The Town of Wellesley depends on the active participation of its citizens in governance of the Town. Wellesley has 11 Boards and Committees on the ballot at the Annual Town election each year in March. The 2019 election will be held on Tuesday, March 5, 2019.
Contested race: Board of Selectmen
The Board of Selectmen serves as the chief executive board of the Town, which oversees all matters affecting the interest and welfare of the community. There are five members on the Board of Selectmen. Secretary of the Board, Ellen F. Gibbs’ term expires in 2019, leaving one BOS position up for grabs. There are two candidates vying for that spot: Lise Olney and Jennifer Fallon.
We invited the two to answer a few questions about their qualifications and their priorities for the Town of Wellesley. Today’s post features Lise Olney. Yesterday’s post featured Jennifer Fallon.
Lise Olney, Candidate for Board of Selectmen
The Swellesley Report: What is your background and what qualifies you for this position?
Lise Olney: I’ve lived in Wellesley for 25 years with my husband, Tim Fulham, and our daughters, Mary and Elizabeth. For the past five years, I’ve served on the Wellesley Natural Resources Commission and represented Precinct E at Town Meeting. I’ve led major projects and partnerships for the NRC on gas leaks, plastic waste, and pesticide reduction; I’ve built relationships inside and outside of town government; and I’ve learned first-hand what makes our decisions successful long-term. I’ve been a member of the Sustainable Wellesley leadership team for eight years and I led an interfaith coalition for two years, advocating at the state level for the transition to a clean and just energy future. In my earlier career, I was executive editor of the Educational Media Division at the National Geographic Society, managing a large staff and overseeing all editorial content.
Sw: If elected, what do you hope to accomplish during your three-year tenure on the Board of Selectmen?
Olney: In the next few years, Wellesley must make critical decisions that will affect the quality of life in our town for years to come. These decisions include redevelopment of three of our elementary schools, moving forward with the town’s Housing Production Plan, addressing transportation and traffic issues, and determining the disposition of the North 40. As the chief executive board of our town, the Board of Selectmen will play a key role in bringing together elected boards, town officials, and stakeholders to grapple with these big decisions. I want to highlight three priorities for this work:
- Ensuring Inclusivity: I’ve learned first-hand that successful and lasting decisions come from a process of partnership and dialogue, when we bring differing stakeholders to the table early and throughout our decision-making.
- Promoting livability: I’m committed to preserving our town’s quality of life, while also creating a welcoming environment that’s attainable for people of different ages, incomes, and backgrounds.
Integrating sustainability: By sustainability, I mean looking beyond just environmental sustainability and taking an approach to decision-making that meets both our current needs and our obligation to future generations.
Sw: What is your hot-button issue?
Olney: A study commissioned by the NRC in 2017 revealed many more gas leaks in Wellesley than the 197 reported by National Grid. These leaks come from deteriorating pipes throughout town and they persist near homes, parks, and even adjacent to some of our schools and preschools. Natural gas consists primarily of methane, which is even more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. Exposure to methane and other chemical components of the leaking gas can also result in asthma and other respiratory illnesses. Gas companies (National Grid in Wellesley) have sole responsibility for gas infrastructure, subject only to regulation by the state Department of Public Utilities. The NRC has worked for two years to bring attention to this issue and I am now co-coordinating a multi-town effort with Mothers Out Front, HEET, and the Metropolitan Area Planning Council to open a dialogue with National Grid with the goal of accelerating the rate of gas leak repair and pipe replacement.
Sw: What role, if any, do you think the Board of Selectmen should play in shaping policy outside of Wellesley?
Olney: As the chief executive board for the town, the Board of Selectmen can and should weigh-in on state policy that affects the town and its residents. As a member of the Natural Resources Commission, I have represented our board at the State House on several occasions, testifying on legislation pertaining to pesticides and plastic pollution. Recently, the NRC has also advocated for legislation that would address safety challenges in our neglected gas system, create a path to a safer renewable energy future, and bring about much-needed reforms in the state Department of Public Utilities. Wellesley is considered a model by many of our peer communities and we have an important role to play in advocating for policies that can benefit our town and help build a better future for our state.
Sw: What are your thoughts about changing the third Monday in October from Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day?
Olney: I am in favor of changing this holiday to Indigenous Peoples Day. I want to acknowledge the work of Wellesley residents and the World of Wellesley who are advocating for this important proposal. I believe this day should be dedicated to honoring the heritage and history of our First Peoples. I understand this is a sensitive issue and that some people may ask why we should erase a day that is meaningful to many, particularly to Italian-Americans. We need to recognize that our understanding of American history has evolved. For too long, we were taught a narrow view of the colonization of the Americas. Now that we have a more complete picture of the darker history of American colonization, we can no longer commemorate someone who is associated with the enslavement and genocide of Native peoples.
Sw: Your thoughts about the HHU project?
Olney: With the feasibility study for the Hunnewell School project nearing completion, I look forward to seeing the final recommendations by the architects and the School Building Committee. I have observed the process closely, attending public meetings and representing the Natural Resources Commission in consultations concerning the adjacent park property under our jurisdiction. I have been impressed by the thoroughness of the architects conducting the process and the efforts of the School Building Committee to balance the many factors that must go in to the eventual siting and design of the building and its landscape in this challenging location. I am hopeful that the project can be designed as a net zero energy facility, generating as much energy as it consumes without the use of fossil fuels and creating a healthier, safer environment for Wellesley students. I am aware of the sensitivities that come with any discussion of major changes to our schools and I trust that the feasibility study for Hardy and Upham (just starting now) will be conducted with the same thoroughness and attention to stakeholders.
Sw: Is there anything else you would like to say that the above questions did not cover?
Olney: I’m proud to be among the hundreds of volunteers who devote time and energy to Wellesley town government. I am often in awe of my colleagues on town boards and at Town Meeting who bring extraordinary thoughtfulness and expertise to their deliberations. All of us rely on the dedicated and resourceful staff who serve the town at every level. I also appreciate the many residents who advocate for the issues that matter most to them and, if elected, I intend to offer regular office hours to hear from them directly. I look forward to continuing to work toward a bright and healthy future for our town.
Sw: How should voters reach you if they want more information?
Olney: Please learn more about our campaign at ElectLiseOlney.com and come meet me at one of the private gatherings or public forums listed. Like our Facebook page @LiseOlneyforWellesley. Email me at ElectLiseOlney@gmail.com.