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 2020 election will be held on March 17.
Jeff Wechsler is running for the single open 3-year term on the Board of Public Works (BPW). The three-member BPW is made up of local residents. Like other town boards, members of the Board of Public Works receive no payment for their volunteer services.
The Board of Public Works, acting through the Director and Managers of the DPW, helps provide multiple services to the Town such as: engineering and technical services as related to Town Facilities; highway services, including those for roads, sidewalks, and drainage systems; services to parks, recreation areas, trees, and open space; services related to the Recycling and Transfer Facility; services for the Town’s water and sewer systems; and practice sound fiscal practices related to all of the above.
Although the race for the 3-year term is uncontested, we’re always interested in the priorities and goals of Wellesley’s elected officials. We invited the candidate to answer a few questions about his qualifications and his priorities for the Town of Wellesley. Below are candidate Jeffrey Wechsler’s answers.
The Swellesley Report: What is your background and what qualifies you for the position?
Jeff Wechsler: I have served three years in the DPW Board position with responsibility for Wellesley’s Town infrastructure, including water, sewer, electric, waste, recycling, roads, sidewalks, fields, parks, etc. I believe that I’ve learned many of the nuances of the organization and absorbed significant institutional knowledge from recently departed Board Members and Directors. This, plus the experience I’ve had so far in the role, helps me to be an effective steward of the DPW on behalf of our community.
Moreover, I believe my professional background as a fractional executive — with experience building companies and helping them design systems and processes necessary to thrive — positions me to offer valuable advice and direction. I’ve worked with a range of businesses from small to Fortune 25. Of note and importance, I focus on building and maintaining critical relationships, designing systems and processes that meet constantly evolving organizational needs, and managing and supporting staff. I also have a background managing budgets and forecasts, and financial analysis, all of which is critically important since we have responsibility for the Town’s three enterprise funds (water, sewer, electric).
SR: Why are you running for a position on the Board of Public Works?
Jeff Wechsler: I’ve had the honor of serving as an elected volunteer in this office for the last three years, and welcome the support (and votes) of Wellesley residents to allow me to serve for another three years. Serving on the Board of Public Works is an important and consequential role in our town government. We’re responsible for the physical infrastructure that makes Wellesley run, and makes our town special. I want to ensure that we provide great service to the community, maintain and upgrade our town infrastructure, focus on sustainability and environmental impact, and ensure the safety of our town residents and employees. And I want to continue to help balance the needs and wants of the community against the operating and budget constraints we face.
Jeff Wechsler: I’m eager for us to be able to continue to find ways to do more for the community and be responsive to the community’s needs and concerns, while making sure we’re careful stewards of the town’s financial resources, and making sure we prioritize the safety and health of residents and staff. In the last two years we have appointed new directors of both the DPW and the MLP, and I look forward to working closely with both directors as we plan for a future where we can use our local control of our town’s infrastructure as a lever to build a sustainable future for our town and our children, and to play a part in crafting a better future for our planet.
Jeff Wechsler: The most pressing needs are two-fold:
Resources. Having sufficient resources to keep up with maintenance, and an appropriate pace of updates and replacements to aging infrastructure.
Staffing. Municipal hiring in general is challenging in today’s economy. Our board works to support our Director and makes sure the executive team has the support they need so Wellesley can attract the talent we need. The important work on our infrastructure relies on qualified and dedicated employees, and we are focused on making sure we can find and cultivate those employees.
SR: When preparing the most recent budget in partnership with the Director, what were the biggest challenges?
Jeff Wechsler: The biggest challenges were three-fold:
Understanding that allocations for capital projects (like major road reconstruction) will potentially be at the mercy of elements beyond our control both regarding cost and schedule. We project as best as the department’s detailed expertise will allow, but we know that some things may change after projects have started.
Understanding that we are in the midst of collective bargaining so we don’t have precise data about some of our personnel related costs moving forward.
Making choices about how to prioritize certain projects, especially street and sidewalk rehabilitation. The annual budget only allows for a certain amount of streets and sidewalks to be repaired each year, and we understand that sometimes residents disagree with the choices we make, even if the rationale for those choices are designed to be as equitable as possible.
SR: What would you like to see achieved in the long-term in town?
Jeff Wechsler: I would like to see a more integrated approach to how we manage the improvement of town infrastructure, involving more town departments in a long-term infrastructure plan that connects our zoning, permitting, health regulations, and town bylaws to improve infrastructure in ways that promote sustainability, health, and flexibility. This will allow us to more rapidly and effectively adapt to future opportunities, changes, and needs. Wellesley has a tremendous advantage in that we control most of the infrastructure in town (other than gas lines). This means we can negotiate on behalf of the community to not only take advantage of current infrastructure solutions, but we can also put our town in a position to be a leader in testing cutting-edge infrastructure solutions.
With approximately 10,000 households, I believe Wellesley would be a valuable test bed for new innovations in renewable energy, water and sewer systems, storm-water management, transportation, housing, waste, recycling, park management, etc. A good current example of this is our ability to build a Wellesley commercial internet service and to work to improve cellular coverage in town, both of which are possible because of our Town’s control of our wiring infrastructure. Another example is our ability to manage our Town’s water needs because we have a dual sourced system where we can draw from our own local water resources and from the MWRA system. Thoughtful design of our infrastructure like this will be critical to helping our town build out the best, most robust, most well managed infrastructure possible. And I believe we’re just scratching the service right now.
I would also like to see a continued focus on our commitment to sustainability. My goal is for Wellesley to be able to continually adopt the most environmentally responsible ways to manage our Infrastructure.
SR: Is there anything else you’d like to say that I haven’t covered?
Jeff Wechsler: I’m honored to have the opportunity to serve. This is my way to give back, and I thank the town residents for giving me the chance. I love our town, and hope to be able to continue working on behalf of our shared interests.
SR: How can voters get in touch with you?
Jeff Wechsler: Please email me at [email protected]. I’m happy to discuss concerns, answer questions, share information, or hear about the great jobs that our DPW and MLP staff members do!