The four candidates vying for the two open seats on the Marion Planning Board answered to the voters on May 2 at the Marion Music Hall during the annual League of Women Voters’ Candidates’ Night, a forum for a discussion of all things Marion ahead of the May 17 Annual Election.
“Here comes trouble,” said William do Carmo introducing himself at the podium. “That’s me.”
It’s not do Carmo’s first Planning Board race, having run unsuccessfully three years ago, but this time he hopes his extensive background in planning and economic development will get him ahead in the race against Barry Gaffey, Joseph Rocha, and now incumbent Will Saltonstall.
“My reason for running for Planning Board is that I feel like I can contribute some leadership in advancing some of the events … that have developed,” do Carmo said. He said there’s a lack of leadership and a “complacency among people” in the local government. “… They don’t seem to be energized. Being that way, you don’t really get things done as expeditiously as you can.”
For do Carmo, his experience is in housing development and has degrees in law, education, and architecture, he said.
“I’m not afraid to move things along and get things moving,” do Carmo said. “Marion has many, many problems … but a lot of people have their heads in the sand; they don’t want to deal with them … and that’s not the way to grow a town.”
His biggest concern in town, do Carmo says: “perpetual debt syndrome.”
Marion has to reach out and bring in more revenue, he said, but there is “no leadership.”
“This, I think, has to change,” do Carmo said. “[Marion needs] people that will spearhead this type of opportunity, because the money is out there and you have to know where to get it and how to get it.”
Barry Gaffey says he is “progressive” and all for smart growth to get new businesses into Marion.
“We need to look for business – and good businesses, not the 15,000 square-foot CVSes. … I’m looking and hoping to help solve some of the zoning issues … and to make it a little easier for applicants and speed it up,” said Gaffey.
“I love Marion,” said Gaffey. But since the mid-1990s, Gaffey says Marion has changed. “It’s going to continue to change,” he said. “We have to adapt to the change and we have to bring business in.”
Rocha said he’s the “new guy,” having moved to Marion in 2015. Rocha has spent 15 years as an IT systems analyst and, if elected, hopes to “preserve Marion” and its “attractive characteristics” that drew him and his family here.
“I vow to approach each decision with an open mind,” said Rocha, “but I will always ask, is this right for Marion?”
Rocha said he believes in the processes, saying, “What comes out has to be put back in to perfect it, and data is what is needed to make smart and educated decisions,” along with an open mind, he added, asking, “How can we build income in this town without compromising the character of Marion?”
Saltonstall said he’s represented the town’s interests during these last three years on the board, which, he said, have been “very challenging, very frustrating, but, as a whole, very rewarding.”
Saltonstall said he’s been proactive on the board doing “visionary and long-term work,” such as with implementation of the Master Plan, and reactive by “protecting the interest of the town and its citizens as new development is proposed.”
The Planning Board has made “solid decisions,” said Saltonstall, “given the tools we have to work with.” He said he’s brought “strong leadership skills to the table” as chairman “… and created an atmosphere where everyone’s opinion is respected and heard.”
Saltonstall said he’s optimistic about the Town’s current leadership in its selectmen and new town administrator and DPW director, especially with sewer infrastructure; “and good leadership is the key to keeping Marion a beautiful, vibrant place to live.”
Barry Gaffey is also running against Catherine Gibbs in the only other contested race for Board of Assessors. Gibbs was away traveling that night, and Gaffey said of his campaign, “I think we have a lot of issues before us and I’m hoping we can overcome them through leadership and some new blood, some new ideas.” When asked, Gaffey said he currently is not certified as an assessor.
Selectman John Waterman is running uncontested for a full three-year term after having served the final one year of former selectman Steve Gonsalves term after he resigned in February 2018, but even if he were running opposed it appears as though voters are pleased with Waterman’s performance this past year.
“Keep up the good work!” shouted someone from the audience.
Finance Committee member Alan Minard said he’s been on the FinCom for 14 years, “and I’ve seen a lot of selectmen come and go. You have gotten more things started in your one-year term than any other selectman I can remember in 14 years.”
Also running uncontested: Edward Hoffer for Board of Health, Nicole Daniel for Marion School Committee, incumbent Heather Burke for Old Rochester Regional School Committee, Casey Gunschel and John Rockwell for Open Space Acquisition Committee (two seats), Russell Gunschel for Tree Warden, and incumbent Brad Gordon for Town Moderator.
Marion’s Annual Town Meeting is on Monday, May 13, at 6:45 pm at Sippican School.
The Annual Election is on Friday, May 17; polls are open 8:00 am to 8:00 pm at the Benjamin D. Cushing Community Center.
By Jean Perry