[Breaking] Paolillo Will Not Seek Fifth Term On Select Board As Potential Candidates Ready Run

Photo: Mark Paolillo

For Mark Paolillo, 12 years is enough.

Serving the final year of his fourth non-consecutive term (2010-2019, 2021-currently) on the Belmont Select Board, Paolillo will not be seeking a fifth when his tenure ends in April 2024.

“I’m not going anywhere, and I still love the job, but now is the right time to step away,” Paolillo told the Belmontonian at the celebration for the closing of the Belmont Public Library on Saturday, Nov. 18.

“It’s been an honor serving my home town on the board,” said Paolillo.

Even before his announcement, several names had been circulating around town of likely candidates to fill Paolillo’s seat, from those with significant experience serving on boards and committees, and several “newcomers” who have had just a taste of local government exposure.

It’s expected the first, and possibly second, of the potential candidates will be picking up nomination papers at the Town Clerk’s office by Wednesday, Nov. 22, before Town Hall shuts down for the four-day Thanksgiving holiday.

Paolillo will continue serving on the board until the Town Election on April 2, 2024. He said he wanted to participate in the creation of the fiscal 2025 budget and work with his board colleagues, Roy Epstein and Elizabeth Dionne, and town Financial Director Jennifer Hewitt in finding consensus on the critical dollar amount of the Proposition 2 1/2 override presented to voters in April.

“This [upcoming] override vote is massive for the future of Belmont and its schools. We have to get this one right,” he said.

A popular vote-getter at town elections, Paolillo won his first three-year term in 2010, defeating incumbent Dan LeClerc with 45 percent of the vote in a three-way race. Paolillo ran unopposed in 2013 and 2021.

After leaving the board in 2019, Paolillo returned in 2021 with a mission “to help the community move past its differences” after an override that year was rejected by residents by a 1,000 vote margin.

In his dozen years on the Select Board, Paolillo – a principal with the global tax services firm Ryan – has championed financial stability and sustainability (he is a member of the Financial Task Force) and is a strong supporter of implementing the long term structural reforms outlined in the Collins Center Report.

Paolillo is also known for his efforts to find consensus on the board and between town and elected officials as well as the public on the major issues facing Belmont.

“I have had amazing colleagues who have, I believe, made Belmont a better place,” he said.

Paolillo Named 2022-3 Select Board Chair

Photo: Mark Paolillo

Mark Paolillo was unanimously elected chair of the Belmont Select Board for the coming year in a vote during the board’s annual organizing meeting on Wednesday, April 6.

Adam Dash steps into the vice-chair role with Roy Epstein, who won re-election to the board the previous night, taking the role of member.

”I certainly appreciate [Dash’s] leadership over the past year and I look forward to working with both you in the upcoming year. We have a lot of work that we need to accomplish,” said Paolillo, who was the board’s vice chair over the past year.

The remainder of the morning meeting was taken up on the board’s liaison assignments with town committees and boards.

Paolillo (Re)Joins Select Board

Photo: The team that runs Belmont: (from top left clockwise) Select Board Chair Adam Dash, vice-chair Roy Epstein, Town Administrator Patrice Garvin, Select Board member Mark Paolillo, and Jon Marshall, assistant town administrator.

When Mark Paolillo served on the Belmont Select Board in the 2010s he would be continually fighting a losing battle with Boston traffic to get to the Board’s Monday evening meetings on time, which resulted in good-natured comments from colleagues when he would eventually come flying into Town Hall.

The three-term (2010-19) “selectman” returns to the board after running unopposed to secure his fourth term at the April 6 Town Election. And the next day, at the annual organizational meeting, it was as if Paolillo hadn’t missed a beat … as he was running three minutes late.

Paolillo said there will be a lot of work facing the Board in the coming year after the rejection of the Prop 2 1/2 override by the voters 12 hours earlier.

“We need to come together as a board and, frankly, as a community. It was an emotionally charged election and I think it’s up to us as members of the board to help the community move past its differences,” said Paolillo, pointing to reengage on fiscal issues within the town.

“That’s going to be my primary focus on the board, but there are other things that are in the back of my mind like the community path and our climate action plan,” he said. “I know we have a diversity initiative that I’m fully engaged and committed to.”

At Wednesday’s meeting, Adam Dash returned for his second turn leading the Select Board after he was named chair for the coming year. Dash said he will run the meetings – they have been pushing close to four hours – using three simple rules:

  1. No drama,
  2. Be respectful, and
  3. Don’t waste anybody’s time because there’s a lot to do this year.

Dash also mentioned the failed override vote resulting in “a lot of work to do in a very short time getting ready for Town Meeting” which will occur at the end of April.

Roy Epstein, who ran the board for the past year is now vice-chair. Epstein said he will continue his work of making Select Board meeting material available to the public via the board’s website.

“There’s been some difficulty in getting that organized as it’s logistically cumbersome and sometimes we have 15 to 20 and 30 documents. But I think it’s a good practice just to make everything available so nobody feels that they’ve been at some informational disadvantage at the time of the meeting,” said Epstein.

Paolillo Seeks A Fourth Act To Help Beat Back A Pair Of Fiscal Challenges

Photo: Mark Paolillo

Mark Paolillo will try to prove – in the political sense – Thomas Wolfe wrong: You can return home to elected office.

Paolillo has taken out nomination papers for a return to the Select Board (it was called the Board of Selectmen when he last served) as he will seek a fourth three-year-term after current board member Tom Caputo announced he would not seek re-election, believing he has the background and experience to help Belmont beat back the twin adversaries of a long-term structural deficit and the budgetary impact of COVID-19.

A life-time Belmontian, Paolillo served three consecutive stints on the board beginning in 2010 when he topped a three person field with 45 percent of the vote. He decided in 2019 that nine years was plenty representing Belmont residents.

“Nine years is a long time and it’s time to move on,” he said at the time.

Not that Paolillo had completely retreated from local goverance. In fact, he was been busy around town hall (and on Zoom calls) since leaving the board, most notably serving on the influential Financial Task Force II – which last month recommended a $6.4 million override to be placed on the April 6 town election ballot – and as chair of the police chief search committee.

But when he heard Caputo was not running for a second term, Paolillo decided to place his hat once again into the ring. As Paolillo tells it, he wasn’t considering running this cycle.

“No, not at all. I was hoping Tom would run for re-election and told him that. I would have endorsed his candidacy,” he told the Belmontonian. In fact, he was attempting to recruit people he knew who might be interested in the job.

“When I learned about Tom’s plan prior to his announcement, I reached out to some individuals that have  strong financial and leadership skills that would bring diversity to the Board about running. They are not interested at this time.”

With no takers, Paolillo has launched a campaign with an eye on easing the pressures on the town finances.

“We are in a fiscal crisis as a community. I have the institutional knowledge, deep experience and financial skills to help our town navigate thru it,” said Paolillo, who pointed to three major issues that must be tackled.

“Clearly we are in a midst of a pandemic, so the health and safety of our residents is of paramount concern. [Belmont is] in a financial crisis which needs to be addressed and dealt with so we need to focus on long term financial and structural reform,” he said.

“And we need to work more closely with the School Committee and school administration to support their efforts in getting our students back on campus and learning in the classroom,” Paolillo noted.

BREAKING: Paolillo Stepping Down As Selectman

Photo: Mark Paolillo

It was a tough decision, but in the end, Mark Paolillo decided that it was a time of a change in his life and the political life of his hometown.

The three-term member of the Belmont Board of Selectmen told his fellow members after the end of its scheduled meeting Monday, Jan. 7 that he would not seek re-election to the three-person board in April.

“Nine years is a long time and it’s time to move on,” said the life-long Belmont resident.

Paolillo had been wavering between staying for a fourth term –  which would have been the longest-serving member since William Monahan

“I’ve been conflicted because it’s been a great board (comprised of selectmen Tom Caputo and chairman Adam Dash) this past year and I enjoy thoroughly working with Patrice [Garvin, Town Administrator] and there is still a lot of issues and there always will be. But I think it’s the best decision for myself and my family.

“I sought the counsel of many in town and I did call some of them privately and told them my decision. It was a really tough, tough call because it’s been a fun year,” said Paolillo. 

“It’s not that [the work] has worn on me but I think new ideas are important as well. I only thought I would do two [terms] but I did nine [years]. And I will continue to support these two guys,” said Paolillo of Caputo and Dash.

“I am sorry to see him go,” said Dash, noting the importance of having Paolillo on the board who had the institutional history and policy heft when taking on major concerns facing residents.

“I understand your decision but you will be sorely missed and look forward you staying involved,” said Caputo.

Paolillo will still be involved in town governance as he will seek a Town Meeting seat this April and has talked about joining one of the myriads of boards and committees. “I will give it a little bit of a breather before deciding.”

After serving on numerous boards including the Warrant Committee, Paolillo was elected selectman in 2010, defeating Dan LeClerc and Anne Mahon with 45 percent of the vote. He ran unopposed in 2013 and beat back challenger Alexandra Ruban with 65 percent of the voters backing him in 2016. 

While always looking for a “win-win-win” solution (a favorite Paolillo phrase) to challenging issues facing the town, Paolillo was not a shrinking violet when confronting opposing views that he felt were specious or misinformed. 

Paolillo said he hopes candidates will step up, noting that “we need diversity on the board and hopefully they are up to that task.” 

Town Election 2016: Paolillo Retains Selectmen Seat; Prestwich, Bicer on Schools, 18-Year-Old Tops Town Meeting Ballot

Photo: Supporters of top vote collector Dan Vernick on Election Day in Belmont.

Mark Paolillo will be returning for a third (and final) three-year term on the Belmont Board of Selectmen as he easily beat back a spirited campaign from political novice Alexandra Ruban in the 2016 Belmont Town Election held on Tuesday, April 5.

Paolillo received 2,432 votes to Ruban’s 1,360, from voters in the eight precincts in town to secure the victory on a day when 3,907 voters, 22.6 percent of all registered voters, took the time to make it to the polls. Paolillo won all but one precinct – falling behind Ruban by five votes, 165-160 in seven – while more than making up that difference by winning overwhelmingly in his home district, in Precinct 8, by more than 250 votes (438-185).

Obtain the unofficial results at the Town Clerk’s Web page here. 

In the contested school committee race, first-timers Murat Bicer and Andrea Prestwich secured three-year terms finishing first and second with 1,959 and 1,931 votes. They outlasted Kimberly O’Mahony, who come in with 1,662 votes in a tight race for the seats vacated by long-time members Laurie Slap and current school committee member Elyse Shuster, who returns for a single year position, finishing the term of Laurie Graham. While Prestwich won half of the precincts, Bicer (who won three with O’Mahony winning her home precinct, the 4th, overwhelmingly) was always just a few votes from her total, losing three precincts (2, 3 and 5) by a total of 16 votes. 

For the race to fill the three-year-term on the Housing Authority, well-known Belmontian Tomi Olson defeated Paul Rickter by more than 150 votes out of 3,200 cast, 1,680 to 1,523. 

Over on the Town Meeting side of the ballot, the top story is 18-year-old Daniel Vernick (Belmont High ’15) who not only topped the vote in Precinct 1 with 339 cast; he received the most votes of any Town Meeting candidate running. Vernick, Yale ’19, ran an impressive campaign using social media, local contacts and going door-to-door to win his seat in the town’s legislative branch, saying he would bring “my [BHS] classmates’ perspective both internally within the school administration and externally through the town.” No one should be surprised by Vernick’s enthusiastic campaign, having started his activism as a 7th-grade middle school student calling for the passage of a Prop. 2 1/2 override in 2010. 

Five incumbents did not retain their seats including a pair in both precincts 1 and 6, while new members will be taking their place in the 290 member body including Kristen Zecchi in 1, Michael Chesson in Precinct 4, Elizabeth Lipson (with an impressive fifth place) and Katherine Gardner Poulin-Kerstien, and Gi Hyun Yoon-Huang in 8. 

And over in the “couples district,” Precinct 4 is sending three sets of married couples, the Flewellings (Sheila topped her husband, David, 205-192), long-time town meeting member Kevin Cunningham just got by his wife, newly-elected Lisa Gibalerio, by one-vote and Sandra Occhino was 14 votes ahead of her husband, John.

And finally, Warren Committee Chair Michael Libenson is back in Town Meeting representing his home Precinct 1 after being voted off the body a few years back, essentially for not responding to the questioner from the Belmont League of Women Voters guide. And School Committee member Susan Burgess-Cox successfully changed precincts now representing Precinct 2 for the next two years.

Letter to the Editor: In His Work On Override, Paolillo Deserves Our Vote

Correction: In my letter, I mistakenly attributed statements from supporters who are campaigning for Ruban to “the Ruban campaign.” Ms. Ruban did not make these claims. 

To the editor:

I care deeply about the Belmont schools. I rely on our town services. I feel strongly that we need to fix our crumbling infrastructure; roads, sidewalks, buildings, playgrounds, etc. 

The 2015 successful override advanced all of these priorities and provided greater financial security for our town.

We owe that to Mark Paolillo.

For me, it is a clear choice:

  • Choose a selectman with 22 years of experience on the Board of Selectmen, Warrant Committee, and Town Meeting.
  • Or choose a selectman in Alexandra Ruban whose only Belmont experience is voting in one town election.

This institutional knowledge that Paolillo brings to the Board of Selectmen is irreplaceable. 

Let’s take the override as an example of Mark’s knowledge and leadership. Most people only saw the seven-week campaign. We celebrated and congratulated each other for making it happen.

But I know, it wouldn’t have happened without Mark’s multi-year preparation, advocacy, and leadership.

How did the override come to be?

  • Mark did his homework. He determined that a key reason for the failure of the 2010 override was that we didn’t adequately show the voters why we were asking for more money.
  • He laid the groundwork. He and the selectmen upgraded the town’s administrative and financial staff so we could properly do the analysis.
  • He made the case. He created and led the financial task force which exhaustively evaluated all avenues to address the town’s financial challenges. 
  • He got it on the ballot. Many obstacles could have prevented putting the override on the April ballot, but Mark made it happen.
  • He advocated for the override. Mark made presentation after presentation explaining why the town needed an infusion of new revenue.
  • And in the last seven weeks, we – the community as a whole – launched a vigorous campaign. I don’t underestimate the importance of the campaign. But I won’t overestimate it either.

Passing an override is hard work. No one wants to pay more taxes. Residents will not pass an override without believing that everything else has been tried. And that requires hard work, experience, knowledge and leadership.

Experience means you know how to get things done. You know who has the skills to solve complex problems. You know what has been tried in the past, why it worked, or why it failed. You are ready to act. In other words, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel.

It is not enough for our leaders to vote for our priorities. They need the experience to do the hard work that makes the vote possible.

I have only had one meeting with Ruban. I believe that she is smart and well-intentioned. But I also believe that she needs experience in Belmont town government before she is qualified to serve as a selectman.

I began my learning curve five years ago. After two years on the Warrant Committee, five years on Town Meeting, three years on the Underwood Pool Building Committee, and numerous other Belmont leadership roles (YES for Belmont, Joey’s Park, Winn Brook PTA, Belmont KidSpace), I am still on a learning curve. I do not believe it is possible to be the kind of selectman that Belmont deserves without prior experience.

Belmont has important challenges ahead: the high school project, continued enrollment growth, budgetary pressures, and quality of life projects that require Mark’s collaborative approach to complete. 

The future of Belmont’s children and seniors and everyone in between will be better served by retaining Mark Paolillo’s institutional knowledge, leadership and experience on the Board of Selectmen.

It is a clear choice.

Please join me in voting for Mark Paolillo on April 5.

Ellen Schreiber

Sandrick Road

Why I’m Running: Mark Paolillo for Board of Selectmen

Photo: Mark Paolillo

With a sense of purpose and a continued desire to serve Belmont, I am seeking re-election to the Board of Selectmen. Six years ago, I ran on a platform of “we can do better.” The record shows that we have. But, there is still unfinished business.

As Selectman, I drove the creation of the Financial Task Force which developed a multi-year financial plan that will serve as our blueprint for building a sound financial future. It set the stage for the first successful override in 13 years. The override provided financial stability for our school and town budgets and increased our capital budget to help finance our capital improvement needs. During my tenure, we established a more effective and collaborative annual budget process. We improved Town infrastructure by approving the construction of a new Electric Light Substation that will meet peak electricity demand well into the future. The historic 100-year old Underwood Pool was replaced with a beautiful new pool. Lastly, we dramatically improved our communication and transparency by directing town employees to be responsive to all resident inquiries and by redesigning our town website to make it easier for residents to find information such as budgets, policies, and meeting minutes.

Yet there is still more to do. We must complete the excellent work of the Financial Task Force and implement key recommendations, including maximizing non-tax revenue and exploring regionalization with neighboring communities. We have major building projects to address, including the Belmont High School, the Police Station, the Library, the DPW Facility and the Skating Rink.  Finally, we must address the need for a Community Path.

I love this town. I have been honored to serve as your Selectman. I ask for your vote on Tuesday, April 5th.  Please feel free to contact me at 617-489-6517, vote@ElectMarkPaolillo.com, or  www.ElectMarkPaolillo.com.

Opinion: Mark Paolillo, The Leadership Belmont Needs

Photo: Mark Paolillo.

By Ellen Schreiber and Sara Masucci

Leadership, experience and vision matter on our Board of Selectman.

Last year, we led the override campaign to protect our town – to keep the schools strong; to fix our roads, sidewalks, and buildings; and to avoid encroaching on other town services we all depend on.

This work is not done. Belmont is now facing some of its most exciting and most daunting challenges ever.

These challenges require Mark Paolillo’s strong leadership, experience and vision.

Mark believes in a community where individuals make a difference. He is a parent who “put his money where his mouth is” to guarantee the excellence of our schools. With Mark, everyone has a voice, every perspective is important, and a consensus is a worthy goal.  In Mark’s Belmont, unique places like the Underwood Pool, the Viglirolo Skating Rink, Butler playground, Joey’s Park, the emerging Community Path, and the Senior Center define this “Town of Homes.” He fosters the vision that we become a community when we serve our neighbors and strive together to be better.

Mark’s priorities are our priorities, including:

  1. Shepherding the renovation/rebuild of Belmont High School,
  2. Relieving the budget pressure caused by skyrocketing school enrollment,
  3. Extending the positive impact of the Proposition 2 1/2 override,
  4. Leading the implementation of identified revenue opportunities and fiscal discipline,
  5. Achieving consensus on the community path,
  6. Navigating the murky waters of the Minuteman High School project,

Plus many more.

Mark is uniquely capable of accomplishing these tasks.

  • Mark was a key architect of the override. The Financial Task Force he led performed the analysis that created the override proposal, and he was a primary advocate for passage.
  • Mark has always been a strong supporter of the Belmont schools as a parent and town leader.
  • Mark has 12-years of experience analyzing and optimizing Belmont’s complex, $100-plus million budget.
  • During his tenure as Chair of the Board of Selectmen, Belmont benefitted from Mark’s skill in consensus building and negotiation. Time after time, he demonstrated his commitment to listen to all residents as a key part of his decision making.
  • Mark has experience with building projects, as selectman during the construction of the Wellington School and the Underwood Pool.

We believe the effectiveness of the Board of Selectmen would be compromised without Mark.

  • Mark has a unique skill set on the board as a CPA, who leads a global accounting practice.
  • Mark is the only selectman with 12-years of Belmont budget experience, compared to the other selectmen who have 1-2 years of experience.
  • Mark’s institutional knowledge is irreplaceable on the board; he is well versed on every important issue that Belmont has faced for the last 18 years.

This is not the time for “change for the sake of change.” 

Of course, there are always things we can do better. A government is a work in progress. And none of us are perfect. We believe Mark sincerely regrets the vote that led to the contentious atmosphere surrounding the Belmont Center project, and he was part of collaboration that achieved a compromise.

Mark’s leadership has helped Belmont take huge steps forward. We wouldn’t have the override without Mark. Or the Underwood Pool. Or the new Minuteman agreement. Or the Financial Task Force. Mark is the “go-to” selectman to resolve Belmont’s most thorny issues.

There is no one more committed to Belmont’s children and seniors, homeowners and renters, businesses and employees, than Mark Paolillo. He is dedicated to serving this community.

In these exciting and challenging times, Belmont is lucky that Mark Paolillo wants to continue to serve on the Board of Selectmen.

Newcomer Ruban To Challenge Incumbent Paolillo for Selectman

Photo: Alexandra Ruban submitting nomination papers on Tuesday, Feb. 16.

A relative newcomer will be challenging a lifelong resident for the open selectman seat at the Belmont Town Election in April.

Claflin Street’s Alexandra Ruban submitted more than 100 signatures with Town Clerk Ellen Cushman on Tuesday, Feb. 16, setting up a race with two-term incumbent Mark Paolillo from Pilgrim Road. 

In a press release submitted by her campaign team, Ruban said there is a lack of transparency and consistency on important decisions made by town government and the current board made up of Paolillo, Jim Williams and Chairman Sami Baghdady.

“After observing the decisions made by our Board of Selectmen in recent years, I am concerned that there is a lack of transparency and accountability in the office that is challenging the Town’s goals and financial viability,” said Ruban, who moved with her husband and two children to Belmont from Somerville in 2013. 

“Rather than just complain, I want to use my experience to do something about it, namely: run for Town Selectman,” Ruban said in the press release.

Leading Ruban’s team is campaign chair and communications manager Erin Lubien, who was communications director for Selectman Jim Williams’ election campaign last year. Ruban’s campaign treasurer is Vera Iskandarian of Waverley Street.

“I look forward to meeting with my constituents and representing the concerns of many in the upcoming election season,” Ruban said, noting that elected, she would be only the fourth woman to serve as a Selectman since the town was incorporated in 1859.

The owner of a consulting firm that helps small businesses grow and optimize their performance, Ruban will be holding a community “meet and greet” on Feb. 28.