Ashland Town Elections, May 15: Meet the Candidates

Cynthia Whitty
Issue Date: 
May, 2018
Article Body: 

Ashland residents can learn about candidates for town office before casting their vote on May 15.
To date, three committees have contested seats: Board of Health, Planning Board and Selectmen. Ashland Local Town Pages asked candidates for contested seats to answer the following questions: Why are you running for office? What qualifies you? What do you hope to accomplish if elected? Read the candidates’ responses below.
Board of Health
Chris Daniele
I’ve spent the last 4-5 years getting more involved-showing up at town events, volunteering, attending town meeting and watching various board meetings. Over the past 2-3 years, the Board of Health seemed to have serious problems. I expressed my concerns on several occasions as did other concerned residents. When nothing seemed to make a difference and I learned that seats on the board would be open before the next election, I began wondering if it was time to step up. After a considerable discernment period, I decided I was ready to serve Ashland with the hope of helping to build a more collaborative and respectful environment within the Board and refocusing the work back to public health. I love Ashland, I want to do my part to serve the public and fulfill the expectation that every board member will put the mission of the board and the service the Board provides first.
I believe the only documented qualification required to serve on the Board of Health is a residency requirement. For me, the true desire to serve unselfishly, to give of your time and experience for the good of the citizens of this town as a whole of which any one member is a part of – that for me is the first qualification I want to see in a board member and as someone who is ready to serve, that is my primary qualification. I’ve spent the last two decades working in public higher education in a school where health education is a cornerstone. As an appointed member currently serving on the Board of Health, I have begun building professional relationships with the current members, our Town’s Health Agent and staff; I am getting on the job training! I have already taken the oath that I will take again should the citizens of this town vote for me.
If elected, I promise I will work hard to do the job I’m elected to do, to listen to the people of the town and their concerns, to be respectful to the citizens I serve, to fellow board members, and to all at Town Hall whom we work with – I believe keeping this in mind as I work collaboratively to address the important issues would be a good measure of success.

Diane Mortensen
My name is Diane Mortensen and I am running for the one year Board of Health seat. I am interested in fulfilling the seat which was vacated by my mother in law Mary Mortensen when she passed away in January.
From 1990 – 2014 I worked as the Administrative Secretary for the Board of Health. I feel that working for the Department will give me a different perspective as a Board member. Over the 24 years the Board was active and worked together with the staff on many projects, regulations reviews, and outreach for the community to be where we are today.
I hope to be elected so I can help the Board bring back working together as team. There are important issues the Board is currently working on and if we work together we can accomplish a lot.
Thank you for the opportunity, and I look forward to your vote on May 15.

Koduvayur Narayana
I love volunteering, and I have volunteered for the town government for the past 9 years as a committee member for the cultural council, the conservation commission, the charter review committee and the board of health. I hold a PhD in physics from Boston College. I am driven by data and valid reasoning in my decisions at all of these meetings. As a member of the Board of Health we are tasked with vast responsibility in protecting the public health, and as a candidate I commit to upholding these responsibilities and to use the board’s authority judiciously. If elected, I will work to develop needed education for food establishment staff to improve their food handling procedures and I intend to help promote a transition within the department to the digital age by phasing out our paper application forms. Other important issues and tasks I hope to tackle include completing an inventory of underground storage tanks and reviewing the current regulations regarding tobacco, irrigation wells and then use them to draft regulation for the use of recreational cannabis if the town opts the use recreational cannabis. Furthermore, I want to examine the use of chemicals in the ground water protection zones with the intention of safeguarding our underground water for future use. I would like to examine alternate means of mosquito control to minimize use of chemical sprays. As part of the Board of Health, I hope to enable more public health education and awareness through increased participation in large community events such as Farmer’s Market and Ashland Day. It would be the utmost honor to serve the town of Ashland in this way and because of this, I seek your valuable vote in the upcoming election on May 15.
Planning Board

Eric Gemperline
Ashland has certainly grown in the 26 years that I have lived here, from a sleepy, rural town on the edge of suburbia to a thriving town at the fringes of Metro-Boston. This growth has led to many opportunities and challenges. Ashland has been fortunate to welcome many new faces who contribute positively to the town and continue to make Ashland a great place to live. However, with this growth, the problems associated with urbanization—congestion, run-off, and pollution—have increased, putting Ashland’s character in jeopardy. If elected to the planning board, I will make it my goal to maximize the benefits of urbanization while offsetting the negative impacts through informed planning policy.
I am a proponent of creating livable and walkable spaces. I would support, where appropriate, the development of complete street policies, which encourages mixed-use development, pedestrian-friendly infrastructure, and other design elements that produce a better public environment and experience. Ashland could benefit from a more defined downtown; the planning board should be incentivizing the development of more retail and dining in downtown to provide residents with more amenities. Ashland deserves a downtown that accurately reflects its population: diverse, smart, and fun.
As a planning board member, I will encourage smart, sustainable growth focusing on improving the quality of life in Ashland. Ashland does not need more developments that do not fit with the character of town. I will support the protection of open space and development of alternative forms of transit in the community.
I have twice been elected by the community to represent Ashland, and currently serve as chair of the Ashland Housing Authority. Part of my desire in running for planning board is to be able to better serve the residents of the Ashland Housing Authority. Practicing planning-policy that puts an emphasis on aging-in-place and the creation of accessible public spaces has been shown to greatly improve the quality of life for the entire community. I believe Ashland can benefit from these practices, making the town a better, safer place to live. If you are gracious enough to vote for me, you can be assured that I will do what is best for Ashland, my home.
Phillip Williams
My name is Phillip Williams. I am running for a seat on the planning board. I am running for this office for a number of reasons. First and foremost, I believe that we have an obligation to try and give back to our community. Secondly, I am the father of two young boys and I want to help ensure that the Ashland they grow up in is the same great town that we settled down to raise our family in years ago. Lastly, I have always had a keen interest in politics and government.
I believe that my education and work experience provide a great depth of qualification to serve on this board. I worked for two years as Ashland’s Energy Manager. I have a strong understanding of the issues facing the board as well as a rapport with most of the town’s staff. I have a Master’s degree in Environmental Management and Sustainability. I am currently pursuing a doctorate in Public Policy. These are all disciplines that directly lend themselves to navigating the issues before the board.
If elected, my objective would be to help Ashland manage its growth responsibly. It is evident that over the five-year term that there will be many impactful decisions that come before the board. The decisions that are made will play a large part in shaping how Ashland is positioned in the Metrowest area for decades to come. I welcome the opportunity to be part of the process.


Yolanda Greaves
Hello, my name is Yolanda Greaves. I am running for re-election for Board of Selectmen, and with your vote, will continue to serve the town of Ashland for another three years.
During my six-year tenure I have served in various roles, including two years as Chair. I have focused on transportation and infrastructure projects and working with the board to improve communication and board interaction with residents. I also represent the town in various regional organizations and committees.
I have been instrumental in keeping the Route 126 project on the TIP (Transportation Improvement Program) for 2020 by attending multiple Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) meetings in Boston and presenting to the MPO leadership.
Through research I have found programs that have brought grant money into Ashland, such as the Community Compact and the Complete Streets programs. Through the Community Compact Program, Ashland received grant money to complete our Capital Plan with the Collins Center last year and our Complete Streets Prioritization Plan with the Green Company this spring.
When I was chair I created the town tent program at the farmers’ market. The first year members of the Board of Selectmen were at the market every Saturday. In the following years, the program grew to include all elected boards and appointed committees. This summer will be the fourth season that the town tent has a presence at the farmers’ market, providing boards and committees the opportunity to share what they are working on in a fun, relaxed way.
I have lived in Ashland for 27+ years with my husband Rich. We have raised two daughters here. Outside of my volunteer work as a member of the BOS, I manage the Finance and Human Resource department for a small software company. I also work with dance and theater groups as stage manager and production manager.
I have enjoyed my time on the Board of Selectmen working for the citizens of Ashland. I look forward to continuing projects I have helped start and continuing to work as a public servant for Ashland. Please vote ‘Yolanda Greaves for Board of Selectmen’ on May 15th!

Jay Higgins
My name is Jay Higgins and I am running for a seat on the Ashland Board of Selectmen. Since I was a kid I have known that I wanted to find a way to help people in the community around me. When I returned to college, after I was discharged from the military, I found political science which opened my eyes to how to could best serve my community. The knowledge gained from college and the military, and the experience’s I gained interning and then working for Congressman Jim McGovern, catapulted me into the jobs I have attained since, including this race.
I grew up in the MetroWest area, living and going to school in Milford and Framingham. I am a graduate of Marian High School and Framingham State University, earning a degree in political science. Currently, I am attending the Harvard Extension School to earn my master’s degree in government. I am also an Air Force veteran, having served proudly as a member of Security Forces conducting law enforcement procedures and nuclear security.
While I may not have had an Ashland address for more than a couple of years, my family has been connected to this town for decades. My aunts, uncles and cousins have lived in town for years, and I grew up going to Stone Park and Tasty Treat like so many other Ashland kids. When my grandparents first immigrated to the United States from Ireland, Ashland was the first place they made a home together. Ashland is in my blood, and if I am lucky enough to earn your vote, I will serve the town proudly!

Rob Scherer
My family has made our home in Ashland since 1986. My wife and I raised our four children here.
I believe in being involved in my community, and have served on a variety of town committees and with local organizations for more than 30 years. I feel that being on the Board of Selectmen is a special opportunity to contribute to the well-being of our community and its residents.
My professional background is non-profit and government administration and finance. I have an MBA from UMass and serve as Chief Financial Officer at Worcester Community Action Council.
When I campaigned for Selectman in 2015, I was concerned with the pending sale of the Warren Conference Center. I spoke then of the need to create a cohesive vision for our community which would protect the best of our past, build a sustainable future and focus on the quality of life in our community. I pledged to work to build a strong financial base to provide the services our community needs and deserves.
Since then we have made a great deal of progress towards realizing that vision. We moved to protect the Warren Conference Center, acquire the former Girl Scout camp on the Ashland Reservoir, and add key parcels to the Town Forest. We have begun the long-awaited cleanup of the Cadilac Paint toxic site.
We continued our progress as a Green community by developing major solar projects and passing a plastic bag ban.
Through innovative and prudent financial management, we have built our financial reserves, and funded new initiatives, such as free full-day kindergarten, additional firefighters and police officers, new services for our seniors, increased library hours, and strengthened social services.
We’ve made these key investments in our public resources while ensuring that Ashland continues to provide very good value to the taxpayers. Our per capita expenditures for municipal services remain one of the lowest in Metrowest.
For all our progress, there is more to do. I’m eager to continue my work to address the challenges we face. We must plan for a new public safety building and school expansion and continue our sustainability efforts.
We have stewardship responsibilities for new town properties; how will we manage these assets? Will we develop new recreational and cultural venues, a regional bicycle trail, performance spaces, educational activities, a dog park, or even a town beach?
I am running for re-election because I want to continue our progress. I would be honored to have your support.
© Copyright by Cynthia Whitty, April 2018.