YARMOUTH — The campaign for two, three-year seats on the Town Council has drawn a pool of four candidates.
Councilors Jim MacLeod and David Craig have both served two consecutive three-year terms on the council and must sit out for a year before becoming eligible to run again.
Vying for their seats are Matt Gredler, Meghan Casey, Bill Ralph and Andrew Kittredge.
Thomas Brennan, 58, is running unopposed for re-election to the Water District Board of Trustees. Barring write-in candidates, this will be his second, three-year term on the board.
Voting will take place Tuesday, June 12, at the Amvets Hall, 148 North Road.
Retired after working as an executive with Allstate Insurance, Gredler, 64, has lived in Yarmouth for 24 years.
This is the first time he’s run for elected office, but he has been a member of Yarmouth Rotary, frequently volunteered at the Clam Festival and helped build benches for Yarmouth trails.
“Now that I’m retired, I certainly have the time to research the items and I believe that’s a critical part of the Town Council,” Gredler said.
While campaigning door-to-door, Gredler said most residents’ concerns have been centered around rising tax rates and maintaining a good school system. He said he’d like to help provide students with the same quality of education his children received, while “maintaining a tax rate which is not going to chase off our seniors or make the town unaffordable for people to move into.”
One challenge is rising enrollment, which has prompted recent discussions about updates to several school buildings. Gredler said he thinks improvements are necessary, but if elected, he would try to bring down the cost – which early projections put at $32 million – by separating what he called the “wants from the needs.”
“Is that all necessary all at once? Can it be layered? I have questions around that,” Gredler said. Still, he said he supports the project in concept.
“If we have an enrollment issue and need to expand the schools, we can’t not do that,” he said.
The same goes for a proposed $8.3 million public safety complex, which could go to a bond referendum with the school facility updates in November.
“Do I support the project overall? Yes, but do I think we can do it for less money, absolutely,” Gredler said.
Gredler said he supports the solarization initiative that has been in front of the council for months, but feels selection of a provider should be up to consumers. The item on the table at the moment is establishing a task force to identify several installers to participate and also look at other sustainability options in town.
“If we do a town committee, I think it can research multiple items from solar (to) geothermal … but let people make the decisions themselves and not say, ‘This is the best installer,'” Gredler said.
Gredler said he has “absolutely no problem with (a) recall (process)” a provision is added to the Town Charter by voters in June.
“I do believe elected officials should be held to a higher standard than the private sector,” he said, noting he had to sign a code of ethics each year during his career. “Council members who voted against the recall, I have a big concern with.”
Casey, 54, has lived in Yarmouth for 13 years. She teaches Latin at Yarmouth High School and has volunteer experience in the schools and community, including Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Special Olympics and STRIVE, which serves individuals with intellectual and emotional disabilities.
This is her first time running for elected office.
“My thought process behind running was that Yarmouth is in a time of change right now,” Casey said. “I think we need thoughtful, measured leadership … (and) leadership that’s not afraid of change, but will give thought to the various ways the population growth will impact our town.”
If elected, Casey said her priority would be to support students and senior citizens, while taking the tax burden off homeowners.
“I don’t accept that we either have to do right by our children or our seniors with no middle ground. I think that there clearly is,” she said.
Further, Casey said she would like to continue to diversify Yarmouth’s economic base, in part by supporting the Economic Development Advisory Board. She also proposes forming a standing committee to assist the town’s part-time resource specialist, Maureen Brosnan.
Casey said she supports the proposed school facility updates in concept, adding she’d have to look further into the proposed public safety complex.
“Certainly if public safety needs a new facility, that is something the council should consider,” she said. “But we need to think about timing with the school proposal.”
Casey said she is in favor of establishing a town committee to facilitate some sort of solarize initiative.
“Anything we can do to help homeowners both save money and help our environment is a good thing,” she said.
In the past year or so, Casey said the “polarization” that has been seen at the state and national level has begun to seep into the Town Council.
“The Town Council should just in general speak less about the Town Council and more about our issues,” she said.
Casey said a recall provision is up to the voters and she will “happily abide by what (they) decide.” But she also said she feels the town “already has procedures in place to remove elected officials who are medically or psychologically unfit for office.”
“I worry about a recall for other reasons, because it could be used incorrectly,” she said. “But the group that’s proposing it now is promising not to, and I believe them. But down the line we could run into a situation where every time a councilor makes a vote that people in town don’t agree with, there’s a potential recall.”
Still, Casey said once the voters decide, she hopes the council can “move on” to focus on more pressing needs.
Ralph, 52, moved to Yarmouth almost 17 years ago. He is the vice president and managing finance director of power, infrastructure and project accounting at TRC Engineers.
This is the first time Ralph’s name will be on a Yarmouth ballot, although he serves on the Finance Committee for Bustins Island and previously served on its Boat Advisory Committee. Until this year, he was involved in Yarmouth Little League and the high school’s booster club.
He said he is running with a long-term view.
“I’m not convinced of the sustainability of the tax base in town,” Ralph said, noting that he thinks school improvements are necessary, but the council should very seriously consider how taxpayers can afford them in the long run.
“The long-term view has to come from the town’s side on how we handle developments and things of that nature,” Ralph said. “The School Committee is managing as best they can, but it’s not going to be easy.”
Ralph said he supports school facility updates, with the specific details of the project still up for discussion.
“The ship has sailed and we really don’t have a choice,” he said.
The proposed public safety complex is where Ralph said he struggles.
“Given the fact that we don’t really have a choice on the school side, I think (the public safety complex) begs a closer look,” he said.
Ralph said he wouldn’t be in favor of one contract for one town-selected solar energy infrastructure provider, but supports the path the council is taking by making people aware of what the solar options are.
“I certainly think sustainable energy is a good way to go,” he added.
If residents are concerned that their voices aren’t being heard by an elected official, Ralph said he supports their right to take action by recall, but said it should be “done with care.”
Ralph said the council tends to vote on extremes, which he called “unfortunate,” and thinks more “middle-of-the-road” people aren’t running because they’re worried about “the risk of being criticized.”
“Myself, I’m a pretty pragmatic person and I hope that the fact that I call it like I see it and am certainly a middle-of-the-road kind of guy … could hopefully bring the council more towards the middle,” he said. “We do need more moderates.”
Kittredge, 39, is a vice president at CPM Constructors. He moved to Yarmouth when he was 6 years old, and served on the council from 2011-2017.
He was the liaison to the Turf Field Committee, the Route 1 Bridge Committee, Harbor and Waterfront Committee, and Shellfish Commission, and spend his last year as council chairman.
Kittredge now serves on the Shellfish Commission and Yarmouth Community Center Steering Committee.
He said he enjoyed the six years he served on the council, and after taking a year off, he’s hoping to bring value and experience to the council.
Although he said he doesn’t have any top priorities, he’d like to help maintain a reasonable budget and tax rate in the face of potential upcoming financial pressures from improvements to the schools, the public safety complex and loss of state aid for education.
“Growth is also a challenge facing Yarmouth,” he added. “I think it’s a good thing and it’s going to happen no matter what. It’s managing that growth so that we don’t lose the community that we love, while still flourishing.”
Kittredge said there’s an “absolute need for expansion” in the schools and the fire and police stations are “due for some upgrades.” He said the two preliminary cost estimates seem high, but without studying them, he wouldn’t say they’re wrong.
He credited the School Committee for shifting money where it should be spent, even when funding for the district is tight.
Kittredge said he supports alternative sources of energy and would be in favor of the town forming a task force to research solar energy providers, and doesn’t think the town should be in the business of “creating a monopoly” by only selecting one provider.
Kittredge said he supports a recall provision because he’s surprised the Town Charter didn’t already include one, but “doesn’t feel good” about the way it came about.
Like other candidates, he said the council has become polarized.
“I see the Town Council’s job as managing a budget and doing what’s best for Yarmouth,” he said.