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.
Beth Sullivan Woods is running as a candidate for the Board of Selectmen, which serves as the chief executive board of the Town, and as such, oversees all matters affecting the interest and welfare of the community. The 5-member Board exercises the authority vested in the Town not specifically assigned by law to any other board or office.
There are three candidates running for the two open 3-year positions. We invited the candidates to answer a few questions about their qualifications and priorities for the Town of Wellesley. Candidate Beth Sullivan Woods’ Q & A is below. Q & As from candidates Tom Ulfelder and Ron Alexander have already run.
The Swellesley Report: Should it be Board of Selectmen or Select Board or something different?
Beth Sullivan Woods: We have a long history in Wellesley of having had very smart, thoughtful and committed women who have served the town on the Board of Selectmen; I have to assume that they, like me, did not view the name of the Board as an impediment to serving the Town.
SR: What is your background and what qualifies you for this position?
Beth Sullivan Woods: I have both very deep Wellesley roots and a passion for using my time and talent to help lead the Town as we make decisions that impact our future. I grew up in Wellesley with my seven siblings, and was educated at Perrin, Upham, Wellesley Junior High and Wellesley High, as well as Brown University. My husband and I chose Wellesley as the town to raise our family and have a son currently at Wellesley High. I also have several siblings currently living in Wellesley and have nieces currently attending Schofield and Bates.
I have an appreciation for and an understanding of the Town budget and finances, as well as strong working relationships with our Town departments. In 2009, I was elected to the Wellesley Free Library Board of Library Trustees and served continuously through 2017. At the end of my Library Trustee term in 2017, I made the decision to run for the Board of Selectmen and was elected. As a Selectman, I currently serve as the liaison to the Council on Aging, the Recreation and Playing Fields Taskforce, the Board of Health, the Veterans community, and the business community. I have been a Town Meeting Member since 2009.
Professionally, my background is in marketing research and strategic planning. After leading this functional area at both Hill Holliday and Arnold Communications, I founded my own business in 2001. The critical thinking, listening, problem solving, and visioning skills that I leverage with my clients every day are extremely relevant to supporting the Town as a member of the Board of Selectmen, particularly in light of the challenges that we face.
SR: If elected, what do you hope to accomplish during your three-year tenure on the Board of Selectmen?
- Improving the level of transparency and inclusiveness in decision making. We have significant decisions and investments to make in the coming years and they will not succeed without the full buy-in of the community. During the next three years, I hope to identify and implement with my colleagues a better approach to keeping the community informed about upcoming decisions and encourage productive community dialog to guide decision making. I am committed to an open and inclusive decision making process which reflects the desires of the community.
- Expanding our commitment to mental health and social well-being. In collaboration with the Board of Health, the School Department, the Wellesley Police Department, the Wellesley Fire Department and the Council on Aging, we identified the need and created a plan to more cohesively address mental health and social well-being in Town. The plan is currently in its first year of implementation and I intend to continue supporting this initiative going forward.
- Supporting the business community. Wellesley’s identity is defined by our strong neighborhoods and our vibrant retail districts. The changes in the retail environment across the country are also impacting our community; I plan to continue partnering with Wellesley merchants to support their growth and identify additional ways we can contribute to their on-going vibrancy.
- Continuing to support fiscal prudence and responsible investment. We have significant projects and debt exclusions on the horizon to fund investments in our infrastructure. To accomplish these projects, we will need to have strong project vetting and buy-in from the community, as well as the partnership of the Town departments in managing the growth of the operating budgets.
SR: What is the most important issue in Wellesley right now? How should this issue be handled?
Beth Sullivan Woods: Upgrading our infrastructure by finishing the investment in our iconic Town Hall, investing in our school buildings, and aligning as a community around the implementation and funding of these critical undertakings. We need to both enhance our communications about the projects and the meaningful engagement of the community. This will ensure that the criteria used to develop the plans receive the community support that will lead to approval of the necessary funding for these projects..
SR: What are your thoughts the second Monday in October? Should it be changed in Wellesley from Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day?
Beth Sullivan Woods: Columbus Day is a state and federal holiday; I believe this is a bigger issue that should be addressed at the state and federal level.
SR: Your thoughts about the HHU project?
Beth Sullivan Woods: I have spoken with many residents and followed the project over the years. It is clear that the community is fully aligned in the need to improve our elementary school infrastructure, which requires significant investment and town-wide support. I am presently very concerned that we are, however, a divided community about how to best proceed. When 2,500 residents sign a petition to put an issue on the ballot, it demonstrates that our citizens are concerned about the current plan. We need to fully understand the driving issues behind the referendum and address them now in order to make any necessary changes to our current plans. The worst-case scenario would be to proceed with the existing plan without full support and lose the necessary debt exclusion in a year, with a resulting delay in building our new schools. I strongly encourage residents to vote on the referendum on March 17 so we have clear guidance on their preferences.
SR: Is there anything else you would like to say that the above questions did not cover?
Beth Sullivan Woods: As a community, we deeply value our environment. I support continuing our initiatives on sustainable development, preserving our natural resources, and educating residents on environmentally sensitive practices.
I am grateful for the opportunity to serve this wonderful Town and would appreciate residents’ support in voting on March 17.
Finally, I would like to thank the Swellesley Report for providing this forum to communicate with residents about the important issues facing the Town.
SR: How should voters reach you if they want more information?
Beth Sullivan Woods: I can be reached at [email protected] or 617-320-7344 and welcome the opportunity to engage with residents and members of our business community.