BREAKING: Epstein Takes Selectman Seat; Prestwich, Checkoway Top School; Page On Housing

Photo: Cassandra Page (right) hugs Charles Laverty III as the newly elected member of the Housing Authority celebrates her popular victory.

In a battle between Belmont’s progressive community and the town’s establishment wing, Warrant Committee Chair Roy Epstein prevailed over newcomer Jessie Bennett to fill the seat of retiring selectman Mark Paolillo in a tight race in the 2019 Belmont Town Election held on Tuesday, April 2.

Epstein was able to parlay a long history of experience as a member of numerous town boards and committees to the win over Bennett garnering 2,573  votes (final totals will be certified by the state) from the town’s eight precincts, a razor thin 128 vote majority over Bennett. Epstein’s win was secured with lopsided majorities in two precincts – Belmont Hill’s Precinct 2 (a two-to-one win, 442-208) and Winn Brook’s Precinct 8 (446-308) – to offset Bennett’s wide support winning six of the town’s eight precincts.

Trailing the field was newcomer Tim Flood who came in third with 128 votes.

In the race for Belmont School Committee, incumbent Andrea Prestwich will retain her seat for a full three-year term coming in with 2,975 votes, joining first-time candidate Amy Checkoway who took the second three-year seat available this year with 3,105 votes. Peter Pantazapolous (1,417 votes) came in third in the three-person race. 

Micheal Crowley ran unopposed to take the one-year term seat on the School Committee.

In a race for a five-year seat on the Belmont Housing Committee, Belmont Village resident Cassandra Page defeated incumbent Tomi Olsen, 2,422 to 2,034. An anxious Page arrived at Town Hall to hear the results called by Assistant Town Clerk Meg Piccione outside the Board of Selectmen’s Room. When her victory was confirmed, Page – a popular first time candidate who ran on improving the lives of her fellow residents – received countless handshakes and hugs from supporters, observers such as Paolillo who came to see if he won a seat on Town Meeting (he did) and total strangers. 

“Oh my God. This is so not real,” an overjoyed Page said to Charles Laverty III (who was newly re-elected on the Board of Assessors) who is a now fellow housing board member. 

Final Say: Cassandra Page, Belmont Housing Authority


I am Cassandra Page and I am running for Belmont Housing Authority. I am a lifelong resident of Belmont, and 30 year resident of Belmont Village.

I am a proud single mother of three beautiful children: Faith, Jacob and Christopher. I am running so that I can help create a better relationship between the BHA and the tenants. Through those relationships we can better the facilities and the character of the communities governed by the BHA.

When I was younger the Village was a much different place than it is today. When the village opened in 1950 it welcomed veterans and their families, giving them an affordable place to call home. There was a strong tie to our police department, everyone knew each other and we had large kickball games, water fights and cookouts. We weren’t just a community, we were family.

My goal is to rebuild these relationships not just between the tenant, but with the office staff, the board, and Belmont as a whole. I believe that working together we can restore the vibrant neighborhood I grew up in. Tenants need to be heard so that respect can grow on both sides. I hold a relationship and understanding of tenants no one else has. I can help them contribute not only in the decision making processes relating to our homes but also to bettering ourselves so eventually we will no longer need to rely on public housing. I want to build a better environment to pass on to the next generation of those in need, who may not otherwise have an opportunity to live here in Belmont.

The responsibility of the board is to oversee all financial aspects, programs, general maintenance and major projects by working with the director of the housing authority, while following DHCD guidelines, state laws and town bylaws. The BHA board is a bridge to better communication, not only with the office staff but with the tenants. Our low-income Developments for Veterans, Elderly, Disabled and Families deserve a place to call HOME.

Not only will I add tenant perspective to the board, I have made it my goal to learn my responsibilities. I have attended multiple meetings since starting this journey; even ones not directly related to the BHA. I am certain that I am prepared to take on this role and adapt it to needs of the town and tenants.

Some people might question my ability to tackle problems that the BHA might face, but I have been through more challenges in my life than the average person could even fathom, and I’m still standing; I am a survivor. I have always found a way through adversity with very little resources.

This experience has taught me so much about our community, government and myself. I feel truly blessed to have had this experience. I have met so many people through this process and their kindness has been invaluable. I want to thank everyone that has placed my sign in their yard, donated to my campaign, held a sign, and shown up to support me at meetings. So many people have encouraged me and given me their support privately including many tenants that are afraid to add their names to the list below of people who wish to endorse me publicly.

  • Natasha Vazquez
  • Linda Levin
  • Bonnie Friedman
  • Ellen Sugarman and Paul Rickter
  • Jack Weis
  • Emma Thurston
  • Loriann Hazel
  • Peter Smilak
  • Sandi McKinley
  • Julie Crockett
  • April Edrington
  • Laura Caputo
  • Cosmo and Keri Macero
  • Jessica and Nick Hausman
  • Cabell and Curtis Eames
  • Claire Holmes
  • Anne and Fred Paulsen
  • Rose O’Neil
  • Arty Marchetta
  • Daniel Cohen
  • Amy Checkoway
  • Paul Roberts and Lisa Starobin
  • Sundi Eleni
  • Carina Jasmine Hernandez-Wigfall
  • Libby Fallon Weintraub
  • Jenn Spencer
  • Jennifer Sheehan
  • Rose Marie Carlson
  • Roger and Roberta Wrubel
  • Anne Stuart
  • Paul Santos
  • Mary Ries
  • Claudia Flett
  • Erin and Ogden Sawyer

Since I began this journey, I have seen my neighbors start to come together as a community. I am confident that if I am elected to the Belmont Housing Authority I will be able to amp up this momentum and see the Belmont Village and all the Belmont Housing Authority properties become the vibrant communities they are meant to be.

I ask you to vote for me, Cassandra Page, for the Belmont Housing Authority on April 2nd and help me turn the PAGE to a better community!

Final Say: Tommasina Anne Olson, Belmont Housing Authority


I’m Tommasina Anne Olson I ask to be re-elected as a member to the Belmont Housing Authority on Tuesday, April 2.

I have been tireless in my efforts to serve Belmont and selflessly put Belmont and the BHA first in all decisions.

I have been involved in the Belmont Community for a number of years and have served Belmont beginning as a Town Meeting Member in 1991.  Since then I have been a committed advocate for seniors through the Belmont Council on Aging since 2009 and the Belmont Housing Trust since 2014. Serving on both provide valuable information necessary to address the Housing needs of our Belmont residents.

Given my commitment to education, I also serve on the Belmont School Superintendent’s Advisory Council/Belmont Community Education. This year I initiated the installation of four Little Library on the properties with the hope of encouraging greater reading and education.

Finally, I am also the founder and producer of the Payson Park Music Festival which for the past 29 seasons produces 15 community musical events,  evidencing my strong commitment to the community.

I have earned the trust of residents who have brought me their concerns and I have had them addressed.  One such is the completion of the much- delayed Community Center handicap ramp at Sherman Gardens.   I also explored a request for an elevator at Waverley Oak with several Town agencies.

The Board has taken special note of concerns sanitary conditions at the BHA. In concert with our new executive director, we move swiftly once these issues are brought to our attention through work orders.   Our timeliness of completion of these work orders has improved greatly. We also occasionally find it necessary to work with other Town agencies: Belmont Health Department, Council on Aging, Belmont Fire and Police Departments.

With a new Director on board for the past year and a half, the BHA Board is making changes to rectify issues not addressed over the past 30 years. We are improving our facilities, our financial reporting systems, and our personnel policies.

There is much left to be accomplished. Using a grant from the Housing Trust CPA funds the Board has initiated exploration of additional and upgraded facilities on the Sherman Gardens site. Serving on the Housing Trust provides me with access to the Planning Board as we move forward to begin this work. This work requires my proven ability to collaborate with other Town agencies.

Additionally, to complete this work requires strong analytical and business skills, and cost-benefit analysis, which I possess.

I take pride in being an advocate for all the residents of the Town, especially seniors and handicapped residents.  I have always had, and always will have an open door policy to listen to resident concerns. 

Given my experience as a financial professional, I possess the skills necessary to move the Belmont Housing Authority forward. But as importantly, my demonstrated commitment to the community and my strong connection to the Belmont community makes me a solid, vital advocate for fostering a sense of community within the BHA properties as well as encouraging a sense of community with the Town Belmont.

I ask for your vote on Tuesday, April 2.

Letter to the Editor: Tomi Thanks Voters, Residents’ Interests ‘Paramount’

To the editor:

I wish to thank all of my supporters for their support during my campaign for Housing Authority.  Your conviction evidenced by your hosting a sign, delivering and mailing cards, speaking to friends, getting friends out to vote,  and voting for me,  all added up to a victory.

I promise to represent our collective interests in housing and sheltering those less fortunate.  Our residents’ interests and our community’s interest will always be paramount in my decision-making.

I thank you for your confidence in me and I look forward to representing you and our community.

Tommasina (Tomi) Olson

Member Housing Authority

Why I’m Running: Paul Rickter for Housing Authority

Photo: Paul Rickter
My name is Paul Rickter and I’m running for Belmont Housing Authority. I’m a Town Meeting member and I live with my wife on Cross Street. Professionally I’m a programmer and I work for a software company called MEDITECH in Westwood.
There are three reasons why I’m running for Housing Authority.
One is my commitment to safe clean affordable housing. Affordable housing is an important part of the fabric of our community.
Two is my depth of experience serving on non-profit boards. I’ve served for 25 years on various boards, including 10 years on the national board of the Unitarian Universalist Association. I’ve chaired boards; I’ve chaired finance committees; I’ve chaired staff search committees. My board experience has taught me several lessons about leadership. One is that, especially on a small board like the Housing Authority, every member can and needs to take a leadership role.
Three is that I can forge creative solutions that make a difference in people’s lives. Writing software is about assessing problems, breaking down the issues into their component parts, and devising solutions for them. Low-income families trying to make ends meet are not ones and zeros, but the discipline of working through a problem and finding a creative solution is a skill that is definitely applicable to the Housing Authority. 
I am sure that my commitment, experience, and ability to forge creative solutions make me an ideal candidate for Belmont Housing Authority. I ask you for your support on April 5.

Letter to the Editor: Rickter Brings Commitment, Passion to Authority

Photo: Paul Rickter
To the editor:
I know Paul Rickter as a vocal, engaged Town Meeting Member and a supporter of and volunteer for a number of campaigns here in Belmont. These include hands’ on contributions to the building of Joey’s Park, work on last year’s override which provided essential funding to meet town and school needs, as well as support for a range of environmental initiatives and social justice causes.
I also have come to know him as someone with years of experience as a member and chair of non-profit boards similar to that of the BHA. Paul has the planning and budgetary expertise needed to provide fiduciary oversight of the many units of rental housing managed by the BHA. He has experience working with board members and other agencies to come up with innovative solutions to meet the needs of those they serve.
Even more importantly I know, that along with these professional skills and his experience, Paul will bring commitment and passion to ensure that current tenants of properties managed by the BHA are not only living in safe and secure housing but that the future housing needs of the most vulnerable in our community are met with fairness, equity and dignity.
I urge you to join me in supporting Paul Rickter for the three-year seat on the Belmont Housing Authority.
Laurie Graham
Warwick Road

Letter to the Editor: Housing Authority Could Use Rickter’s Non-Profit Expertise


Letter to the Editor:

I’m writing to endorse Paul Rickter for the Belmont Housing Authority. 

For more than ten years, I worked as Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Belmont Housing Trust, a non-profit affordable housing developer serving Belmont.  Through that work, I got to know both the mission of the Housing Authority and the ins-and-outs of the Belmont Housing Authority quite well. 

The skills needed to succeed as a member of the Housing Authority do not lie in the arena of building and financing affordable housing. Instead, the Housing Authority acts as the owner/manager of hundreds of units of rental housing in Belmont. Indeed, the Housing Authority is Belmont’s largest landlord.  

The Housing Authority is stressed by decreasing state assistance. The Housing Authority must meet the immediate needs of tenants and plan for the future needs of maintaining the physical infrastructure where people can live and thrive. What is needed, therefore, is a person who brings not merely an interest in the Housing Authority, but exceptional professional skills in management and innovation.

Paul brings 25 years of experience and skills in nonprofit management. Budgeting, strategic planning, people management. Paul brings precisely those skills that the Housing Authority needs today to meet the current and future needs of the BHA residents and, by extension, of the larger Belmont community.

I ask you to join me on April 5 in voting for Paul Rickter for Belmont Housing Authority.  

Roger Colton

Warwick Road