Rail trail question, contested races headline Town Election

Published April 3, 2019


LYNNFIELD — The fate of the Wakefield-Lynnfield Rail Trail project and two contested races will be decided by voters during the April 9 Town Election.

Voters in all four precincts will be voting at Lynnfield High School from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Town Clerk Trudy Reid is anticipating a 20 to 25 percent turnout for the municipal election.

The Board of Selectmen recently voted to place on the ballot a non-binding referendum that will ask townspeople if they are in favor of moving forward with the rail trail project. The question will read: “Are you in favor of the town of Lynnfield continuing to pursue efforts to develop a recreational path along the unused MBTA right-of-way, known as the Wakefield-Lynnfield Rail Trail project?”

The rail trail has been incredibly controversial and contentious since it was first proposed. While the 2018 Wakefield Town Meeting unanimously voted to enter into a 99-lease with the MBTA, a citizens’ petition appearing on the April 2017 Lynnfield Town Meeting warrant was approved by a 342-341 vote.

If the project moves forward, the Wakefield-Lynnfield Rail Trail would begin at the Main Street and Bennett Street intersection in Wakefield near the Galvin Middle School, extend north through Lynnfield and would go to the Peabody line. A portion of the rail trail would go through Reedy Meadow via an elevated boardwalk. WorldTech Engineering Vice President Bill Mertz recently said 1.8 miles of the trail would be in Wakefield and 2.5 miles would be in Lynnfield.

Supporters of the project have argued the rail trail will provide recreational opportunities for residents in both communities and would be a safer way for pedestrians and cyclists to travel. Supporters have also argued building the trail with state funds is a good opportunity that shouldn’t be wasted.

The project’s opponents have argued the rail trail will lead to more crime, environmental problems, increased maintenance costs and traffic. 

Contested races

In addition to the rail trail ballot question, there will be two contested races on the ballot.

Three candidates are running for the open town moderator position. Former Lynn Mayor Albert DiVirgilio, former Planning Board co-Chairman John Faria and Housing Authority Chairman Joseph Markey are looking to succeed former Town Moderator Arthur Bourque, who resigned this past December.

DiVirgilio was Lynn’s mayor for three terms, from 1986-1992. He also served on the City Council for eight years and served on the School Committee for 10 years during his time in Lynn. He has lived in Lynnfield for the past three years.

“Why is my experience important to Lynnfield residents? I grow my roots in my community and take great pride in the place I call home,” DiVirgilio wrote in a campaign statement. “I always look for ways to improve my community. As (Lynnfield) town moderator, I would appoint six well qualified and independent members to our Finance Committee and also appoint our representative to North Shore Regional Vocational School. My diverse background in business and education and my independence would allow me to choose the best candidates for these positions.”

Faria served as a Planning Board member for seven years, and was either the board’s chairman or co-chairman for six of those years. He resigned from the Planning Board in November 2017. Prior to moving to Lynnfield in 1998, Faria was Reading’s town moderator.

“If the people of Lynnfield want an experienced, seasoned and proven successful moderator to handle their Town Meeting, they have that choice,” Faria wrote in a candidate’s statement. “I presided over more than 80 Town Meeting sessions in neighboring Reading. Having previously served as moderator is only a small part of my long history of public service. I am an attorney. I have served on a town Finance Committee. I have served as chairman of a Planning Board. I have served as chairman of a Town Charter Commission. And, I have personally drafted a Town Charter.”

Markey has been a Housing Authority board member since 2014 and has served as the board’s chairman for the past three years. He is the chairman of the Middlesex County Sheriff Advisory Board and is a former member of the Recreational Path Committee. Markey will be graduating from law school this year, and is a former Rule 3:03 prosecutor.

“Town Meeting is the purest form of democracy, and as an active participant in our Town Meetings, I have seen how the decisions made there can impact our families, our homes and our quality of life,” said Markey in a statement. “I genuinely believe that no voice is too small, that every person has the right to be heard, and as Lynnfield’s next town moderator, I will work to ensure that we have fair and open Town Meetings, where all residents can feel comfortable participating in the decision-making process. Government is about people, not politics or career politicians. I will approach the position of moderator not as a politician, but as a fellow citizen focused on facilitating a Town Meeting where all citizens can have their voices heard.”

There is also a contested race for Planning Board, as former member Alan Dresios is running against Ryan Road resident Tom Wallace.

Dresios stepped down from the Planning Board in April 2017. In addition to serving on the Planning Board for 20 years, Dresios was a member of the Board of Selectmen for three years and served on the Conservation Commission for nine years.

“As a Planning Board member, I’ve learned the town’s character is based upon our neighborhoods,” Dresios wrote in a statement. “That’s why I’ve supported and argued for bylaws that keep our neighborhoods livable. I have been committed to bring about stability, honesty and creating an even better community. It’s Town Meeting that approves a bylaw, and it’s the Planning Board’s duty to follow such, the classical case of ‘the will of the people.’ Zoning bylaws set the long-term direction of Lynnfield and it’s the responsibility of the Planning Board on the course desired by Lynnfield citizens.”

Wallace was in the U.S. Air Force for 20 years, where he served as the chief of plans for NATO. He is the current executive director of Charles River Aquatics.

“The Planning Board is instrumental in developing visions for the preservation and future growth of the town,” Wallace wrote in a Letter to the Editor. “Board members are responsible for considering mitigation factors and crafting the best solutions while minimizing costs and impacts of land use changes, while maintaining the distinct qualities that make Lynnfield such a desirable place to live. If honored with election to the Planning Board, I’ll use my planning education, planning experience, public service ethic, and my NATO experience in finding common ground to develop solutions that work for Lynnfield.”

Additional candidates

There are seven candidates running unopposed in the Town Election.

Board of Selectmen Chairman Dick Dalton is running for his second three-year term. He is the chief financial officer of MassHire Metro North Workforce Board.

“It’s been a privilege serving on the Board of Selectmen the past three years, and I look forward to my next three years of service to the town,” said Dalton in an interview with the Villager.

School Committee Vice Chairman Rich Sjoberg is running for his second three-year term. In addition to serving on the School Committee, Sjoberg is the Recreation Commission’s chairman. He is a member of the Council on Aging Board of Directors as well.

“As the current vice chairman of the School Committee, I have had the privilege of working together with dedicated colleagues and volunteers during my first term, as we have formulated the last three school budgets and this year’s teacher collective bargaining agreement,” Sjoberg wrote in a candidate’s statement. “Each healthy discussion and decision we have made has focused on our guiding commitment to further a culture of excellence, spark passion in learning and maximize each individual students potential for their best future.”

Political newcomer Stacy Dahlstedt, 42 Lincoln Ave., is running for a three-year term on the School Committee. She is the former Summer Street School PTO president and was the PTO’s enrichment coordinator. She also served on Summer Street’s School Council. She previously worked in the financial services industry for 20 years and was president of the Friends of the Lynnfield Library.

“Since announcing my candidacy for School Committee, I have enjoyed many recent discussions with Lynnfield parents and several members of the Lynnfield Public Schools administration regarding Lynnfield’s outstanding school district,” Dahlstedt wrote in a statement.  “Our students are fortunate to learn under the direction of our hardworking, dedicated and passionate teachers, staff and administration. I look forward to representing our community on the Lynnfield School Committee. In particular, I am excited to collaborate with school administration, teachers, parents, students and town leaders to ensure the district continues to improve and to shape the future direction of our school system.” 

Dahlstedt will succeed current School Committee member Dorothy Presser, who decided against running for re-election. Presser has served on the school board since 1998.

Planning Board member Charlie Wills is running for a one-year term. Wills, who has served on the Planning Board for the past eight years, is looking to fill the remaining year of former Planning Board member John Gioioso’s term. Gioioso resigned from the board in January.

Board of Library Trustees Vice Chairwoman Faith Honer-Coakley is running for another three-year term once again. Library Trustee Richard Mazzola is running for a second three-year term.

Board of Assessors member Richard O’Neil is running for a three-year term.