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Select Board Perspectives: Better Governance or Good Enough Already?

Marbleheaders heading to the polls on June 20, 2023 will have the opportunity to weigh in on six contested races  – Municipal Light Commission, Board of Health, Select Board, Library Trustee, Recreation & Parks Commission, and School Committee – as well as voting yay or nay on a ballot question that would approve a general override of Proposition 2 1/2, permanently increasing the property tax levy by $2.5 million. 


Marblehead Beacon's coverage of the 2023 election will include a series of articles highlighting important questions that are specific to key contested races. In preparation, we gave each candidate the opportunity to provide his or her own perspectives, and their answers to our questions will be quoted in full within each article. As necessary, we will also provide some background information highlighting why we decided to focus on specific topics and the relevant historical context. 


Our series begins with the Select Board, with five seats open for one-year terms. This is the final year in which Select Board members will all be elected for single-year terms. Starting in 2024, the Select Board will transition to staggered three-year terms, as proposed and approved at this year's Town Meeting, subject to ratification by the state legislature.


This year, there are six candidates for the five open Select Board seats, with all five incumbents seeking to retain their positions and Bret Murray running as a challenger, though he also previously served on the Select Board from 2011 to 2017. 


Marblehead Beacon sent the six Select Board candidates four questions each. The first focused on general issues relating to transparency and good governance, topics that played an important role during the third night of Town Meeting this year. While these articles were advisory in nature rather than proscriptive, they received resounding support from Town Meeting attendees. It is therefore at the discretion of the Select Board to decide whether to implement the recommendations for themselves or for the other boards under their jurisdiction. For this reason, the first question Marblehead Beacon sent to the six candidates for Select Board read as follows:


During Town Meeting this year, several Articles addressed issues related to governance, including the establishment of a traffic advisory committee, the creation of standard operating procedure documents, and the creation of a hybrid meeting model. These articles were advisory only. Do you advocate implementing these recommendations for the Select Board and other boards under your jurisdiction?


The responses of the candidates are provided in full below, with candidates listed in alphabetical order:


Jackie Belf-Becker

"The several Articles that are advisory only need to be vetted and discussed by the Board as possible agenda items. Some of them are already in place."


Moses Grader

Did not respond to Marblehead Beacon's request to participate in our questionnaire.


Bret Murray

"Citizens at Town Meeting spoke loud and clear on these Articles, and they should be implemented. Good servant leadership is not only about listening to our citizens, but taking actions on the issues they want addressed. Since our long-term Select Board members do not want to enact these measures, only by voting in new members will these changes occur."


Erin Noonan

"These articles were a referendum on residents’ desire for more open and accessible governing in Town and enjoyed overwhelming support from the voters at Town Meeting. I wholeheartedly endorse the implementation of these articles, particularly those with no budget implications. The recommendations also align with my continued requests for the Board to take up and openly discuss codifying standard operating procedures and policies as is best practice in the Commonwealth for all elected and appointed boards, as well as corporations, educational institutions, non-profits and more. There are current storage capacity issues with hosting our own recordings, however we could link to our wonderful MHTV’s page for access to the video recordings."


Jim Nye

Did not respond to Marblehead Beacon's request to participate in our questionnaire.


Alexa Singer

"It was great to have so many Citizen’s Articles this year. Marblehead runs on volunteers and the willingness to act. I have advocated for several of these issues throughout my time on the Select Board and I will continue to respect the will of Marblehead Town Meeting. As an aviation professional and educator, I know the importance of an organization’s Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) and ensuring these are living documents. I promoted this at meetings and detailed my concerns after joining the Select Board. Since I was elected in 2021, remote access to meetings has been a priority. I attended webinars detailing the implementation of remote meeting access for municipalities and worked with the prior town administrator to share my knowledge and implement the equipment necessary for the Select Board hybrid meetings. If elected, I will continue to advocate for access for all citizen priorities while being mindful of budgetary limitations."