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 Odessa Sanchez, Gwen Baker, 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. Odessa Sanchez’s Q & A is below.
The Swellesley Report: What is your background and what qualifies you for this position?
Odessa Sanchez: I am a wife and the mother of a blended African American and Latinx family. We have lived in Wellesley for 12 years in subsidized housing on Barton Road. My family and I have found Wellesley to be a welcoming and diverse community and are grateful for the wonderful opportunities Wellesley has afforded us.
Since moving to Wellesley, I have volunteered in the school system as a room parent, PTO secretary, School Council Parent (WHS), Dance Committee Chair (WMS), Cheer Coach, Wellesley Housing Tenants Association Vice President, Community Volunteer, and Neighborhood Program Collaborator. I also grew up in Newton and attended public school where I excelled in student government and athletics.
My children quickly assimilated into the Wellesley community and have been involved in Girl Scouts, Little League, varsity school sports, National Youth Football Championship, captains of the cheerleading team, lead performers in school and town stage productions, and championship winners of awards and honors. I have guided my children to lead and to be of service to others.
I am a “people person” with the interpersonal skills for building bridges with citizens from all walks of life. I bring energy, enthusiasm, and a positive mindset to all that I undertake. I am open-minded and love to learn new things. Empowering others to be their best selves is my proven strength as a leader and has found its outlet in building the Wellesley cheerleading team from a small school club to a Raider varsity sport at Wellesley High School. In the dual role of Head Coach and CFO, I successfully utilized my grant-writing, fund-raising, and budgeting skills.
I decided to run because I believe we need a fresh, new perspective on the Board as we build Wellesley’s future during these turbulent and uncertain times.
I believe that I stand out because I bring a broad, well-grounded, and informed perspective gained through my years as a resident with five children in the public schools and as a volunteer who continues to mentor and lead WHS and WMS students. We need a Selectman who will represent ALL of Wellesley, and I feel that I would do that as a public housing resident, a parent, and a student coach.
I will be ready to serve you on day one with patience, perseverance, and compassion.
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?
Odessa Sanchez: During COVID-19, Wellesley’s small businesses have stepped up to demonstrate how connected they are to our families and how essential their businesses are in supporting our community. Many serve our Town’s essential workers like the police, fire, and health care professionals. Unfortunately, the pandemic has forced the closure of some small businesses, and that impact is already being felt. As your Selectman, I will work to find creative solutions to help small businesses stay and thrive in our Town. One idea that has worked well was the Town’s issuing temporary outdoor dining permits to businesses like Cafe Mangal.
To encourage new businesses to come to Wellesley, I would highlight the Boston Marathon event, our families and schools, and our friendly small-town character. As your Selectman, I will be dedicated to improving collaboration with local businesses to create more expansive approaches to showcase our business community during large scale events like the Boston Marathon. Helping small businesses to survive and thrive in our community helps us all.
SR: How can Wellesley more effectively engage in acting on the concerns of its residents of diverse backgrounds?
Odessa Sanchez: I support diversity, equity, and inclusion and bring credibility to these areas. As your Selectman, I will seek ways to engage more effectively with residents from diverse racial, ethnic, and economic backgrounds. As an African American woman married to a Puerto Rican man raising a blended family in Wellesley, I am living proof that multiculturalism makes your life richer and fuller. For Wellesley to understand and act on the concerns of residents like my family and me, important conversations must take place.
We need more diversity in the clubs, offices, and committees that touch our students. Wellesley schools should recruit diverse coaches, faculty, and staff at every level. PTO officers should represent all students, not just some.
As your Selectman, I will encourage an initiative that I have dreamed of and drawn-up a proposal for – a new organization that will do the real work of effecting real change for people of all racial and cultural backgrounds. If Wellesley wants to be effective in this area, it must protect the voices of every single resident and speak out against those who try to silence or cancel the free speech of others. Everyone’s voice matters, and as your Selectman, I will make sure that everyone’s voice is heard.
Lastly, I believe that Wellesley should take pride in and celebrate all cultures in our town.
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 cover items such as public safety and snow removal. What else can be done to manage the financial implications of COVID-19?
Odessa Sanchez: Prioritizing is the first step in maximizing the management of the financial impacts of COVID-19. The Town budget will be broken down by category, and each line item will be reviewed and discussed. We have a wealth of information at hand, which we will use wisely to make good decisions. I have faith that our knowledgeable decision-making will adopt cost effective measures to keep spending down during these uncertain times. Projects should be assessed and reviewed to ensure that materials and operational procedures are both economical and functional.
As a homemaker, I live on a tight budget and know how to stretch a dollar for my family’s needs. I understand how to prioritize, make tough choices, and live with necessary sacrifices. I will bring solid budgeting skills to the table.
SR: How should voters reach you if they want more information?