MELROSE — The city faces an historic turning point this fall, as voters prepare to elect a woman as Melrose’s next mayor for the first time. But before that, the three hopefuls — Jennifer Grigoraitis, Sam Hammar and Monica Medeiros Solano — are competing in a preliminary election next Tuesday, September 19 to determine which two go on to face off in the general election on November 7.

With the preliminary election looming, the Weekly News asked the three mayoral candidates the following:

What are the top issues facing the city that need to be addressed by the next mayor and what will you do as mayor to address them?
Here are the responses, in order of appearance on Tuesday’s ballot.


Melrose faces a unique set of challenges that requires an in-depth grasp of complex issues paired with a broad, long-term vision and effective, inclusive communication. My experience as City Council President, Ward 6 City Councilor, someone with 15 years of experience managing a state agency with a $60 million annual budget, a MPS mom of two, and an active member in the community, has made it clear that most critical issues for our next mayor are: 1) fiscally responsive budgeting; 2) thriving public schools; and, 3) delivering robust city services to Melrose residents. Here’s why:
Fiscally responsible budgeting
With an annual city budget of over $100 million, Melrose needs a leader with years of proven experience working through budgets at a similar scale. Public funds are a sacred responsibility. They are generated by individual taxpayers and businesses. The next mayor must responsibly manage our municipal tax revenues as well as our state and federal funds. The next mayor must find efficiencies and stretch our funds as far as possible. Public money should be spent transparently and with an impact that makes the city better for everyone.

I recognize that each budget decision carries over to subsequent budgets, sometimes for many years. Each year’s budget must weigh our current needs, while also factoring in our long-term priorities. Let’s get out of the cycle of triaging missteps with free cash and state aid. That will set us on a path to sound long term management. With responsible spending, wise investments, and smart growth, we can continue to enhance our City services, preserve a high quality of life, and maintain a competitive property tax environment for residents.

As a city that has struggled with budgets over the years, Melrose needs a Mayor who will set a truly sustainable long term fiscal plan for the city. I am eager to bring my fiscal experience to a city budget that embraces our community values.

Thriving public schools
As the mom of a 4th-grader at Winthrop and a 9th-grader at Melrose High School and the daughter of a public school educator, the success of our schools is personal to me. Melrose’s school system should always be a point of pride for every member of our community. This is more than just about having children in our schools. Whether you have kids in MPS or not, our schools matter to everyone in Melrose.

The school budget is the largest single line item in our municipal budget. The success of our schools is one of the most important factors in determining the values of our homes.  For our city to thrive, our schools must thrive. As Mayor, I will focus on providing our schools, including all students and all educators, with the resources they need to succeed.  This means recruiting and retaining talented teachers and school leaders, maintaining a diverse and supported workforce, and understanding the needs of all students and their families.

I am also committed to advocating for strong and sustained public school funding at the state and federal level. We must leave no stone unturned in our efforts to put our school system in a position for greater success. Similarly, I am eager to build partnerships with community stakeholders and conduct a comprehensive assessment of MPS financial procedures and infrastructure needs.

The varied, informed perspective I bring to this topic – as a parent, City Council President and Melrose Education Foundation board member – makes me confident that together we take our school system to a new level of success.

Professional management to deliver quality city services

True professional leadership comes with practice and experience, learning how to assemble teams of great people, manage to their strengths, and inspire them to work together for a common goal. This can be best achieved through collaborative leadership, finding common ground among varying perspectives and leading those teams as they work through challenges to achieve collective results.

Through a professionally managed City government, Melrose can improve the City services we provide to residents on a daily basis. We must never lose sight of the fact that the goal of City Hall should always be to make the lives of Melrosians safer, healthier, and more fulfilling. From filling potholes and fixing sidewalks, to investing in our parks and open spaces, providing services and programming for our older residents, making our air and water clean and healthy, and so much more, the Mayor of Melrose can make a real impact on the daily lives of our residents.


As a former local elected official for nearly 15 years, I helped shape Melrose into the beautiful, livable, vibrant city it is today. I am a lifelong Melrosian, and I want to see our city thrive as a great place to live for generations to come. While we will be sure to face many challenges ahead, my background, experience and dedication can make this vision a reality.

Among the most pressing issues the next mayor will face are managing our city finances, pushing for excellence in our public schools, maintaining Melrose’s beauty and with that maintaining our aging infrastructure. As our next mayor, I will do this with a mindset of keeping our city affordable and ensuring our government operates in an open and transparent way.

Strong Fiscal Management

As our next Mayor, I will provide strong fiscal management. I believe the most important job I will have as Mayor will be to provide a strong financial footing for Melrose. By beginning on Day One to build a five-year strategic financial plan for Melrose, I will do my best as Mayor to provide the strong fiscal management needed to maintain our City’s affordability, strengthen our education system, and protect the sustainability of our City’s financial future.

I would begin with auditing our books, examining our policies and procedures, taking a full assessment of our current obligations and forecasting what we need to operate – one year, three years and five years down the road. While we cannot plan for everything, having a strong financial plan in place, will set us on the path to meet our needs for education, for public safety, to fix our roads and address our aging water & sewer infrastructure.

Slightly less than one year ago, the school department announced to the public that they had an unexpected $2.2 million budget shortfall. The shortage, found by the newly hired Finance Director in mid July 2022, was not communicated to the public until two months later. This delay compounded the anger, shock and frustration felt by many.

Despite promises that the problem was resolved, budget difficulties persist. In June, the City Council voted in a budget with a massive structural deficit built into it on the school side. Our city leaders are betting on having to use at least $2.7 million of anticipated free cash just to balance it out. This number could be as much as $3.5 to $4 million if school offsets are not available for use when we close out FY24.

In order to rebuild the trust of our voters and taxpayers, we need to have a full forensic audit of our books, and fully review our policies and procedures. With a new administration and the anticipated hiring of a new Superintendent of Schools next year, this is the right time to review the ways we conduct business to look for opportunities for more efficiency.

Excellence in education

As our next mayor, I will strive for excellence in education in the Melrose Public Schools. I will focus on maximizing student achievement in academics. I will prioritize spending which directly impacts students in the classroom, and will support educational opportunities which help every student reach their maximum potential.

I will provide active financial management of our school and city budget by building accountability measures into our day to day practices. I will continually review our spending and conduct regular budget check ins with our department leaders to proactively identify problem areas and get back on track before things get out of hand.

I know how important it is to hire the right superintendent. I am the only candidate for mayor who has served on a School Committee and hired a successful superintendent. I know how important it is to find the right person for the job who puts students first and respects our budgetary limitations. The superintendent is responsible for hiring building principals and staff. The tone the superintendent sets can determine whether we attract and retain high quality personnel.

Special Education is a leading driver of costs. I will review our programs to evaluate their effectiveness, our district’s responsiveness to students and parents, and possibly find ways to meet student needs in district.

I will create a Mayor’s Advisory Committee on Education comprised of community members – financial, educational, human resources professionals and others – who can use their professional expertise to assist with these goals, and help me make better, more well-rounded decisions along the way.

A beautiful Melrose

As a City Councilor, I consistently voted for initiatives to care for our streets, sidewalks, parks & buildings for everyone’s safety and enjoyment. I supported improvements to nearly every park and playground in Melrose, and was the driving force to create our first dog park at Ell Pond.

If I am elected Mayor this fall, I will make maintaining Melrose’s beauty among my top priorities. To me, that means fixing our roads, keeping our sidewalks clear, planting more trees, preserving our open space and properly maintaining our public buildings.

Our next mayor will face the challenge of managing our aging infrastructure while continuing to deliver high levels of services to our residents. The next mayor will be tasked with overseeing the continued library renovation project, and the probability of construction of four new public safety buildings. My experience puts me in a unique position to help the city manage during a period of heavy construction.

Public safety buildings

Our Central Fire Station (Main St) is in urgent need of repair. Its floor is structurally unsound, roof leaks have led to the deterioration of the building, and firefighters are battling rodent infestation. Our police station is outdated, does not provide handicap access, and is inadequate for the policing needs of today. The other buildings present health, space and safety challenges. For these reasons, I am in favor of passing the Public Safety Building Debt Exclusion ballot question this fall.

The passage of the debt exclusion would provide dedicated funds to pay for these buildings which could not be diverted to be used any other purpose. I believe this is a needed and worthwhile purpose which would help us deliver public safety services to all of our residents.

Should this ballot question pass, I believe I am the candidate most equipped with the experience and skills to ensure that the construction stays on track, on budget and that the money is strictly used for its intended purpose. I served on the School Committee while we built the new Middle School – on time and on budget. I served as the City Council representative on the School Building Committee while we successfully completed many school projects including the new High School Science labs. I represented Ward 2 through its drainage improvement project – the largest public works project in the city’s history. I also bring my professional experience working in the Purchasing Department of the General Manager’s Office for the Town of Norwood which oversaw the public procurement for all town construction projects.

Another issue we face here in Melrose is income inequality, especially between some of our longer term residents who purchased their homes before our real estate prices skyrocketed, and newer residents who tend to be working more high paying jobs with more disposable income. We have to acknowledge some homeowners may find the increase in the property tax needed to pay for the debt exclusion to be too great a burden for them financially. As a leader in our community, I want to encourage us all to be respectful of one another regardless of our financial situations.

Should the Debt Exclusion ballot question not pass, I WILL find a way to address and rehab our Central Fire station. I believe the conditions in this building to be an immediate danger to the dedicated men and women who work and live in that building who stand at the ready to put themselves at risk to come to our aid, not only in case of fire, but in case of medical emergency. With the other buildings, we will find a way to mitigate the problems and maintain the current buildings until we can find a more permanent solution.

An open government

As a former city councilor, I have been a fierce advocate for accountability and transparency, consistently calling for a more open government. As your mayor, I will continue to be a champion of an open government which encourages community dialogue.

To me, an open government is one that is welcoming, one that remembers that the resident is our customer, one that communicates freely and is open to criticism, and one that listens deeply and hears its resident’s concerns.

I believe in opening up our government, by involving people in the decision making process, and making sure we are operating in an open and transparent way. It is your money we are spending. You should be able to know how it is being spent and where it is going.

While there will be many more issues to contend with, I bring the leadership, attention to detail, and forward thinking problem solving skills that will help Melrose grow and thrive. Please vote for me, Monica Medeiros Solano on September 19, to open the doors to a Melrose that is friendlier, more open, transparent and fiscally responsible.

To learn more about my campaign or to get involved, please visit my website at or follow me on Facebook at “Monica Medeiros Solano for Melrose” and Twitter (X) @VoteMonica.


Since announcing my run for mayor of Melrose on May 19, I have knocked on hundreds of doors, held over a dozen public conversations at our local coffee shops, attended over 25 neighbor-hosted house parties and countless community events. Talking with residents about our shared love for this special city has been invigorating and I am grateful for all who have taken the time to connect.

During this time, I have heard a lot from Melrose residents about what matters most to each of them. And while we all have tremendous Melrose pride, we also have high expectations for city services and want to see Melrose reach our potential.

While I will continue to reach out to every voter across the city, I would love to share my thoughts about the three topics that come up most frequently: the city budget, our schools, and public safety buildings. 

The city budget

As you know, the City of Melrose is facing substantial budget challenges right now, including a $3 million shortfall in the school department budget. While we have experienced budget shortfalls in previous years, the magnitude of this issue is new. Fortunately, my background has prepared me for this. As Mayor, stabilizing the city’s budget will be my number one priority. I will be a hands-on mayor, leading weekly, internal budget meetings focused on creating budget controls in the school department and across the city that will flag increases in real time to eliminate surprises, lead an ongoing community dialogue about the city’s fiscal realities, and implement a five part plan to get us back on track.

For a five-part plan on how we’re going to get this done, visit

Our schools

The issues faced across our school district will not be solved quickly; they have built up over years, and were exacerbated during the pandemic. The way forward will require confident and bold leadership, reliable financial accounting, intensive strategic planning, and creative solutions for long-term problems. But most importantly, the way forward will require us to listen to our educators and believe in their experiences and ideas. As a Boston Public High School teacher, I learned the importance of strong relationships between educators, administration, and families. In Melrose, it is critical that we rebuild trust across our school community. To do this we must: stabilize our district leadership and budget, rebuild our relationship with our educators and provide the support and resources they need to do their jobs, and embrace families as our partners in education. We all want great schools for every Melrose student. If we can leverage this shared commitment to our schools, we can finally make progress and become the adaptive and effective school district we can be.

For a plan on how we’re going to get this done, visit

Public safety

Through my conversations with hundreds of Melrose voters over the last several months, it is clear to me that there is strong community support for addressing our outdated public safety buildings. Fortunately, the Public Safety Building Committee, a group of professionals including both our police and fire chiefs, rank and file public safety officers, city department heads, and residents with relevant expertise, has recently released a comprehensive report and roadmap for modernizing our four public safety facilities. Because this project would include renovation and construction of four essential buildings, it would have to be funded by a debt exclusion, which requires a community vote. I fully support the plan put forward by this thoughtful, experienced, and dedicated committee. The current administration and city council is planning to place this on the November ballot. Should that happen, I will work hard to advocate for these projects to move forward and place my trust in the voters. Our public safety officials deserve no less.

But the real question is, how will we get all of this done in Melrose? Melrose is in need of new leadership. We can not continue the business as usual practices that are leaving our city behind. As someone with 20 years of experience in state and local government, I understand the importance of good management and the real-life impact of government policy. Throughout my career I have: managed teams of experts to deliver innovative public services; helped deploy multi-million dollar bonds across state-wide departments to maximize the investment of public dollars; and engaged teams of employees and constituents in the success of local government. In addition to these hard skills needed to run any city, I will bring a unique approach to City Hall. I am an innovative problem solver, community organizer, master communicator, and a die-hard Melrosian who will fight for every resident to stay and thrive within the 4-square miles of our city. 

Melrose has so much potential. It’s time I turn my experience, commitment, and belief in great local government toward my hometown and that’s why I am running for Mayor. Let’s make Melrose city government what we need it to be and finally meet our potential. It starts with your vote on September 19. 

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