Bedford is fortunate to be a member of the Shawsheen district although historically we have underutilized this resource in comparison to our fellow district members (Billerica, Burlington, Tewksbury, and Wilmington). 

Dennis J. Ahern: Candidate for Library Trustee

I grew up in Arlington, Mass. and was a frequent visitor to the Robbins Library. My first foray into civic life was at the age of ten when I addressed the Board of Selectmen in support of increased funding for the Library. I’ve been an advocate for Libraries ever since.

Alison O’Connell: Candidate for Board of Health

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.

Kim Lovy: Candidate for Bedford Housing Authority

Greetings! My family and I have been residents of Bedford since August 2006. We have benefited greatly in our 15+ years here. We have three children who entered Davis School as kindergarteners. Two graduated in 2020, and the third is in the BHS class of 2024! The Bedford Public Schools is a wonderful place for children to grow.

We enjoy the town’s resources (library, recreational programs, Springs Brook Park, trails). I love the character and traditions of Bedford. I know that the strength of Bedford lies in its citizens, and that building a great community requires involvement. I am eager to start giving back, in deeds, to my town.