LYNNFIELD — Two candidates are running for one seat on the Select Board during the Town Election on Tuesday, April 9.

The two candidates running for a three-year term are Select Board Chair Joe Connell and Finance Committee member Alexis Leahy.

Voters in all four precincts will cast their ballots at Lynnfield High School from 7 a.m.-8 p.m. on April 9.

The Villager asked the two candidates to answer four questions. The following are their responses.

Why are you running for Select Board?

Joe: Connell: I am running for re-election because I am committed to serving the citizens of this town for another three years. That is why I first ran, and why I am running again. I am a 30-year Army veteran, with four combat deployments. When I was going to retire, I wanted to raise my young children in the best town possible. That is why my wife and I chose Lynnfield.  My son is a senior at Lynnfield High School, and my daughter is a Lynnfield graduate and a sophomore at UMass-Amherst. My children are Lynnfield schools’ success stories, and I want that for all students. I will be indebted for life for the education my children received. When moving back to Lynnfield, I made a commitment, to give back to that town as much as possible, because of the support I received when deployed. This is what veterans do, and always will. I believe I have done that, and want to continue this service and do more!

This is why I ask for your vote to serve on Select Board for three more years. There are many important projects underway that the Select Board has started and want to finish: Public safety buildings, Veterans Memorial, Rail Trail, library renovation project.

Being a Lynnfield resident since 2012, I have given my time and commitment to the following, and will continue as your member to the Select Board:

Board/committee/coach attendance      

1.  Chair of Lynnfield Select Board: 100 percent.

2.  Board member: Lynnfield Elementary Classroom expansion project: 100 percent.

3.  Chair of Lynnfield New Veterans Memorial Committee: 100 percent.

4. Chair of Town of Lynnfield Strategic Planning Committee: 100 percent.

5. Board member of Lynnfield Youth Lacrosse: 100 percent.

6. Former assistant coach of boys’ youth lacrosse (practices and games): 100 percent.

7. Former coach girls’ youth soccer (practices and games): 100 percent.

8. Board member New Public Safety Building Committee: 92 percent.

9. Board Member of Lynnfield Rail Trail project: 100 percent.

10. Board member New Lynnfield Cemetery Committee: 100 percent.

11. Town Emergency Management Core Team (meets monthly, as needed): 100 percent.

12. Committee member: Selection Committee of new High School Principal.

13. Chair of Lynnfield 250th Celebration (Meetings start once the committee is formed).

Alexis Leahy: I’m running for Select Board because I believe that representation matters when it comes to the governance of this town.  I believe that bringing together individuals with diverse backgrounds, perspectives and experiences fuels innovation, allowing for unique ideas and solutions to challenges.  Groups with diverse backgrounds are well equipped to make informed, comprehensive decisions that consider all viewpoints, including consideration of a broader range of options and the ability to anticipate any potential blind spots.

I have been working in service with mission-based organizations for over 20 years in nonprofits, state and federal government, with a focus in oversight and governance. I believe I bring a collaborative work ethic that is increasingly important and which would support the ability to deliver quality public services to members of the town, while modeling best practices for transparency and accountability in local government.

What should be some of the town’s top priorities over the next three years?

Leahy: The town’s top priorities over the next three years should be exploring additional revenue sources and balancing that with the level of expected services, planning for the longer term, including the development of a capital plan so that we don’t get into situations where Band-Aid quick fixes are needed, and ensuring our residents are well informed about the decisions being recommended in town government.

The public safety project will be a focus to ensure it’s completed in a timely fashion and within budget while ensuring emergency response is covered sufficiently. The schools will require additional attention given concerns that have been brought to light, growth in the elementary population and what’s being done to address growth and additional needs in the middle and high school populations.

While majority of the attention has been at the elementary level in recent years, these students will move on to the other schools and anticipated needs should be addressed in advance.  Effective strategic and capital planning will ensure that all town facilities are maintained and we don’t end up in a situation where we have a building that’s not up to code and requires significant investment which could’ve been avoided had the town been presented all available options in the decision-making process.  Balancing these with maintaining the town’s aesthetics and open space planning will be critical.

Connell: There are more than three priorities in the next three years that need undivided attention.

1. Continue to represent all ages in our community.

2. Maintain a balanced budget and keep our AA+ bond rating.

3. Ensure our school administration is providing a top-notch education for our students.

4. See the construction of our public safety buildings project through to fruition.

5. Get the rail trail through the state requirements.

6. Keep the remarkable partnerships with all committees and boards.

7. Maintain or increase the amount of protected land in Lynnfield; improve the health of and access to Lynnfield’s natural beauty.

8. Expand the range of recreational opportunities and assets, for all ages.

9. Keep the Town Meeting format of decision-making. Every citizen counts and has a voice. Everyone!

After listening to the citizens of the town, these are my priorities supporting the town.

The school system is going through a challenging time. What role should the Select Board play in supporting the schools during this challenging time? 

Connell: As a Select Board member, I think that we can all agree that we have always had a great partnership with the schools, and worked together for the best interest of the students of Lynnfield, no matter what it takes. We always balance the needs of the town, but specifically, always prioritize and meet the needs of our children.

The Select Board, past and present, has always provided what is needed for our schools.  That said, the School Committee is responsible for setting school policies, developing budgets, hiring school teachers and administrative staff and negotiating salaries with the teacher association and individual administrators, to name a few.  They all work hard and volunteer their time and talents.  We should all be grateful to them for that.  They bring their annual budget request to the Select Board and the Finance Committee, where it is considered along with all the other town budget requests.  I believe we have always acted on what is best for our teachers and the students of Lynnfield.

How do we support our school system in this challenging time? We, as the town administration, are going to give in addition to the approved budget, an additional $260,000 to the proposed school budget, so that our SPED classrooms, two at Huckleberry Hill and one at Lynnfield Middle School, will have everything it needs to be successful. This will help get the contracted New England Center for Children (proposed trial by the interim superintendent and the School Committee) get to work as soon as possible in this test program.

What the town also takes on responsibility for, so that the teachers only have to worry about teaching, is to continually carry the responsibility of, in the town’s budget (items directly related to schools, not in the school’s budget):

• Busing.

• Custodial services.

• Sports fields (up keep and janitorial services/trash).

• Energy bills (6 a.m. to 10 p.m.).

• All high school sports field maintenance and replacement.

• Facilities (buildings, all costs, repairs, upgrades, environmental efficiencies).

• Health insurance for our teachers and all school staff costs.

• Snow removal.

• Property causality insurance (all direct and indirect costs).

These costs that the town takes on is between $9 million and $10 million, and the town administration provides all the coordination and execution of, in support of the schools. This is not part of the school budget, but we are committed to our schools.

In fact, when it was identified that we needed to increase school space to meet the needs of our growing elementary school population, keeping classroom size between 18-22 students, identified in 2018 by the Strategic Planning Committee that I chaired, resulted in getting five new classrooms at our two elementary schools and a gymnasium built at Huckleberry Hill School. This was briefed to the Select Board, and presented to the town for a vote that was in November 2020. It passed overwhelmingly, done on time, under budget.

From all of the above, this is how we have always helped the school system, and always will in the future.

Leahy: The main role of the Select Board is one of oversight and governance, but also collaboration and support.  While the Select Board and School Committee are independent functions, the Select Board is responsible for collective government, including proposing budgets to the town.  This of course includes the school budget, which represents the largest portion of the town’s budget.

There is no doubt in my mind that the current Select Board cares about and prioritizes our school system, but not having a connection to the current needs of the school system and overall sentiment of the culture would be remiss.  The Select Board should set expectations and maintain consistent communication with the individuals closest to where the work is done, administration and School Committee, collaboratively to ensure the budgets proposed are reflective of the needs of the district and evolve as needed.

What is your vision for Lynnfield’s future?

Leahy: My vision for Lynnfield’s future is to have engaged, well-informed residents, a strategic plan for the town that ensures the town’s needs will be planned for and met in the most effective and efficient fashion possible and in a way that provides reassurance to the residents of the town that needs will be met, and service expectations will be maintained.  We chose this town for several reasons and would welcome the chance to contribute to upholding the town’s stellar reputation.

Connell: As far as being the Select Board member you want and can count on, Lynnfield will continue to use the open town meeting model common in New England with a three-member Select Board overseeing the operation of the town. The Town Charter was adopted in 1971. There are two Charter-called Town Meetings during the year: The Annual Town Meeting, which occurs on the last Monday in April and which adopts the annual town budget; and a Fall Town Meeting which occurs on the third Monday in October, which frequently takes up zoning and bylaw proposals. Other elected positions include town moderator, a five-member School Committee, a five-member Planning Board, a five-member Board of Library Trustees, and a three-member Board of Assessors. Many appointed committees also help govern the town, which relies on volunteers among its citizens.

It is a group effort across numerous committees and boards, and here is what I see us working together for Lynnfield’s future. This is a team effort of quality people who volunteer their talents, time and efforts to keep this town the best it can be. I am humbled just to work with all the boards and committees of this great town.

• Ensure our school administration is providing a top-notch education for our students.

• Maintain a balanced budget and keep our AA+ bond rating.

• The town’s natural resources and open space are protected.

• Historical buildings maintained.

• Lynnfield Center Water District MWRA hook up.

• Business partnership and development (maintain and develop a strong business community).

• Future infrastructure improvements (new and renovations).

• Future revenue.

• Maintain or increase the amount of protected land in Lynnfield; improve the health of and access to Lynnfield’s natural beauty.

• Expand the range of recreational opportunities and assets for all ages.

• Repair roads and sidewalks.

Whether it was the new fields, LMS track and field renovations (no varsity track meet was held at our LMS field for five years before the Select Board stepped in to spend millions to renovate the track and field to make it happen!), tennis courts (SB stepped up big time to make that happen) and school security upgrades (SB made it happen several times and recently). The Select Board has always been there for our schools and took the lead on numerous projects to better them. Always took the lead to support our schools.

This is a full-time job that takes the commitment, tenacity and drive that I have, and I am ready to do for you again.

Last thing I would like to point out, the Road to the Town Budget video, done by our Town Administrator Rob Dolan, is posted on the town website. Go to the town videos link, about the sixth video down, is the Road to the Town Budget. It is remarkable. Please watch it for what every budget issue the town considers for its overall budget. Balance spending with affordability.

I want to continue to serve the citizens of this remarkable town as your Select Board member. The Select Board I serve on now has always been committed to provide what is in the best interests and needs of the town, continue to represent all ages in our community. We work with every board and committee for the best solution for all. We have remarkable partnerships with all the boards and committees of this town and are committed to it. I believe I have the experience, knowledge, strategic planning, community involvement, commitment and accomplishments you are looking for to serve the on your Select Board.