Candidates define goals, take questions in Marion

May 3, 2019

MARION — Marion candidates for the town’s Annual Town Election appeared at the Music Hall on May 2 to speak about how they would approach their position if elected and to answer audience questions.

Barry Gaffey got two opportunities at the microphone, as he is running for both Assessor and Planning Board. Gaffey has been in Marion since the late 1990s. He hopes to bring some of the problem-solving skills that he developed from working two jobs in IT to the positions.  

Gaffey said that Marion has changed since the nineties, and is going to continue to change. However he believes that “through planning and through assessing, that’s how we can help fortify the town.” 

In response to an audience question as to whether he was a certified assessor, Gaffey admitted he is not. When asked to provide a specific strategy to fix a Marion problem he said he believes that fair and equitable assessing would fix many of the town’s problems. His opponent for the Assessor position, Catherine Gibbs was out of town due to travel.

There are four candidates for two positions on the Planning Board. Current board Chair Will Saltonstall is running for re-election. His fellow board member Stephen Kokkins has opted not to run for re-election. The two candidates who get the most votes will fill the two positions. 

William Do Carmo hopes to draw on his local state and federal experience in construction and public works to earn a Planning Board position. He is currently the owner of Carmo and Associates, which provides general contracting, real estate brokerage, and consulting services. 

While he said that the current town employees are, “very fine people,” he added that, “they don’t seem to be very energized.” He described Marion as having a case of “perpetual debt syndrome,” but said that he believes that the money is out there and leaders need to know how and where to get it. 

A younger candidate for Planning Board, Joe Rocha, moved to Marion in 2015 with the intent to raise his son here and currently works for BOLD moves Real Estate. 

He prioritized data-driven choices that will preserve Marion, and says he plans to always consider, “is this decision right for the town?”

Will Saltonstall, the current chair of the Planning Board, is also running for re-election.  

The principal architect at Saltonstall Architects called his time on the board “challenging, sometimes frustrating but rewarding.” He looks to balance preserving history with a desire to evolve as a town, and reactive policies rulings on individual projects with more proactive, “large picture” work. He says that he tries to keep Planning Board decisions “reasonably efficient,” and emphasizes that he has, “a lot more energy to give.”

Another question on a highly-debated position came about in reviewing the ORR School Committee seat, where Heather Burke is up for re-election and running unopposed. Burke  moved to Marion 10 years ago, and emphasized she believes “in the power of education in a small and large way.” 

One Marion resident, who does not have children in the school system, asked Burke to clarify what the “Restore ORR” signs refer to. 

Burke responded that if the project is approved at town meeting it would renovate a number of facilities at the high school, including the main field, track, and auditorium. 

Another audience member asked why the $2 million proposed project was not on the school’s five year capital plan.

Burke responded that the school system was asked to produce a five year capital plan, and then almost immediately after were asked for a 20 year capital plan, which included a number of facilities. When the committee submitted the changes it would like to the facilities, the school was asked to reprioritize its plan. As a result, the committee decided to focus on the facilities that were at the end of their useful life. 

Burke said that the school committee actually doesn’t have a good mechanism to do capital planning, because the process of getting projects through the three towns is so difficult. 

Marion Town Election will take place from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on May 17 at the Benjamin D. Cushing Community Center.