Phyllis Theermann


If you missed the Conversations with the Candidates and Community Dinner on Sunday, don’t worry. We have you covered.

{You did miss a fun and enlightening evening though}

Click on the Board name below to read the thoughtful responses most candidates offered to Sustainable Wellesley’s questions.

Since many of the races are contested, knowing what the candidates value will help you when you go to vote.

After reading them, share your thoughts with family, friends and neighbors.

**Make sure you have time on your calendar on Tuesday, March 5th to vote or get an absentee ballot from Town Hall. Absentee requests may be filed up until noon the day prior, but if you require the ballot to be mailed out of Wellesley please allow sufficient time for mailing in both directions (generally allow 10 mailing days for a ballot to go out of Wellesley and be returned).

Selectmen – contested
Board of Health – contested
Housing Authority
Library Trustees 
Natural Resources Commission – contested
Planning Board –contested
Dept. of Public Works
Recreation Department – contested
School Committee

Phyllis Theermann

March 5th Wellesley heads to the polls to elect candidates to variety of important Town Board Positions including:

Public Works 
Housing Authority
Wellesley Free Library
Natural Resources
Town Meeting Members

Want to know if they share your values? Hear from them at

SUSTAINABLE WELLESLEY’S 2019 Evening With the Candidates & Community Dinner.

Sunday, February 10th
161 Oakland St
In artist loft above garage


RSVP here before February 5th.


wps compasss logThe upcoming town election on March 7th, is an unusual one in Wellesley electoral politics because there are so many contested races. But with so much happening in Washington at the federal level, Wellesley voters may find it hard to concentrate on these local candidates. The fact is, the folks on these town boards are more likely to affect our day-to-day lives than the folks in Washington. 

Thus, we have asked each candidate running for a contested seat to answer three questions about sustainability and how it relates to the work of that particular board. We will be covering one race at a time leading up to the election on March 7. Please share widely with your friends and neighbors — and please VOTE! All responses will be posted on our web site through Election Day on March 7, 2017, for your reference.

We believe sustainability is an important dimension of the Town’s responsibility to Wellesley so we asked all candidates how they believe sustainability relates to their work for us. 

This week, we are covering the race for School Committee. There are five candidates — more candidates than seats — so your choice of candidate is very important. Their responses are listed alphabetically.

1.What is your track record on sustainability, including any particular interests and experience with sustainable ideas and initiatives?

Ron Alexander Response:
My main experience with sustainability is from my youth in a rural setting in north central Massachusetts. Our family had a large garden that fed half of the neighborhood with fresh vegetables raised using organic farming techniques and no pesticides or fertilizers. I managed a large compost pile that took in yard waste, kitchen refuse, and animal manures and produced a natural fertilizing compost that was spread out and turned under in the fall to prepare the soil for the coming spring planting. We also reduced our dependence on fossil fuels by burning wood in a barrel stove in the basement to heat the floors and use less oil in the furnace. After moving out on my own, I still always had a garden, and made use of vermiculture (worm composting) to compost kitchen waste, paper, and yard refuse, and used the resulting rich compost on my various gardens.

Eli Burstein Response:
My commitment to sustainability has taken myriad forms, helping govern my professional pursuits, my personal life, and my civic responsibility. Professionally, I am very proud to be a real estate investor in developing Boston’s first USGBC LEED Gold Certified condominium building, The Lancaster. Further, all of our development projects are LEED certifiable, being built to the same standards as The Lancaster.

Personally, my family has assumed (and vigilantly enforced!) the practices of most environmentally conscious families. I also have been a consistent, long-time supporter of (Rhode Island’s) Save the Bay organization and, when living in RI, an active participant in their organized activities. Most relevantly, though, sustainability is a fundamental tenet that Rebecca and I emphasize to our children; seeking teachable moments to ensure that sustainability is never an afterthought.

My responses to the following topics address how I intend to apply the principles of sustainability to my civic life, if elected.

Jennifer Jordahl Response:
Personally and professionally, I have a strong interest in sustainability initiatives. Volunteering my time professionally to visualize data, I have supported initiatives such as government programs to dole out carbon credits and, what will seem strange to US citizens, the European concept to bring back airships to travel between cities.

Personally, when my house was destroyed by fire, I researched the many different kinds of sustainable concepts for my rebuild effort. Our family planned tours of the Ford plant in MI to see the living roofs and porous pavement concepts implemented at scale. I researched toilets: those with dehydrators, some with dual flushing systems and some with toilet bowls fed by reservoirs from sink waste water, grey water. Further, I researched economical energy alternatives regarding solar, thermal energy, wind generators, and bio-chemical reservoirs. Finally, I researched the kinds of heating systems forced air vs hydro-air systems, paying particular attention to the cleanest air each system provided. The give an take of various options were important to me though many were not yet feasible for my rebuild.

My answer to sustainability is don’t just think about it do it, because I am particularly interested in giving my grandchildren a wonderful world to inherit.

Matthew Kelley Response:
As a School Committee member, my first focus has been on supporting education. As part of that mission, though, I have supported a number of activities related to sustainability, for example, the Bates School participation in the EPA Food Recovery Challenge. I served as one of the School Committee liaisons to the North 40 Committee. While we made clear that it was certainly possible to build a first-class school on the site, we did not support that use of the land, recognizing and supporting the priority for maintaining open, undisturbed space in town. We have also moved several facilities maintenance projects forward, most notably the Middle School Windows project, which has greatly improved integrity of the building envelope, and is expected to result in reduced energy costs. A fun (albeit small) part of that windows project also included renovation/repair of the greenhouse at the Middle School, where students were able to grow and recently harvest vegetables.

Melissa Martin Response:
As a mother of four children, I am interested in ensuring that we manage our resources in a manner that will allow the future to be bright for many generations.  I have worked in areas in which I have seen the blight caused from degradation of the environment, and I highly value the natural green spaces that we have preserved in Wellesley.

Within our own town government, last year, as a Town Meeting Member, I supported the plastic bag ban that was presented at Town Meeting in 2016.  On a personal front, I have improved over the past months in bringing my own reusable bags when I go shopping.

Within our family, we practice recycling, and I try to fit as many errands in on foot as possible.  I am known at Sprague for showing up at the school carrying my coffee in a mug from home, and of course, I abide by the “ no idling” rule when in carline.

2. What are your thoughts on sustainability as an issue and opportunity for current and future students in the Wellesley school system?

Ron Alexander Response:
I think current and future students need to be keenly aware of the impact of their daily habits upon the environment. The recent plastic bag ban is a great step towards reducing the amount of plastic that gets released into our environment. Awareness of personal usage of electronics, electric lights, and fuel burning vehicles is going to become increasingly important to all future generations.

Eli Burstein Response:
Given the current national political discourse on energy policy, climate change, and other issues of sustainability, it is clear to me that now, more than ever, is a critical time to act locally. To this end, I support an ongoing emphasis on sustainability within both the curriculum and on-campus practices and policies. Specifically, I’d like to explore opportunities to collaborate with local sustainability organizations for incorporating age-appropriate and topical subjects into the curriculum. The sustainability practices (and passion) at the High School, I’d like to see leveraged for the introduction of more programs at the Middle and Elementary Schools. Overall, I think Wellesley Schools does a fine job of discussing sustainability. But I feel there is an opportunity for more community and inter-schools collaboration on practices, activities, and curriculum development.

Jennifer Jordahl Response:
Wellesley led the way in recycling with our DPW. Now, we need to reinvent ourselves for the future generations. Simple contributions like students sorting their lunch trash into recycling and composting starts world-wise habits. Classroom experiments and data gathering allow the kids a more active role. We have the ability to show many surrounding towns how to track and benefit from sustainable living. The students will be our guides as to the area they want to apply themselves. As the adults, we need to pave their way.

Matthew Kelley Response:
Sustainability is clearly a high priority for residents of Wellesley, particularly including students in the school system. I think it is great that there are various opportunities at all levels for students to participate in projects in which sustainability is highlighted as a topic and a priority. We can see the fruits of that education in the way that by the time they reach high school, students are an important voice of education, priority-setting, and advocacy.

Melissa Martin Response:
Children are very future-oriented so sustainability is a topic to which they gravitate. Within the elementary school programming, I have seen energy efficiency and preservation of the environment feature prominently in persuasive writing pieces. In addition, our children have come home from school and conducted mini “energy audits” of our home.  They were empowered, and we learned from them as well.

At the recent Wellesley Green Collaborative meeting, I was impressed with the projects underway by the Evolutions students at Wellesley High School.  It is powerful to see teens providing pragmatic approaches to address challenging environmental issues.

The Wellesley Green Schools are always innovating and finding additional educational opportunities for our children.  I look forward to seeing more of these initiatives over the coming years.

3. Please describe how you see sustainability fitting into the decision-making process for major school projects, including Hardy, Hunnewell, and Upham.

Ron Alexander Response:
The rebuilding of the Hardy, Hunnewell, and Upham schools is a great opportunity to incorporate sustainability into our local infrastructure. Roof systems that cool in the summertime will reduce electricity usage, window systems that reflect heat in the summer and retain heat in the winter will reduce our air conditioning and heating costs, and open floor plans with natural lighting will reduce the need for artificial lighting.

Eli Burstein Response:
Clearly, sustainability has to inform the HHU project. All new buildings MUST be built to USGBC LEED standards (just as are my professional real estate developments). This is non-negotiable and I will not equivocate on advocating this. Further, matters such as site prep blasting and Upham deforestation need to be given more weight and consideration. Presently, these seem to be an afterthought of the MPC. Once the proposals reach School Committee, these considerations must be afforded more open discussion and community input.

Beyond HHU, there are other opportunities to incorporate sustainability into existing and new WPS projects. We should explore public-private partnerships. We need to have a discussion on how to better handle food waste and seek opportunities to potentially monetize this waste. As we build new facilities, I’d advocate for considerations around gray water use and sustainable play and sports facilities and space. Ultimately, sustainability should not be a discrete topic, but rather a standard rubric that is incorporated into all major considerations for the schools.

Jennifer Jordahl Response:
This coming Thurs at the HHU meeting I am going to request budget line items, which I have not seen. The fact that the budget is a round number is evidence that much work remains to evolve the HHU plan. When I look at the various plans A-E, the greatest effort appears to have been spent on which school would be built first and which school would possibly be eliminated. In many cases, sustainability will have to be tempered by availability and willingness to take on maintenance costs. Thankfully, schools are full of children who can learn the lesson of sustainability by assisting in the physical labor necessary to practically implement the programs. Sustainability concepts need to contribute significantly to the final designs without overtaking them.

Matthew Kelley Response:
With the recognition of the priority that town residents place on sustainability, I think it is a given that virtually every project is considered, in part, from a sustainability perspective. This was certainly true when building the new high school, which features a number of important sustainability features. It has been true so far in the HHU project, where I authored the charge to the HHU Master Plan Committee, including a requirement to consider sustainability and environmental factors. I recently learned of the notion of performing an environmental audit of the potential sites for building schools, and plan to advocate that the School Committee do so.

While it is an issue that is not strictly limited to HHU, I (and the rest of the School Committee) have placed a high priority on the ability of students to walk or bike to school. We know that there are some families that appear, based on distance) to be able to walk to school and choose not to, so as a secondary priority, we support busing and work to get as many kids as possible on buses rather than in individual cars.

Of course, these sustainable and environmental concerns have to be weighed along with other factors, but it is critical that they be part of the discussion. I expect this to continue throughout the rest of the HHU project, particularly when performing feasibility studies and when ultimately designing any buildings. The town rightly expects it.

Melissa Martin Response:
There are many opportunities to take sustainability into consideration when determining how to address major school facilities projects.  Four key areas are:

– energy consumption,

– effect on surrounding green spaces,

– traffic patterns, and

– the removal of materials.

As these buildings will house students for decades to come, energy efficiency is a major consideration.  It has been great to hear LEED certification levels discussed at Hardy, Hunnewell, Upham Master Plan Committee (HHU MPC) meetings. In addition, it is vital to evaluate the effect any major construction will have on surrounding green spaces and identify possibilities for mitigation.

Major school projects also affect traffic patterns.  During recent HHU MPC meetings, the possibility of encouraging bus ridership has been raised as a way to reduce the number of vehicles on the road while ensuring safe transportation to and from schools.

Finally, any major construction project will have a significant amount of materials for removal. The method of disposal of these materials can have important environmental implications.