Shake Up: Major Changes For School Committee With Members On The Move

Photo: Lisa Fiore will be seeking a one-year term on the School Committee.

A resignation, a reduction in time and a decision to seek higher office could likely bring a whole new look to the Belmont School Committee this Spring. At least one full-three year seat is currently open and a partial term could become vacant after the results of the annual Town Election on April 4 are tallied. 

• A move to the west coast to pursue career opportunities resulted in Murat Bicer resigning his seat. 

“Yes, I will be resigning as a result of the move, and I’m planning to do that early next week to give candidates enough time to collect signatures,” Bicer told the Belmontonian, who has a year remaining in his term. 

• Current Committee Chair Lisa Fiore is giving up her full three-year seat to finish the one year position made available by Bicer’s departure. The college administrator who has led the committee for the past two years told the Belmontonian last week she was leaving the committee to spend more time with her children who attend Belmont High School and the Chenery Middle School. A day later Fiore said she “decided to seek the one-year term for School Committee, and pulled papers this morning.”

“After coming to terms with not running again, it is a nice opportunity to continue to serve the town AND focus on family,” she said. 

Susan Burgess-Cox, who is the committee’s secretary, has submitted her nomination papers to Town Clerk Ellen Cushman for certification. She will be seeking one of the two three-year terms up for grabs in April.

• As reported in the Belmontonian, Committee member Tom Caputo has pulled papers for a seat on the Board of Selectmen, to fill the seat currently occupied by Chairman Jim Williams. If he is successful, a joint committee of the Selectmen and the School Committee will select a replacement to fill Caputo’s remaining term which runs until April 2020. 

Town Election ’18: School Committee’s Caputo Eyes William’s Selectman Seat

Photo: Tom Caputo

Nearly a year after securing his first full three-year term on the Belmont School Committee, Tom Caputo is thinking of a higher calling having taken out nomination papers for the Board of Selectmen.

In a conversation with the Belmontonian, Caputo appears ready to start a campaign to wrest away the seat from its incumbent, Jim Williams. 

In his “elevator pitch” for the position, Caputo points to many challenges facing the board in the near future and his skills to find solutions. 

“Simply put, the town has a bunch of critical decisions that we need to make in the coming years, questions about the new high school, major capital projects, traffic and those will all require thoughtful, creative solutions where lots of people with different backgrounds come together to create workable solutions,” he said.

“It all has to be done under which will continue to be a challenging fiscal environment. My time on the school committee, my experience on the [Belmont] High School Building Committee has given me both an understanding of a lot of those key issues and a passion to do more and be a part of trying to solve those problems.”

“I’m excited to continue to contribute to the town and its residents,” he said.

Both Williams and Caputo have yet to return their nomination papers to the Town Clerk’s Office. All town-wide office seekers and town meeting candidates have until Feb. 13 at 5 p.m. In September 2017, Williams said he would not run for re-election but did so including several caveats that would change his decision. 

Caputo was appointed to the School Committee in Nov. 2014 to replace Kevin Cunningham who resigned. At the town election in April 2015, Caputo ran uncontested for the two-years remaining in Cunningham’s term. In April 2017, he won a three-year appointment with 3,014 votes running with Kate Bowen to fill two slots.

For the past year, Caputo has been senior vice president for product at Cambridge-based CarGurus, a publicly-traded online car shopping website founded in 2006 by Langley Steinert, co-founder of TripAdvisor.

Caputo matriculated at Dartmouth then headed to Stanford where he earned an MBA and MS in electrical engineering. He started his career at Microsoft.

A decade-long resident, Caputo lives on Richmond Road with his wife, Sarah, and 11-year-old twin daughters.

Selectmen Chair Williams Not Seeking Re-election (Caveats Included)

Photo: Jim Williams

The question to Belmont Selectman Jim Williams was straight forward as was his answer.

Are you running for re-election?

“No, I am not,” said the chair of the selectman.

But, as Williams would tell the Belmontoian as he was walking home from attending the welcoming session for teachers and education staff at Belmont High School on a warm, Tuesday morning, Sept. 5, his answer has three parts. 

“The second sentence is everything is subject to change,” said Williams with a chuckle.

OK, so is the former Wall Street banker just hedging his bets? What gives? 

“But honestly, I don’t want to run. Guess how old I’ll be in June? I’ll be 72 years old. That means serving until I’m 75,” Williams said, adding the job puts limits on his travel and family plans.

“So what I’m saying is that I’m not running. I’m not forming a committee, not raising any money,” said Williams

But it was the third part of his announcement that turned out to be the most intriguing 

“It’ll also depend on who’s running,” said Williams. He would not name names of those who would run which would trigger his re-entry into the political fray. 

Williams said he felt that he’s accomplished much since winning a seat on the board in 2015 with a major upset of Andy Rojas, beating the incumbent by 500 votes while topping the 4,000 vote mark. The Indiana native and US Navy veteran point to the number of homeowners who have installed solar arrays with his promotion of alternative energy and the restructuring of the town’s pension funding structure which will save Belmont $15 million.

“I think those are significant changes to the town,” said Williams.