Wareham town election ballot takes shape

1 Selectmen candidate out of race
By Matthew Bernat and Lydia Goerner | Feb 21, 2018

Wareham’s town election, set for April 3, will feature contested races for the Board of Selectmen and School Committee. Two people are seeking one Selectmen seat while a second seat on the board will be uncontested. Three people are seeking two seats on the School Committee.

The ballot is almost official. Candidates have until March 1 to withdraw their names from consideration.

Here is the latest on the election.

Board of Selectmen

The Selectmen candidates are: Mary Bruce, Marc Bianco and incumbent Alan Slavin. A fourth candidate, Faith Berry, intended to run, but failed to secure the signatures of 50 registered voters, a requirement to seek office. Berry submitted 53 signatures, however, only 43 belonged to registered voters, according to the Town Clerk’s office.

Slavin, a six-year veteran of the board, is being challenged for his seat by Planning Board member Bianco.

If elected, Bianco said he’d focus on new business, education and infrastructure. Bianco’s town experience includes the Planning Board, where he has served for the last nine months and a stint on the Zoning Board of Appeals in the early 2000s. He’s lived in town for the past 25 years and is originally from the Berkshires.

Bianco said if elected he’d bring a “fresh set of eyes and ears” to the board. For Bianco, planning for the future is important.

“We need to take the 25,000-foot view, so to speak,” said Bianco. “And see where the town is going not only tomorrow, but ten years from now.”

If reelected Slavin said he wants to see some projects he’s started through to completion. He has championed projects related to transportation, including bringing a commuter rail station to town.

Slavin said he’s also focused on bringing grants and new business opportunities to Wareham through his involvement with Southeastern Regional Planning and Economic Development District Commission. The agency seeks to create economic opportunity in southeastern Massachusetts, protect natural resources and develop cultural amenities.

“My goal has always been to continue being proactive, develop trust and confidence with our residents,” said Slavin.

Slavin has also served on the Capital Planning Committee and the Planning Board.

Bruce is seeking the seat formerly held by Selectman Judith Whiteside, who resigned in January. Berry had intended to seek to Whiteside's seat as well.

Bruce, who is president of the Wareham Garden Club, said she’s wanted to serve on the board for awhile and “now seemed like the right time.”

Bruce said she wants to focus on bringing business to town.

“Economic growth is one of the biggest issues facing town right now,” she said.

A Wareham native, Bruce has served on the Wareham Council on Aging, is a currently a member of the Beach and Tourism Committee and is a member of Don’t Trash Wareham, which is a volunteer-driven organization dedicated to beautifying the town.

School Committee

There are two seats available on the School Committee with three candidates seeking spots on the board.

The candidates are: Michael Flaherty, Rebekah Pratt and current Vice Chair Geoffrey Swett. The top two vote getters will win seats.

Two other people, current Chair Judy Caporiccio and Rebecca Kennen, had initially notified the Town Clerk’s office they intended to run, but opted out.

Caporiccio said she debated whether to run or not.

“Although I had the signatures, I struggled right up to the last minute with my decision of whether or not to submit my nomination papers,” said Caporiccio. “At this time, personal reasons, specifically spending time with my family was more important. I fully intend to continue working for both the Wareham Schools and Town of Wareham in a volunteer capacity.”

Flaherty has lived in Wareham since 2004. He is the creator of Wareham Matters, a Facebook group with more than 6,000 members. Flaherty was on the school committee three years ago and also used to be on the Library Board of Trustees.

The issues he hopes to address as a school committee member are bullying (“I’m not convinced enough is being done"), lagging state scores and working toward a better relationship with Upper Cape.

“I’m all about putting the students first, and not just the students, but putting learning first,” Flaherty said. “I’ve always put academics over athletics or extracurricular activities.”

A big change Flaherty wants to see on the school committee is more transparency and accountability. He said he’ll be the one to raise questions.

“Too often what I see is...they’re just up there nodding their heads as a rubber stamp for whatever the superintendent wants to do,” he said. “It’s like pulling teeth trying to get information out of the administration.”

Swett has lived in Wareham since 1999 and has been on the committee since 2005. He was a member of the finance committee, currently coaches the girls tennis team, is a chairman of the YMCA of Southcoast board and on the board of directors for the New Bedford Symphony. His passion for education drove him to his spot on the school committee, he said.

“I do believe that any community’s future is fundamentally tied to the success of its educational system,” he said.

Though he’s never been an educator, he has “enjoyed tremendously” working with educators, finding them to be “really interesting, passionate, idealistic people.”

The issues Swett finds most important are declining enrollment, which raises the cost of education per student, improving accountability and, as a member of the Minot Forest School Building Committee, replacing and consolidating the elementary schools in a cost effective way.

Pratt said she decided to run because the district isn’t supporting students as well as it could.

“As a parent…I am extremely frustrated with the current state of our schools,” said Pratt, who has lived in town for the past five years. Pratt’s daughter currently attends the high school.

Pratt believes teachers, administrators and students leaving the district, as well as an overall negative perception of Wareham schools are some of the major issues facing the committee. To address those issues, Pratt said fostering a work environment focused on honest feedback is important.

“We must change the culture and this must come from the top,” said Pratt.

For Pratt, addressing how the community views Wareham schools is one of the committee’s “largest hurdles.”

“I will do all that I can to promote more town pride and active participation in our schools and programs,” she said.

Pratt has 20 years of experience in business management and currently works as the director of Urgent Care for Compass Medical, a medical practice in East Bridgewater.

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