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Marblehead June 20, 2023 Ballot Sample Image

Election Overview: Quick Takes

Marbleheaders heading to the polls on Tuesday June 20, 2023 will have the opportunity to elect or re-elect fellow citizens to serve on all of the boards that govern our community and decide on whether to pass a $2.5 million permanent tax increase.


Marblehead Beacon has provided a number of in-depth election-related articles over the past several weeks. Today, we offer brief snapshots of select competitive races, with representative quotations on key topics gleaned from replies to Marblehead Beacon’s questions (when available) and from candidates’ public statements and comments made during the League of Women Voters’ candidate forums


We want to offer our sincere thanks to the candidates who chose to respond to the Marblehead Beacon questionnaires. For those who did not respond or responded indicating that they did not want to participate, we have sought out statements from other sources to help provide additional background on their goals if elected.


Marblehead Beacon's election coverage includes the complete responses from which many of the quotes provided below are excerpted. An overview and links to all related articles is available HERE



Four candidates are running for two available three-year terms, including Sarah Gold – who currently serves on the committee – as well as Paul Baker, Brian Ota, and Jenn Schaeffner. Schaeffner previously served from 2016 to 2020.


Paul Baker

(declined to participate in Marblehead Beacon questionnaire)

  • “I support SEPAC and Inclusion, I support the hiring of a DEI Coordinator, I support OUR teachers, OUR administrative team and OUR support teams.” – Statement on Facebook
  • “I have tried, for the most part, to stay above the fray these past couple of weeks. However, I have been delighted to answer requests/interviews/questionnaires from The Current, The League of Women Voters and Marblehead SEPAC.” – Statement on Facebook
  • “I view running for a seat on the school committee as an opportunity to help make a difference in our schools, ensuring that our administration and faculty have the funds that they deem necessary to educate all of our students.” – League of Women Voters Forum


Sarah Gold

  • “I believe strongly in calm, thoughtful, and direct leadership…. The drama-filled commentary on social media has led to a false narrative on the work being done in the School Department.” – League of Women Voters Forum Statement (read by moderator as Gold was traveling and could not attend)
  • “The list of cuts will remain intact if the override does not pass…. I advocate for the passing of the Prop 2 ½ override so none of these cuts come to fruition.” – Beacon Questionnaire answer
  • “I do not support [parent’s bill of rights] efforts…We have highly educated professionals in our district who care deeply about the wellbeing of the children in our school buildings. I fully trust in their professionalism within their classroom as they teach these State standards.” – Beacon Questionnaire answer


Brian Ota

  • “We also have to look at our staff pay. We must be competitive with other districts if we want to keep and retain the best people we can.” – League of Women Voters Forum
  • “I believe that we, as well as many school systems, are going to continue to feel the impact of COVID for many years to come.” – Beacon Questionnaire answer
  • “I support the cuts as outlined by the Superintendent…. To attempt to second guess all that…without being privy to all the planning would be disingenuous to the administration.” – Beacon Questionnaire answer
  • “It is imperative that the administration gather parental input before developing or choosing a specific curriculum.” – Beacon Questionnaire answer


Jenn Schaeffner

  • “If elected, I would focus on building a zero-based budget, which means starting from scratch and looking at enrollment numbers and needs in each of our schools.” – Beacon Questionnaire answer
  • “The listed cuts target the areas that are most important to teachers, students, and families rather than reviewing the budget with an eye toward finding saving opportunities that don’t impact student facing staff.” – Beacon Questionnaire answer
  • “Parents have the right, and frankly the responsibility, to know what their students are being taught in all classes at all levels and in all subjects.” – Beacon Questionnaire answer
  • “I will advocate for public comment that allows for dialogue between the School Committee and the administration and the community.” – League of Women Voters Forum 



All five incumbents are running for re-election to five available one-year terms, including Jackie Belf-Becker, Moses Grader, Erin Noonan, Jim Nye, and Alexa Singer. Former member of the Select Board Bret Murray is also running. 


Jackie Belf-Becker

  • “These questions [about financial management] have been asked and answered.” – Beacon Questionnaire answer
  • “I do my homework and due diligence when appointing any position when someone is interviewed.” – Beacon Questionnaire answer
  • “This is not a time for changing direction.” – League of Women Voters Forum
  • “We are proposing this override to stabilize our finances and we need your help.” – League of Women Voters Forum


Moses Grader

(did not respond to Marblehead Beacon questionnaire)

  • “Bottom line is I do support the override.” – League of Women Voters Forum
  • “It really gladdens my heart when we have citizens’ petitions…It is the one way that people of Marblehead who we represent get to communicate over the heads of their elected officials. I think that’s really great.” – League of Women Voters Forum
  • “We’re very transparent in this town.” – League of Women Voters Forum


Brett Murray

  • “Although I support the override, I do not agree with how the Select Board approached it….  As soon as the Select Board was made aware of our structural budget deficit problem, they should have started to develop a long-term solution.” – Beacon Questionnaire answer
  • “I support the override and I hope it passes. And if it does, I don't think we can come back to the taxpayers two years in a row…. The longest serving members here have known about this issue for at least four years.” – League of Women Voters Forum
  • “No one should have a lifetime appointment to any board or committee…. I commend and thank everyone who has volunteered their time, but it is in the town’s best interest to have regular turnover on all our boards.” – Beacon Questionnaire answer
  • “Since our long-term Select Board members do not want to enact these measures [regarding governance], only by voting in new members will these changes occur.” – Beacon Questionnaire answer


Erin Noonan

  • “Alexa Singer and I have been the only two voices at the table urging a serious discussion around the structural deficit since our early days on the Board not yet two years ago…. Without a change to the makeup of the Board, unfortunately there is little more I can do than speak up and point out the problem.” – Beacon Questionnaire answer
  • “In our first meeting, Alexa Singer and I were shocked by the lack of process regarding board appointments. Currently, all members are automatically re-appointed unless they choose to step down.” – Beacon Questionnaire answer
  • “I do hope that the town supports the override. The cuts will be substantial to public safety and education.” – League of Women Voters Forum
  • “I am not afraid to ask the hard questions, have open discussions and/or vote in opposition to the majority of board members when I have a different view.” – League of Women Voters Forum


Jim Nye

(did not respond to Marblehead Beacon questionnaire)

  • “This year the department heads have been tasked with identifying positions that can remain unfilled as well as staff cuts that will minimally impact the delivery of services to the citizens of Marblehead. I agree with these recommendations and do not support the permanent general override.” – League of Women Voters Forum
  • “It’s great that citizen petitions come forward and any way I can help I’m happy to.” – League of Women Voters Forum
  • “It's been a privilege to serve the town on this board for the past 18 years.” – League of Women Voters Forum


Alexa Singer

  • “There are many positive changes to highlight within the past year…. We have filled the vacancies in the finance office and now have a new experienced finance director in place.” – Beacon Questionnaire answer
  • “I advocated for proactive action to address the deficit after I joined the Select Board in 2021, but it was not the will of the Select Board majority. I also requested a Select Board retreat to set goals and priorities in hopes of beginning this process in the summer of 2022 but it was denied.” – Beacon Questionnaire answer
  • “Last June I advocated for the Board to take three months to reevaluate our appointment process…. The Board did not support this request.” – Beacon Questionnaire answer
  • “I did advocate for [the financial situation in Marblehead] to be addressed after I was elected in June 2021. It wasn’t the will of the committee at that time. I have not been silent on this issue.” – League of Women Voters Forum



In this race, two candidates are running for one three-year term: Lisa Wolf, who is the incumbent, and Walter Homan. Two candidates are running for one available one-year term: Adam Smith, who was appointed to fill the seat over the past year, and Nate Burke. Both Homan and Burke previously served on the board. 


Nate Burke

  • “We have 10,000 meters in town. We have 1,000 transformers. When you add a third car to a 10 transformer line you are looking at a potential fire…. The third electric automobile on the transformer is actually a hazard to the town.” – League of Women Voters Forum
  • The first step to addressing infrastructure for more electric cars is to have a communication plan with townspeople who are new electric vehicle owners so we can ensure that neighborhood infrastructure has available capacity... It will be imperative to work together to find a solution to these future scenarios and I look forward to addressing these challenges when elected to the Board." Beacon Questionnaire answer
  • “I do not support the banning of natural gas in new construction because it is not the Board’s place to dictate such matters.” – Beacon Questionnaire answer
  • “We are currently at 44% carbon neutrality and will continue to improve until we achieve 100% net neutrality. I stand by this commitment to green our future.” – Beacon Questionnaire answer


Walter Homan

  • “49 percent of the population of Marblehead make less than $100,000. Out of that 49 percent, 20 percent make less than $50,000. With us promoting electric cars, where is the balance with these people who can’t afford electric cars…. That’s why I’m running. I want to protect the people who make less than $100,000 a year and don’t have a say in anything.” – League of Women Voters Forum
  • “The primary responsibility of the Light Department is to keep the power on and the rates low for the citizens of Marblehead…. Safety should and always will be a number one concern.” – Beacon Questionnaire answer
  • “I do not agree with the transition to all home and heating and transportation needs because the grid is up to capacity as is, and will not be able to sustain that type of demand…. We as a society are trying to move forward in environmentally friendly ways; how can you say that we are being environmentally friendly when we are mining and stripping the earth of Lithium and Cobalt.” – Beacon Questionnaire answer
  • “I attended a meeting with the Electric Light Commission probably a month ago with the fire chief, and a commissioner said ‘safety is not a priority’ with this board... To make a comment that 'safety is not a priority'... it's just not right.” – League of Women Voters Forum


Adam Smith

  • “If more homeowners could switch their electric use to non-peak hours...we could avoid having to buy power on the open market when costs are highest and the power comes from the dirtiest sources.” – Beacon Questionnaire answer
  • “All three of these goals [rates, conservation, and maintenance] are equally important.” – Beacon Questionnaire answer
  • “Our linemen and engineers do a great job… but they face a distribution system that is dated and not designed to handle a load that is expected to double in the near future.” – Beacon Questionnaire answer
  • “Don’t confuse this with any desire on my part to make you do anything you don’t want to do.” – Beacon Questionnaire answer


Lisa Wolf

  • “The arc of my career has been guided by the knowledge that burning fossil fuels is destabilizing the equilibrium of our planet…. The light department plays a central role in helping our town transition away from fossil fuels and reduce carbon emissions.” – League of Women Voters Forum
  • “It is a false choice between keeping rates low and reducing carbon emissions – both are equally important, and both can be accomplished by initiatives such as peak demand management and utility scale battery storage.” – Beacon Questionnaire answer
  • “We have a daunting task ahead to prepare our system for the increased demand that will accompany transitioning from fossil fuels to electric cars and electric home heating and cooling. The department’s highest priority should be to develop a five-year capital maintenance plan aimed at modernizing our distribution system.” – Beacon Questionnaire answer
  • “Educating customers about demand management is a high priority. All customers should be encouraged to schedule car chargers, thermostats, and water heaters to operate at off-peak hours.” – Beacon Questionnaire answer



Three candidates are running for one open three-year position, including David Becker (who will appear as David Belf Becker on the ballot – former member of the Board of Health and father of current member David Belf-Becker, who is stepping down), Tom Massaro, and Tom McMahon.


David Becker

  • “I admire how well the Board and its administrator have been able to devise a recovery plan with existing funds that will still be able to provide a functioning facility and a modern building for the employees.” – Beacon Questionnaire answer
  • “Marblehead has a transfer station that provides great service for the residents and still will provide service for local commercial use and is the envy of many communities that don’t have this kind of facility.” – League of Women Voters Forum
  • “Being a Board member, your purpose is not to find fault for everything, your responsibility is to find solutions.” – Beacon Questionnaire answer
  • “As to your reference to utilization of pay as you throw as a source of income, it was resoundingly unpopular 20 years ago. It is an extremely regressive burden on the less affluent townspeople.” – Beacon Questionnaire answer


Tom Massaro

  • “My view is that dwelling on the past adds little value. It is a bit disappointing, but we are where we are. Our discussions should be focused on solutions.” – Beacon Questionnaire answer
  • “In trying to research [the Transfer Station] there is not a single place where you can get all of the facts over all of the time that’s taken place…I don’t know that there was any malevolence or malpractice.” – League of Women Voters Forum
  • “I do not favor using ARPA funds for the Transfer Station, but I would be willing to consider a ‘pay as you throw’ concept if some accommodations were made for the poorest families in the community.” – Beacon Questionnaire answer
  • “The Board or the Subcommittee should also increase its communications about the extent of mental health problems in the society. Efforts to destigmatize the seeking of assistance for mental health problems are critical.” – Beacon Questionnaire answer


Tom McMahon

  • “We are in a critical stage right now where the completion of the transfer station project is not what the town was sold on and agreed to – twice – and threatens to take away critical revenue we use to offset our trash collection and disposal costs…. One thing that shocks me is for present and past board members to talk about this project as if it was a success.” – League of Women Voters Forum
  • “The Marblehead residents were twice promised a transfer station design, they agreed, fronted the costs, and were not delivered what was promised. Therefore, only the Marblehead residents should decide how we move forward through full transparency.” – Beacon Questionnaire answer
  • “I do not support ‘pay as you throw’ as it has been shown to be wildly unpopular in other towns but also I believe this idea was previously shot down by Marblehead residents by a wide margin when brought up in the past. The failure of this project [the Transfer Station] has dug Marblehead into a tough hole where I wish there were better options. I’m not seeing them now but I’m always open to suggestions from residents.” – Beacon Questionnaire answer
  • “We need to show the youth that Marblehead is not immune to tragedy and to show the pain it causes so we can help them to make better decisions.” – Beacon Questionnaire answer



Six candidates are running for five open one-year spots, including incumbents Linda Rice Collins, Karin Ernst, Rossana Ferrante, and Matthew Martin, as well as newcomers Shelly Bedrossian and Larry Simpson. 


Shelly Bedrossian

  • “We need to verify that the temporary workers are actually maintaining the trash. If there is not enough time based on money collection workload then I would suggest moving to the automatic collection procedure that Mass DCR uses called Yodel Pass. This software would allow non-residents to purchase their beach pass in advance or when arriving which reduces the amount of time employees would have to spend on collecting fees and focus on beach and bathroom cleanliness.” – Beacon Questionnaire answer
  • “The gift [to Marblehead from Larz Anderson] was for 2.2M in 2018 and some money was spent to hire a consultant to evaluate the development of an ice rink. I don’t know where the money has been sitting and what type of interest it has been earning, however I would like to know how much is remaining.” – Beacon Questionnaire answer
  • “For the past year, I have been researching a way to do all of these things without ANY burden to the tax-payers through a public/private partnership with Edge Sports.” – Beacon Questionnaire answer
  • “I do know that organic practices are much more expensive and there’s going to be some budgetary restraints on that. If you look at the Rec & Park operating budget last year, it was $840,000 and $671,000 was for full time employees, so there’s not a lot of money left over to do that…but we should generally keep going in that direction. I am frankly amazed at what the board has been able to do with not a lot of money.” – League of Women Voters Forum
  • “My first inclination is not to raise taxes on things.” – League of Women Voters Forum


Linda Rice Collins

  • “The Recreation and Park Department does not receive any money from the sale of the combined Transfer Station and Beach parking sticker. One hundred percent of the money collected for parking Monday-Thursday goes into the Town General Fund.” –  Beacon Questionnaire answer
  • “We are being asked to provide 2023 services on 2002 money. Prices and salaries have gone up yet our budget does not match this. We are constantly robbing Peter to pay Paul.” – Beacon Questionnaire answer
  • “Chip Osborne worked with Superintendent Peter James to create pesticide free grass at all our parks, playgrounds and athletic fields. Some are in great shape like Seaside; some need capital improvements like the lower field at the Village School which was not constructed properly. We do not have the funds for capital improvements.” – Beacon Questionnaire answer
  • “We’ve had three really great meetings with the pickleball groups, the neighbors, community members….to discuss how we can co-exist within this town.” 
  • “The Board of Health here in Marblehead created and adopted an Organic Pest Management Method in 2005. Marblehead has led the country in this area…All the public green space in Marblehead is grown organically.” – League of Women Voters Forum


Karin Ernst

(declined to participate in Marblehead Beacon questionnaire)

  • “The park department touches every inch of this town. I was amazed at what a tiny crew of seven can do.” – League of Women Voters Forum
  • “People who know me know that I’m a hard worker. I show up. I listen. I participate. I’m not shy about asking questions or sharing my opinion.” – League of Women Voters Forum
  • “It is a balance….I felt strongly that pickleball needed to be on a public space. I’m all for the growth and support of pickleball, but it’s a balance….All for listening, all for new ideas, but a balance is really important.” – League of Women Voters Forum
  • “In my two years of experience, it is hard to see all these things that…need to get done, and we don’t have the money to do it…. We need money to do all the fixes we need to do…. These are lean years. I would love for one of us to win the lottery.” – League of Women Voters Forum


Rossana Ferrante

(declined to participate in Marblehead Beacon questionnaire)

  • “I’m passionate about how we make decisions. We have varying interests that come before us on many different projects.” – League of Women Voters Forum
  • “I think we have to get all the facts and we have to figure out what’s the best solution. I think that’s due diligence. I think that’s listening… We are one community… We have to take into consideration not any one particular group but the entire community as a whole.” – League of Women Voters Forum
  • “Just because today maybe financially it seems as though we are limited, I don’t think that means that continues indefinitely. I think it all depends as our needs evolve over time.” – League of Women Voters Forum
  • “Every department is faced with that challenge of how to do more with less… I think it’s really just working at it on a regular basis. The money is not going to come out of the sky.” – League of Women Voters Forum


Matthew Martin

(declined to participate in Marblehead Beacon questionnaire)

  • “No one had any idea that pickleball would take off the way it did. No one had any idea that it was going to be loud as it is. It’s a tough thing.” – League of Women Voters Forum
  • “I don’t see any problem with [organic practices]. I would say that the park superintendent Peter James has been doing this a long time. Not going to kid you, he knows more about this stuff than me. I would entrust that he will give us the right information and make the right decisions for us to decide on that. Do I think organic practice is good? I don’t know if it’s good or bad.” – League of Women Voters Forum
  • “Again, greatest town in America. I think that everybody in this town over the past 20 odd years has done a great job budgeting with what we have. We haven’t had an override in I don’t know how long. Great job, everyone across the board.” – League of Women Voters Forum
  • “There’s something called prevailing wage that we have to abide by that absolutely cuts us off at the knees…. we could get that done for very short money except for prevailing wage. All of a sudden now we have to start paying a god-awful number per hour.” – League of Women Voters Forum


Larry Simpson

  • “It isn’t fair for Marblehead to pay for trash removal and beach clean-up for out-of-town users who come in after hours and pay nothing.” – Beacon Questionnaire answer
  • “I would support an outdoor rink before I would support a year-round facility. I think a deep dive must be done to understand what would satisfy the requirement that the money be used for a ‘recreational winter sport’.” – Beacon Questionnaire answer
  • “Rec and Park have a lot of knowledge so I am a firm believer that information and resources should be shared to raise the bar in our stewardship of the grounds and fields at our public schools.” – Beacon Questionnaire answer
  • “We try to landscape responsibly. I think the gardens our parents had and the gardens we want are very different…I care about the land. I care about the environment.” – League of Women Voters Forum



Question One is an override of Proposition 2 1/2 that, if approved, will permanently add $2.5 million to Marblehead's annual tax revenue. Two ballot committees have formed to advocate for opposing sides of this ballot question.


Vote Yes for Marblehead

  • Question 1 will restore the Reduced Services cuts imposed on many town departments’ budgets to Level Funding.’” Beacon Questionnaire answer
  • At the end of the day, while our town has many complicated issues to confront, we believe our children and citizens are best served by a budget that maintains critical education and public safety services.” – Beacon Questionnaire answer
  • Without passage of the override, 33 Positions as well as Programs in Marblehead Public Schools will not be restored.” – Submitted Statement
  • In addition to the reductions in our schools, we will see significant reductions to Public Safety and other town services.” – Submitted Statement


Six Percent is Too Much

  • We believe that both the school and town leadership have exhibited well-known and terrible fiscal mismanagement. Examples include the lost interest revenue from National Grand Bank and the failure to manage school spending to declining enrollments. Beacon Questionnaire answer
  • Not only will this override cost taxpayers $2.5 million this year and every year going forward, but because of automatic yearly increases of 2.5 percent, the cost will actually be larger and larger with each year that goes by.” – Beacon Questionnaire answer
  • If the override fails, we believe it is highly unlikely that the threatened school-side cuts to popular and important student-facing programs will actually be implemented. There are many other areas that can and should be cut first, which will have minimal impact on serving student needs.” – Beacon Questionnaire answer
  • While we as a ballot committee are focused primarily on Question 1, this year’s ballot also includes a large number of “reform” candidates, all of whom have pledged to stop the opaque and “business as usual” approach that has put Marblehead in this mess.” – Beacon Questionnaire answer

Editor’s note: Jennifer Schaeffner is a founder and editor for Marblehead Beacon but has taken a leave of absence from any role with Marblehead Beacon during her campaign for School Committee.