The Town of Wellesley depends on the active participation of its citizens in governance of the Town.
Wellesley will hold a Special Election on Tuesday, Sept. 1, to fill a seat on the Board of Selectmen vacated by a BOS member who moved out of town.
The Board of Selectmen serves as the chief executive board of the Town, and as such, oversees all matters affecting the interest and welfare of the community. The Board exercises the authority vested in the Town not specifically assigned by law to any other board or office.
Three candidates are running for the single open seat. The candidate elected will serve for a term of six months, to expire at the next Annual Town Election on March 2, 2021
The three candidates running are Gwen Baker, Odessa Sanchez, and Colette Aufranc.
We invited each of the three candidates to answer a few questions about their qualifications and priorities for the Town of Wellesley. Gwen Bakers’s Q & A is below.
The Swellesley Report: What is your background and what qualifies you for this position?
Gwen Baker: I have lived in Wellesley 27 years and am presently on Town Meeting where I’ve served multiple terms. More importantly, I bring 25 years of experience running my own business, that I started based in Wellesley. Our business focuses on high end bespoke insurance solutions and finances the premiums through our own loan servicing company. We work with very successful business owners and entrepreneurs all over the country. I’ve managed budgets, oversaw investment portfolios and have worked collaboratively with attorneys, CPA’s and other advisors to help craft our solutions. My adult sons are overseeing the business day-to-day. I have lived making payroll, managing multiple locations, nationwide travel, all while raising a family as a single parent, providing educations, travel and extracurricular experiences for my sons.
The town of Wellesley needs management and business experience and a perspective like mine to manage a budget of $181 million and a population of nearly 28,000. I believe my skills in understanding management, finance and debt could be invaluable as well as ability to listen to voters and connect with all constituencies in town.
SR: The Wellesley business district has faced challenges recently, as evidenced by several empty storefronts. How can the Board of Selectmen and the Town further support existing businesses and encourage new ones to come into Wellesley?
Gwen Baker: By creating an encouraging business environment, with appropriate incentives. This would involve talking to current landlords of commercial buildings to see what kind of solutions would help them attract tenants. Do they need some tax credits? Tax relief? Can we work collaboratively with outside business groups to promote Wellesley as a business destination? The overall small business environment is challenging right now from the COVID restrictions and the closures. But the economy is picking up as things open.
I am very familiar with the PPP loans and various small business help which the Cares Act provided and which many Wellesley small businesses have taken advantage of. I am acutely aware of the impact finally that businesses have had, because of the closures and restrictions due to COVID and can relate to them. I know one of the foundations has raised money to provide relief for local businesses but as a business owner I am acutely aware that it will take time to restore things and catch up.
SR: How can Wellesley more effectively engage in acting on the concerns of its residents of diverse backgrounds?
Gwen Baker: I would start by listening to all the constituencies in town. The true diversity of the Town is in its varying viewpoints based on ages and demographics. We have a large Senior population, and an active school age population. Small business owners, lifelong residents and newcomers. I read 70% of current residents moved in here since 2000. Selectman should have make a concerted effort to perhaps invite these “disparate groups” to attend a meeting, specific to their demographic and “meet the Selectman”. This would be different and in addition to the current “Meet the Selectman” format with one Selectman meeting with citizens.
While this should wait until the COVID threat has abated, the idea of “special nights” to invite these varying population groups could be a great success. This would engage more citizens and Selectman can hear from residents too reticent to get involved in other forums.
SR: How can Wellesley manage the financial implications of the pandemic going forward? Already a plan has been put into place to cut Wellesley’s capital spending 25% across the board. In addition, some Free Cash Reserves money has been tapped to cove items such as public safety and snow removal. What else can be done to manage the financial implications of COVID-19?
Gwen Baker: Every line item of the town budget must be examined. There has been money allocated to cities and Towns from the Cares Act and we need to see the implication of this money and access to it. Just like we would manage personal family budgets we need to manage the town budget.
I have an endorsement letter of my business experience from Governor Baker:
SR: How should voters reach you if they want more information?