Candidate profile: Michelle Ouellette Smith
Michelle Ouellette Smith moved to Marion 17 years ago, in order to give her children a better life, she said. Now, the Acushnet Elementary School teacher and Marion Zoning Board of Appeals member is running for a one-year selectman position to give back to the town.
"I see the role of the selectmen as an advocate for the townspeople," she said. "We represent all residents, and should be making sound fiscal decisions based upon what is best for our community—not our individual needs or agendas."
Ouellette Smith said that Marion needs to increase commercial and industrial growth in town, for the good of residents. "The growth is needed to reduce the residential tax burden on our citizens," she said. "I feel that we have more of a growth problem than a debt problem. Many of our town government forefathers...fought tooth and nail to prevent business and affordable housing growth, only to spend vast amounts of taxpayer dollars on court costs and legal fees, only to eventually lose in court. As a result of these actions and past decisions of our forefathers, the town has a finite number of residents and business to bear the burden of our debt."
While Ouellette Smith reported that the town's selectmen and committees are made up of "hardworking men and women who truly care about our town," she would like to increase "transparency" and oversight in some areas of town government. "For example, I'd like to see the meeting minutes of all boards and committees posted on the town website...and to see selectmen hold monthly 'office hours' on a Saturday where residents could have a coffee and relate their concerns, ideas or comments about town matters," she explained.
Ouellette Smith takes a three-pronged approach to Marion's priorities. The first, she said, is tackling the Town House. "The Town House is the main seat of the government of the town. As selectmen, we owe it to our employees, committee members and citizens to provide a safe, clean work environment," she explained. "The current aging structure contains asbestos, a faulty furnace, and an upper level area that was once filled with bats and their droppings."
The next? Fix the sewer plant. "If the Town House renovation does not pass, I think our first priority should be to take the appropriate steps to correct the sewer plant deficiencies, in order to allow for additional capacity for commercial, industrial and residential growth," Ouellette Smith said.
She noted that it is also time to complete the three phases of the Marion Village infrastructure project that was shelved several years ago, over concerns about the cost of renovating Marion's sewer plant. "It's not a matter of 'if,' but 'it must be completed,'" she remarked.
Other priorities? Affordable housing for seniors looking to downsize is a requirement, Ouellette Smith declared, adding, "We must also look to grow our services for seniors and provide more solutions for their transportation needs."
Ouellette Smith also cited education as a town priority. "We must continue to provide our children with high quality education with adequate funding which addresses the growing technological needs our children need to succeed in this increasingly competitive world," she explained.