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.

Why I’m Running: Murat Bicer for School Committee

Photo: Murat Bicer

Hello, I’m Murat Bicer and I’m running for School Committee. My family and I deeply value public school education and I’m grateful that my children will benefit from Belmont’s excellent schools.

Over the next term of office, the School Committee will be faced with a number of important challenges.

Primary among these challenges are:

  • The need to manage rapidly increasing enrollment
  • The opportunity to build a new high school and share the costs with the Commonwealth
  • Teacher contract negotiations

Some of these challenges are structural which means we need to find long-term, sustainable solutions, and not just short-term fixes. We need to stretch our override dollars as far as they will go and question all the assumptions in our budget.

As an experienced venture capitalist and a father of two, I believe I’m uniquely qualified to do just that. And that’s why I am running.

I have over a decade of professional experience in financial management, strategic planning, and contract negotiations. Specifically, I have served on the boards of over a dozen companies. I routinely review and approve financial and operational plans. I have negotiated numerous employment contracts, as well as investment deals. And finally, I’ve served as the Treasurer of my children’s preschool for the last five years.

It is this range of experience that I can bring to the School Committee to make a difference for the future of Belmont’s schools.

I appreciate your support and, if elected, look forward to working hard for Belmont.

Letter to the Editor: Bicer’s Financial Expertise An Asset to Committee

Photo: Murat Bicer
To the editor:
I would like to encourage the residents of Belmont to vote for Murat Bicer for School Committee on April 5. He has a strong understanding of the problems that face our town’s schools and a clear sense of how to help solve them.
My family moved to Belmont several years ago. Like many, we were drawn to the community because of its excellent schools. As our eldest daughter entered the brand new Wellington School, we were impressed by the excellent teachers and staff, as well as by the highly engaged, welcoming group of parents and children. However, as evidenced by the recent override, our school system faces tremendous pressure on resources. We face ballooning enrollment and state mandated, but unfunded, programs. On top of these pressures, we need to continue to innovate the way we educate and engage our children.
As we face the challenges ahead, it is my firm belief that Murat Bicer’s extensive professional experience in financial management and strategic planning makes him an excellent candidate for the school committee. He has served on the boards of both non-profit and for-profit companies. Most importantly, Murat is the father to two young children, who will be entering the public school system in the next few years. He and his wife, Katherine, are very strong proponents of public schools and the role they play in our communities. The challenges ahead are daunting but I believe Murat Bicer offers the kind of leadership necessary to overcome them.
Sara Townsend
Clark Street

Letter to the Editor: Back Bicer for School Committee

Photo: Murat Bicer

To the editor:

We encourage everyone in Belmont to consider Murat Bicer for School Committee.    

Murat is uniquely qualified and brings sound financial and investment expertise to a School Committee, which will be facing a number of challenging issues in the years ahead that have a short and long-term impact on our community.    

As a well-regarded venture capital professional in the global technology community, Murat understands what it means to evaluate complex situations and provide sound financial counsel.   He has successfully invested tens of millions of dollars in growing companies; one of the best track records in the industry. Senior executives trust Murat with evaluating critical operational decisions that have immediate consequences on his investments.    

Now take a moment and translate this kind of experience to the most important investment of all: our children. Like Murat, we have young children who are still in pre-school. Our families will have children in the school system for at least the next 15 years. We share a long-term perspective on schools and how important they are to the foundation of Belmont.

In the next couple of years, we will be faced with critical decisions: the cost of a new high school, rising class sizes, teacher contracts, and the continued influx of new families. We need the best talent possible for our community to lay out frameworks to make sensible choices and be an informed voice of reason when there are millions of dollars and our children’s educational future at stake. 

Belmont has some unique financial challenges. We want the answers to those challenges to come from talented people who objectively have the experience of investing for the future. In the next few weeks, you will see that Murat is clearly qualified to play such a role in our community.

Matt Goldstein and Dr. Adrienne Allen 

Harris Street