Planning Board and School Committee Candidates Participate in Tewksbury Candidates Forum | News

TEWKSBURY – Candidates for the Planning Council and Schools Committee, as well as the undisputed race for the position of Town Moderator, gathered at Tewksbury Town Hall for a Candidates’ Forum on Tuesday. Moderated by Town Crier correspondent Rosalyn Impink, the candidates discussed their campaign platforms and answered questions centered on the city’s key issues.

Planning Council candidates kicked off the evening, with three of the four who will be on the Election Day ballot: James Duffy, Cody Smith and George Ferdinand. Incumbent Jeremiah Joseph Delaney was unable to attend.

The contestants began with opening statements and then moved on to the question and answer portion of the forum. The questions covered a variety of topics, such as the importance of city workers, green energy infrastructure, the city’s master plan, and affordable housing.

In their responses, the candidates noted potential solutions to the city’s problems, as well as their general campaign platforms.

In response to a question about the importance of climate and clean energy initiatives, Ferdinand suggested tax breaks for those who invest in solar energy.

Duffy noted the importance of following current building codes that include green energy practices. He also highlighted his experience working with clean energy initiatives on the city’s green committee a few years ago, as well as his professional experience working with green building rating systems.

Cody Smith drew on his experience with renewable housing and agreed with Duffy’s point about ensuring existing building codes are met.

Following the first round of questions, candidates also participated in a “lightning round” of questions, requiring one-word answers.

During this round, all candidates identified infrastructure as an asset to the city and indicated their support for the revised zoning bylaw. Ferdinand and Duffy favored growth over stability in town, while Smith said both, then chose stability when pressed to choose.

When considering forming a design review board in town to regulate the exterior design of new buildings, Smith expressed support, unlike Ferdinand and Duffy.

Dustin Weir, who is running unopposed for an unexpired one-year term as city moderator, read a statement following the Planning Council forum. In his statement, he referred to his previous work in community service, including as a volunteer for the food bank and the by-laws committee, as well as an election agent and member of the Medical Reserve Corps.

He also noted potential strengths that may well relate to the role of moderator, such as being an open and good listener, and reading and interpreting information.

The school committee forum concluded the evening in the presence of the three candidates: Christine Chesbrough, Kayla Biagioni-Smith and Rich Russo.

After the opening statements, the candidates were quizzed on a variety of topics, including school safety, racially motivated incidents in schools, special education services, school sustainability, and budget challenges.

Looking at how to respond to racially motivated incidents among students, Chesbrough noted the importance of bringing outsiders into schools, to give students access to different perspectives regarding race, religion, etc. Russo and Biagioni-Smith stressed the importance of tackling difficult topics with children at all grade levels.

Biagioni-Smith, in particular, stressed the importance of learning to have difficult conversations from an early age, as well as ensuring that teachers and school staff members also feel safe and accepted within of the school system. Russo stressed the importance of working alongside administration to bring diversity awareness and inclusion programs to students at all levels.

School Council candidates also participated in a “speed round” after the main question and answer period.

Here, all the candidates expressed their support for the launch of a gifted program and for the students’ right to protest. When asked about the most effective form of communication between the school board and the community, all candidates expressed a preference for face-to-face, one-to-one communication when possible. Reflecting on the most important trait they hope the new superintendent possesses, Chesbrough said “responsibility”, Biagioni-Smith said “collaborative” and Russo said “leadership”.

The Planning Council and School Committee forums ended with closing statements from all candidates.

Replays of both evenings of the Candidates Forum are available on the Tewksbury TV Youtube channel.

Melvin B. Baillie