The Board of Selectmen serves as the chief executive board of the Town, and as such, oversees all matters affecting the interest and welfare of the community. The Board exercises the authority vested in the Town not specifically assigned by law to any other board or office.
Below are responses from 2 of the 3 candidates running that we received replies from.
Beth Sullivan Woods, Tom Ulfelder (Candidates for Re-Election to Board of Selectmen):
1. What is your track record on environmental sustainability, including any related interests, experience, or initiatives?
Beth Sullivan Woods-
I am a strong believer in sustainability and the importance of the 3R philosophy: Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. As a member of the Board of Selectmen (BOS), I have been supportive of the incredible work done by the Sustainable Energy Committee; the efforts of our Facilities Management Department (FMD) to implement award-winning sustainable building cleaning practices; the recommendations from Town Building users/owners to construct and renovate in an environmentally sensitive and energy efficient manner; the expansion of the food rescue program through the Board of Health and Sustainable Wellesley; and the street lighting retrofit performed by our Municipal Lighting Plant (MLP). I have also been very supportive of Town actions to engage National Grid in more responsible and responsive gas leak repair.
As a Town Meeting member since 2009, I have consistently voted in support of the key sustainability initiatives that have been brought forward, including funding the restoration of Fuller Brook Park; enacting the tree by-law; setting carbon emission reduction goals; supporting overlay protection to NRC land; and implementing the plastic bag ban.
While serving on the Wellesley Free Library Board of Trustees from 2009 to 2017, I voted in support of having the land under the jurisdiction of the Library Trustees maintained according to the NRC’s Organic Integrated Pest Management plan in order to cut down on harmful chemicals in our environment and supported the implementation of the “Library of Things” collection to allow residents access to borrowing items such as cake pans, technology adapters, microscopes, and games.
As a family, we work to implement sustainability into our daily life. We are avid recyclers and proud users of our impressive RDF facility, including the take-it or leave-it swap area. We take advantage of the collection at the Library for movies and books; our home library is filled with “recycled” books and movies purchased at the Friends of the Wellesley Free Library book sale; and we donate back the materials we no longer use so they can be enjoyed by others. We shop locally whenever possible, and enjoy shopping at farmers’ markets. We strive to use reusable bags for shopping, especially grocery shopping, and have amassed an eclectic collection of reusable bags.
During my first term as a Selectman, I was the BOS appointee to the Sustainable Energy Committee (SEC). In that capacity, I strongly supported the policies of the SEC including the development of Sustainable Municipal Building Guidelines and worked closely with SEC Administrator Marybeth Martello on the best process for the successful implementation of the guidelines. Following the negotiation of the Wellesley Office Park Development Agreement and passage of the related zoning changes at a special town meeting, I stepped in and successfully negotiated the use of electric air source heat pumps in place of natural gas, resulting in the Town’s single most significant reduction in carbon emissions. As Vice Chair of the School Building Committee (SBC), I supported the insertion of the language in the Hunnewell School Request for Proposal that required interested firms to include expertise in sustainable building with a goal of a net zero building. Despite skepticism on the part of some within the SBC, I maintained support for the sustainable project goals, which led to a building design that is net zero ready at a minimal additional first cost of construction. This success served as the basis for the development of plans for a Town Hall Annex, which will be Wellesley’s first net zero building. The Hunnewell School design and the Town Hall Annex plans both align with the proposed sustainable building guidelines. I began my first term as a Selectman supporting the identification and repair of natural gas leaks in Town and continue to support the ongoing efforts to secure their repair. I joined with other Selectmen to require an exploration of solar panels on top of the Wellesley Free Library and required at a minimum that the infrastructure necessary for the panels be included in the design and installation of the new roof.
2. How do you see sustainability and the climate crisis as factors in the development of policy for the Town of Wellesley?
Beth Sullivan Woods-
The most important impact we as a Town can make on the climate is finding a way to better address traffic and car emissions. We need to identify improvements to our transportation network that will cut down on vehicle-related emissions, and support initiatives that will help achieve this goal, including making investments that encourage walking and biking; maintaining and expanding our sidewalk system; highlighting the bike repair station recently implemented as an initiative with Sustainable Wellesley; identifying and addressing the barriers to stronger school carpooling and/or bus use; and encouraging the purchase of hybrid and electric vehicles.
Sustainability plays a critical role in how our Town approaches all projects, and I am committed to seeing it continue as an embedded part of project planning from the outset, rather than a consideration added at the end when it is too late to be an integrated component of project design. We also need to continue to build on and support the efforts of our Boards, Committees and Staff to improve the protection of our natural environment by setting stronger policies, procedures and targets concerning several critical areas. More effective tree protection can be achieved through the passage of stronger bylaws and stricter enforcement, as well as more aggressive support of our existing trees. Energy efficiency is continually monitored and must continue to be leveraged to find new improvements in our municipal buildings. Active maintenance of our beautiful open spaces will protect these important natural resources that contribute immensely to our unique Town character. And, identifying effective strategies to alleviate traffic, as well as cut down on fuel use and emissions, will help to both improve our residents’ daily lives and reduce the Town’s carbon footprint.
We are fortunate to have received State grant money, as a result of the SEC’s hard work and diligence, which will enable us to begin drafting a Climate Action Plan to identify and prioritize our endeavors in the coming years. The Town’s Green Communities status entitles us to access to state grants to pursue projects that will help us attain our Town’s carbon reduction goals and implement sustainability initiatives. I am very supportive of the SEC’s continued efforts to identify grant opportunities to extend the Town’s resources against this priority area.
Sustainability and the climate crisis already have been critical to the achievements I mention in my answer to the first question. Without recognition of the climate crisis we all face and the need for action, we would not have been able to establish consensus that sustainable building design is necessary, cost effective, and serves to eliminate the use of fossil fuels. The Facilities Management Department (FMD) considers sustainability and climate in every decision they make. From new lighting and light replacement, to their recommendations to the Permanent Building Committee, to their choice of methods for custodial care of our buildings, the FMD has placed concern for sustainability and climate at the forefront of their approach to decisions and projects. Success builds momentum, and along with the SEC, we are moving rapidly in the best direction to acknowledge and address sustainability and the climate crisis. I completely support the development of a Climate Action Plan and the recognition of our need to evaluate and improve the Town’s resilience in the face of increasingly negative climate impacts.
3. What specific initiatives related to the environment and sustainability should the Board of Selectmen undertake in the upcoming three-year term?
Beth Sullivan Woods-
As noted above, the Town will be developing a Climate Action Plan that I expect will set our priorities for the next several years. It is important that we continue to support the powerful work of the SEC; they have had tremendous success in creating a Town-wide partnership and collaborative approach with all Department and Board stakeholders. Encouraging this type of collaboration is critical to making progress on municipal sustainability initiatives, as well as outreach and behavior change among residents.
I believe we are at a point where we need to place more emphasis on community education about sustainable practices and the impact on the climate for our children. The schools are playing an important role in educating our children about sustainability and the environment so that they are empowered to think and act sustainably. These types of programs should be celebrated and expanded to the adult population to further engage and challenge the community. We could also do a better job introducing new residents to the activities of the Town, including reasons to use the RDF; what the Town does in terms of operating in a sustainable and environmentally friendly manner; and what they can do as residents in their daily lives to support these initiatives. I believe it is also beneficial to explore approaches to supporting residents by guiding them to resources/information that will assist them in identifying energy use reduction opportunities and incorporating sustainable practices into their lives.
During my first term, I have learned a lot from the committed and talented citizens and groups who so generously and passionately give of their time and energy towards engaging our community in the importance of making sustainability and the climate a key priority. In my second term as a Selectman, I will continue to encourage and welcome ideas and participation of the community, the SEC, Sustainable Wellesley, other community groups, and Town’s Boards and Departments to collectively work to make Wellesley an environmentally responsible community.
Implementation of the building guidelines is one of the most important steps we can take. SEC Administrator Marybeth Martello and SEC Vice Chair Fred Bunger have worked hard to socialize the guidelines, seek recommendations for beneficial changes, and gain broad support. The Selectmen should continue to support the installation of electric charging stations in Town parking lots and gain support within the business community to add stations, too. The Town requires greater attention to traffic congestion and additional resources to identify solutions. A primary initiative must be a reduction in carbon emissions through finding ways to reduce vehicular traffic and congestion. I advocated successfully for the use of Safe Routes to School within the school building process, and for a plan to install and improve sidewalks, not just for the schools, but to encourage more people to walk instead of drive. The Selectmen must support the effort to increase bus ridership by our students and consider reducing or eliminating the fees charged for student busing. Finally, we need to strengthen our tree bylaw so that trees are retained during development to support carbon sequestration and retain shading, thereby reducing the need for air conditioning.
4. Given that the Board of Selectmen is responsible for making appointments to several important town committees, what will you do to ensure that these committees have members who will advocate for an environmental perspective on issues under consideration?
Beth Sullivan Woods-
I take our appointment role seriously and have worked to identify and recommend community members who have appropriate backgrounds and interests for the Boards and Committees for which I am the liaison. Our most important appointments in terms of directly influencing the Town’s environmental practices are the SEC and the MLP. I am committed to continuing our practice of appointing individuals that are knowledgeable and committed to the mission of the Board/Committee to which we are making appointments and who are also team players that support the Town’s broader priorities.
In addition, it is of critical importance that the BOS support the Departments within the BOS jurisdiction in their efforts to implement sustainable practices. During the past three years, several of the BOS Departments have been proactive and creative in identifying strong solutions for the Town, particularly the FMD, the SEC and the Wellesley Police Department. I will continue to support the initiatives and partnerships pursued by the professionals we employ to implement stronger sustainability practices.
Thank you for this opportunity to share my views with your membership!
Tom Ulfelder -
Ensuring that the Board of Selectmen understands the role of each committee to which it appoints members and the possible nexus with environmental issues is a very important first step. This may seem obvious, but it isn’t always clear how a committee can impact environmental issues. Through this understanding, the Board can review the description for a position used to solicit candidates to ensure that environmental qualifications are valued. Assessing a candidate’s ability to advocate effectively and gain broad support is important in the selection process. The Board should consider new ways in which a committee can contribute to the rapidly growing effort to build a greener Wellesley.