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 2021 election will be held on Tuesday, March 2.
There are three candidates running for two open 5-year seats on the Wellesley Housing Authority. The WHA is run by a Board of Commissioners and is the principal housing advocate within its community, charged with planning and implementing a balanced housing program. In addition to planning, advocacy, and determining the needs of tenants, the board has the responsibility for placing the agency’s operations in the context of policy.
The Swellesley Report invited the candidates to answer a few questions about their qualifications and priorities for the Town of Wellesley.
Odessa Sanchez, candidate for Wellesley Housing Authority
The Swellesley Report: What is your background and what qualifies you for this position?
Odessa Sanchez: I am a wife and hard-working mother of a blended African American/Puerto Rican family of seven children. Originally from Newton, Massachusetts, I grew up in Newton public housing where I started the first “Youth Tenant Association.” A born leader, I’ve been a 12-year resident of Wellesley housing, and I am excited to run for WHA Board Commissioner. Service and community advocacy are my passions. Before Wellesley, I lived in Norwood Housing (1998-2008), where I was a five-year Tenant Association Vice President. I have experience working with residents, management, and maintenance staff; attending board meetings; building community relationships; positively presenting my ideas and suggestions for improving residential life; and knowledge of State guidelines. Through my daily life, I work as a teacher and coach so I’m comfortable engaging with residents and many trust me as a neighborhood resource.
TSR: Given the economic instability currently at hand, what should be the Wellesley Housing Authority’s top priorities?
Sanchez: Well COVID-19 has probably affected many lives and households and that includes our residents. Not many people are exempt from the financial implications, so an overwhelming sense of understanding and compassion is required.
1. WHA relies on State funding and rent collections to operate. Residents may require help to identify where they stand financially after the pandemic hit to ensure they are compliant with rental obligations.
2. WHA must also prioritize keeping up with State guidelines to ensure funds are available and necessary projects are executed. Projects, like the tub and window replacements that have already been approved and outlined in the 2020 Fiscal statement should be on the top of the list for 2021.
3. WHA has been without a Resident Service Coordinator for several months, after replacing the RSC that was there for over 15 years. Hiring a new RSC is essential to continue bringing quality programs and services to residents.
TSR: What is your long-term vision for what WHA properties should look like?
Sanchez: WHA properties should look like they are a part of the neighborhood. Just because they are low cost doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be high quality. I would like to see attractive, low maintenance units with architecture that echoes that of nearby residential buildings. Other than looks, I want our properties to be a community. Residents value the quality of life available here.
Management should be professional, compliant and reasonable with regulatory requirements. All members of the community expect to be treated fairly and courteously, and this mutual expectation creates an informal but powerful force for community cohesion.
TSR: Is there anything else you would like to say that the above questions did not cover?
Sanchez: Incorporating non-housing services is a great deal of what Wellesley Housing Authority does to provide additional services to assist families and seniors residing in WHA communities. I have a long history collaborating with the many local organizations, colleges, schools, and agencies that WHA currently connects residents to for resources. As part of the WHA board I would further cultivate those relationships as well as use my creativity to propose new ideas like an updated version of the monthly newsletter to send out to all the residents.
TSR: How should voters reach you if they want more information?