2022 Town Election: Epstein, Lemay Easily Win Re-election; Light Advisory Slate Fills New Light Board; CFRB Takes A Tumble [VIDEO]

Photo: Roy Epstein is returning to the Belmont Select Board

It was a good day for incumbents as both Roy Epstein and Julie Lemay withstood challengers to return to their respective boards for three year terms while the first-ever elected Municipal Light Board will be filled by four members of the current Light Advisory Board, according to results from the 2022 Belmont Town Election held on Tuesday, April 5.

Tuesday turned out to be a particularly revealing night for the austerity advocacy group Citizens for a Fiscally Responsible Belmont which not only saw the two town-wide candidates its members were backing go down to defeat but also saw a pair of its top leaders loss their Town Meeting seats.

Unofficial election results can be found on the Town Clerk’s web page here.

Seeking a second three-year term on the board, Epstein won reelection to the three-member board by a more than two-to-one margin over first-time candidate Jeff Lasseter, 3,138 to 1,530, when a little more than a quarter of registered voters – 27 percent or approximately 4,800 voters – visited polling stations on a perfect day for voting.

“I have to think our message that we repeated over and over again that the town is better served by somebody with experience and a relevant background and an ability to work with everybody” was the reason he was re-elected, said Epstein who briefly visited Town Hall Tuesday night as the votes were being tabulated.

Roy Epstein comments on his reelection to the Select Board.

Two term incumbent Lemay returns for another three-year stint on the Board of Health defeating another first-time office seeker, Marina Atlas, by more than 800 votes, 2,270 to 1,454.

The four members of the light advisory board who ran as a slate – although they never officially said so – to fill the five-person elected board: Stephen Klionsky, Michael Macrea, Travis Franck and David Beavers, easily won their races. In the two competitive races, for the pair of two-year terms, newcomer Jeff Geibel, who had the public backing of CFRB members, lagged behind Klionsky and Macrae, while Andrew Machado took the one-year seat over Christopher Morris by just under a 1,000 votes.

While the candidates their members backed had a less than satisfying night, several CFRB members and supporters came up short. Marie Warner, CFRB vice president who was active on social media supporting Lasseter and Geible during the election run up, lost her Precinct 6 seat coming in 37th, one place outside member status in the newly re-precincted district. Dawn MacKerron, the group’s President, finished 22 votes from securing a seat in Precinct 1 while Secretary Allison Lenk hung on to the 36th and final seat in Precinct 8 by a single vote. Supporters and Town Meeting incumbents Jin Chang Xu and Ed and Mary Ann Kazanjian lost their seats while one of the group’s charter supporters, Gang Zhao, will represent Precinct 2 winning a seat by three votes.

Also not coming back to Town Meeting include long-time member and avid speaker Don Mercier, former School Committee Chair Ann Rittenburg, Bob Sarno (by a single vote), Anthony Ferrante, Amy Trotsky, (also by a vote), Kathleen Baskin, James Sullivan, Patricia Kelley, Susan Titus, Kevin Brosnan and Karnig Ostayan.

And the top vote getters in six of the eight precincts were women.

Q&A With Michael Macrae, Candidate For Light Board (Two-Year Term)

Photo: Michael Macrae is a candidate for the Light Board

Michael Macrae is running to fill one of two two-year term open seats on the first elected Light Board in the town’s history. He currently serves on the Municipal Light Board Advisory Committee along with three other members who are seeking election to the five-member board that will oversee the running of Belmont Light, the town’s municipally-owned electrical utility.

A resident with his family since 2017, Macrae matriculated at the University of Washington in Seattle where he earned his BS in Chemistry and Biochemistry afterwards obtaining a PhD from UC San Diego.

Q: What motivated you to seek election to the newly-constituted elected Light Board?

It has been a wonderful experience [being a member of the Light Board Advisory Committee] to be able to work with our locally-owned municipal light plant, Belmont Light. I’ve had the privilege of working with two general managers and a team of very dedicated, knowledgeable people who share a passion of helping our town through how we use electricity.

What brings me to the ballot is, fundamentally, low-cost electricity should be first and foremost. Another of the most essential components of a well-run light department is reliability as a lot of people depend on the power not only just to keep the lights on, power is an essential service for health and safety. And, equally important, is sustainability, how we source our power, who we buy our power from, and how much renewable energy is provided to the town. Low cost, reliability, and sustainability is really what’s my motivation for running.

A five minute video of Macrae explaining his positions can be viewed at the Belmont Media Center at this link: https://www.belmontmedia.org/watch/michael-macrae-candidate-light-board-2022

Q: Why seek a two year term rather than a full three year position?

A: One of the things that I think is really important in this election, is understanding that this is a sort of natural transition, an evolution of how Belmont Light and their governance and advisory committees work together. We have four of the current Lightboard Advisory Committee running for five seats on the Light Board, It naturally creates a need for us to create some agreement to say, “hey, let’s not all run against each other.” I want to make this as easy as possible for the four current Light Board Advisory Committee members to run.

Q: What are your goals for the Light Board?

A: On a personal basis, my motivation goes back to that triangle of reliability, low cost and sustainable. And I think one of the most effective ways we can do that is to lower the cost of electricity. Because if you lower the cost of electricity, it becomes easier and more attractive to say “I want to do an electric dryer. I want to get a smart thermostat. I want to install an EV in my garage or my driveway.” All of those things become financially more attractive the cheaper electricity gets, but those things also come with such a strong benefit because they are shifting how we use energy to cleaner energy. They’re getting emissions out of our town and they’re getting global emissions of greenhouse gases out of the air.

Q: Belmont Light is expected to move towards carbon neutrality through the Town Meeting-passed Climate Action Plan. But is there a price point on renewable sources of energy that you are unwilling to cross because it would cost consumers too much?

A: When I worked with Harvard University, one of my jobs was essentially the exact same thing that Belmont Light does – buying power. but for Harvard’s campus. And in that time, we continually increased the renewable energy use for Harvard’s campus without raising costs.

So if you do it smartly, and you do it strategically, you can have a very sustained, steady march towards cleaner power without crossing over a point at which you start to say, “Well, we’ve using lots of renewable power, but nobody can afford to use it.” Because then that disincentives somebody replacing a car with an electric vehicle or replacing an oil boiler with a heat pump.

And so we look at the benefits of the totality of everything to say, as you increase renewables, you also increase all these local benefits. And that helps clean the air in Belmont. Every time you take an oil boiler offline, our local air quality gets a little bit better, as well as reducing the global impacts of CO2 and other greenhouse gases. So the answer is you need to do it smartly, you need to do it with careful consideration and planning and you need to do it in balance with the local benefits. That cheaper power can bring similar global benefits that buying renewable power brings.

Q: How will you help make sure this new board doesn’t become a bureaucratic backwater that lacks in transparency?

A: One of the exciting opportunities is that we have a highly functional team stepping into this board role. Travis [Franck], Dave [Beavers], Steve [Klionsky] and myself, we have a demonstrated proven track record of getting a lot done. We’ve launched a Time of Use pilot, we’ve successfully navigated revising the governance documents for Belmont Light, and we’ve moved through numerous big topics, and we’ve done it well. And within the organization, there’s just a lot of camaraderie. There’s a lot of high functional relationships and we can all see the goal. We communicate well, we are honest, we’re transparent. We say what we mean and we mean what we say. And I think that within the board structure this will really help us support Belmont Light.

Q: A prominent resident said Belmont Light was a “quaint antiquity,” a municipal utility in a world where large international energy firms are the dominate powers. Is the small utility a thing of the past?

A:  I sure hope not. There’s a lot going on in the world right now, a lot of it is very challenging to see in the news. And one of the impacts of that is increasing global energy prices. And so while we in Belmont Light have had stable electricity rates for years, and have indications that we should continue to have very modest changes to our power supply rates, all of our neighboring towns that have investor-owned big utilities of Massachusetts are seeing up to a 25 percent increase in their electricity costs. Because we have this wonderful gem of Belmont Light, we are able to strategically manage our power supply to keep rates low.

We have fewer changes than all of our neighbors and to keep our power as sustainable and reliable as possible. I think we’ve got some of the lowest outage rates and we have some of the cleanest electricity supply. And that is because we have a smart, locally governed community-owned light plant. So I don’t see it going anywhere soon. Municipal utilities been around for a very long time. And I’m optimistic they’ll be around for even longer than that.

Letter To The Editor: Lasseter Will Welcome Change To Status Quo

Photo: A lawn sign for Jeff Lasseter (Jeff for Belmont Facebook page)

To the editor:

Although I’m too young to vote, I want to express my support for Jeff Lasseter who is running for Belmont Select Board. I’ve met Jeff and was impressed with his depth of knowledge, commitment to the town, and how he listens to residents and thinks about their input, before reaching decisions, leading to action. I appreciate how Jeff hired young Belmont residents to work in his restaurant and his involvement in the community through sponsoring fundraisers. 

In his many years in federal government, Jeff acquired real life experience balancing the books, often needing to do “more with less.” We need to run the town like a business, holding everyone involved with the town’s finances accountable. 

Jeff sincerely relates to parents, seniors, business owners and anyone invested in improving our town for all. Jeff’s ability to relate to all constituents and respect their concerns, is a welcome change to the status quo in Belmont.

Antonio Molle

Warwick Road

Letter To The Editor: Re-Election Announcement From Amy Checkoway, School Committee

Photo: Amy Checkoway

To the editor:

I am pleased to announce my candidacy for re-election to the Belmont School Committee. I believe my experience, capabilities, and demonstrated effectiveness working collaboratively to meet challenges will advance the excellence of the Belmont Public Schools.

I was first elected to the School Committee in April 2019, and since April 2021 I have had the honor to serve as its chair. My term has been intense, meaningful, busy, and challenging. I care deeply about the future of our schools and feel strongly that I will continue to make a positive impact. If re-elected, key goals for my next term will include focus on continued engagement with our wonderful community and a strong commitment to working closely with the leadership of our school district and the Town.

I ran for School Committee three years ago because of my professional background and expertise in federal and state education policy, experience volunteering in our schools, personal investment in the district as a parent, and deep commitment to public service. In my first term, I have led or participated in multiple subcommittees and working groups that focus on school finance, district-wide policy, curriculum and instruction, educational equity, capital needs, and town-wide structural change to improve efficiency and reduce costs. I also represent Belmont on the board of EDCO, a regional educational collaborative that provides high-quality professional development for teaching staff and special education services at a reduced cost to the district.

The COVID pandemic has brought unprecedented challenges to our schools, school leadership, and School Committee. An important focus of my time as chair in the last nine months has been rebuilding trust and confidence in our district, improving communications with all stakeholders, and increasing the level of transparency in decision-making. I have prioritized a welcoming environment at our meetings, including meaningful opportunities for parents and community members to share their views and concerns. I value the strong relationships that I have built with my colleagues on the School Committee, town leaders, and members of the school district staff, which enable me to be a more effective and informed leader.

My priorities looking forward include building even stronger district-family-community partnerships; working toward a more equitable and inclusive educational community for all students and staff; supporting students’ academic recovery and their social-emotional and mental health needs; and strategically managing the district’s financial resources, including one-time COVID recovery federal funds, to ensure that our schools are positioned to provide the kind of educational experiences and supports that our students need and deserve.

There is enormous talent and potential in the Belmont Public Schools. In the coming months, we have an exciting opportunity to work together as a community in constructing a dynamic vision for the future of public education in Belmont as we reconfigure the grades in our school buildings.

Serving in this role is incredibly humbling and consuming. I do not pretend to have all the answers, and we will need the help of the entire community to ensure our schools’ success. For my part, I can – and will – commit to offering my proven work ethic, empathy, critical thinking, even handedness, and constructive problem-solving skills in tackling the many challenges and issues at hand for the Belmont Public Schools. With your support, I hope to have the opportunity to help steer our district to a better place and provide steady and knowledgeable leadership as well as important stability to our community for another term.

Amy Checkoway

Checkoway Submitting Papers For Re-Election To School Committee

Photo: Amy Checkoway

There will a familiar name on the ballot at Town Election in April as current School Committee Chair Amy Checkoway said she will be taking out nomination papers this week for re-election.

“I have decided to run for re-election to the School Committee,” said Checkoway in a Jan. 11 email. “I plan to go to Town Hall to pick up papers on Thursday or Friday of this week.”

“As you know, it has been an extremely busy, complicated, and challenging first term, and I hope that I have the opportunity to continue to help lead and serve our community,” she said in an email to the Belmontonian.

Checkoway won election to the committee in 2019 with 3,104 votes, topping the ticket with 41 percent of the ballots. The Pequossette Road resident became chair this past April after Andrea Prestwich resigned to take a position with the National Science Foundation.

An education policy researcher for a large international consulting firm, Checkoway as committee head has been a steadying influence on the board looking for committee-wide consensus on several issues including Covid mitigation and the school budget while chairing the committee during the opening of the high school wing of the Belmont Middle and High School project. She also led the committee in confronting a rash of racist messaging left at schools.

Nomination Papers For Town-Wide Posts, Town Meeting Members Now Available For Pick Up

Photo: Example of a past years’ sample nomination paper

Nomination papers for town offices are now available for those who are interested in running for elected office in Belmont.

Candidates should stop by the Town Clerk’s office at Town Hall to pick up nomination papers; have your neighbors and friends, who are registered voters of Belmont, sign your nomination papers and submit the signed forms back by the deadline of Tuesday, Feb. 15, 2022 at 5 p.m.

Office hours of Town Hall for pick up and drop off or questions, no appointment is necessary:

  • Monday: 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.
  • Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday: 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Friday: 8 a.m. to noon.

Here’s the list of offices that will be filled by the April 5, 2022 Annual Town Election as of December 16, 2021. To find out more about the responsibilities of these offices, please check out their individual web pages on the Town website  https://www.belmont-ma.gov/home/pages/boards-commissions  or watch any public meetings on Zoom or www.belmontmedia.org  

Town-wide Offices        Number of Seats Term of Office 
ModeratorVote for One1 year 
Select BoardVote for One3 years 
Board of AssessorsVote for One3 years 
Board of Cemetery CommissionersVote for One3 years 
Board of HealthVote for One3 years 
Trustees of the Public LibraryVote for Two3 years 
Members of the School CommitteeVote for Two3 years 
Municipal Light BoardVote for Five3 years, 2 years, 1 year 
 Town Meeting Members for
Precincts 1, 2, 6 and 8:
Vote for Thirty-six3 years, 2 years, 1 year 
Precincts 3, 4, 5 and 7Vote for Twelve3 years 

What’s Different About 2022? 

  • Town-wide Offices:  In addition to the customary Town-wide offices, (see below for specifics), per the May 3, 2021 vote of the annual Town Meeting, a new elected five-member Municipal Light Board has been created. The full five-member board will be elected in 2022; the two candidates who receive the most votes will win three-year terms, the next two will win two-year terms and the last one will win the one-year term.
  • Representative Town Meeting: The population data from the 2020 Federal Census required Belmont to change some of our voting precinct boundaries to more evenly distribute the residents and the Town Meeting Members who represent them. Per Belmont’s Representative Town Meeting Act, changes of precinct boundaries requires that all 36 seats for Town Meeting in a re-constituted precinct be considered open and must be filled by election.

A. The boundaries of Belmont Precincts 1, 2, 6 and 8 have been changed and therefore 36 seats are open and must be filled by election. The 12 candidates who receive the most votes will win three-year terms, the next 12 will win two-year terms and the last 12 will be one-year terms. The six current Town Meeting Members whose precincts will change have already been notified separately.

B. The boundaries of Belmont Precincts 3, 4, 5 and 7, are unchanged by the re-precincting efforts described above,  and will therefore elect the customary 12 Town Meeting Members, each for a  three-year term.  

Running for Re-election to Town Meeting: Precinct 2, 4, 5 and 7 current Town Meeting Members whose term of office expires in 2022 as well as all of the Town Meeting Members current serving in Precincts 1, 2, 6 and 8 have already been mailed a letter asking if the person will seek re-election. Deadline for return of the signed response letter to the Town Clerk is absolute: Tuesday, Jan. 25 at 5 p.m.  To confirm whether your current term expires in 2022, please check the Town Clerk’s “Town Meeting Members” web page: https://www.belmont-ma.gov/town-clerk/pages/town-meeting-members

The Town Clerk’s web pages contain quite a bit of information to help make a decision to seek office and running for election at www.belmont-ma.gov  select Town Clerk, then select Running for Elected Office and Campaigning or feel free to call us at 617-993-2603, or email at townclerk@belmont-ma.gov