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Open Planning Board seat goes to newcomer Happ

by | Dec 5, 2023 | Featured: News, News

The Planning Board at its joint meeting with the Select Board Monday night voted 9-1 for Parker Happ to become its newest member.

Happ interviewed for the open seat along with Peter Thomas, who received a lone vote of support from Planning Board chair Gary Trendel. The third candidate, Karen Mulik, did not appear at the meeting but remained eligible for consideration.

“I think we all know how important volunteerism is in Hopkinton,” said Trendel. “The unfortunate part is I think we’ve got three good candidates, and we’ve only got one spot.”

The position, which became available after Navdeep Arora stepped down, will be on the ballot in next May’s Annual Town Election.

In his interview, Happ, who said he moved to town a few years before the pandemic, stressed his previous experience in Illinois state government as “a differentiator,” touting that he is the only candidate with political expertise. He is originally from Woodstock, Illinois, a town similar to Hopkinton in that it was small but on the cusp of growth, he said. But unlike Hopkinton, Happ said, that community remained stagnant because of “bad planning decisions.”

Thomas highlighted as advantages his connection to the community through his work as owner and publisher of the HopNews website and his communication skills. He also noted the impact on taxpayers of the declining commercial tax base on the town, coupled with inflation on a national scale. The state’s MBTA Communities Act, which if adopted by the town would require 750 additional housing units, would create a ripple effect impacting the schools, he said.

Added Thomas: “My background in leadership, marketing and more importantly in storytelling will be an asset to town government.”

Thomas stressed his reporting in town, including on the Planning Board, during his interview. However, neither Thomas nor any of the 10 people who voted brought up what would appear to be an obvious conflict of interest in having someone write or edit stories about a board on which he sits, or how potential conflicts would be addressed if he were selected.

At the end of the meeting, Trendel encouraged Thomas to “continue to be engaged,” adding, “I assure you that there will be more opportunities like this one.”

Release of Emerald Drive lots approved

The Planning Board voted 8-0 to endorse the release of two lots on Emerald Drive through acceptance of a Form K. They are part of the Connelly Farms open space and landscape preservation development (OSLPD).  A paper bond has been submitted to the town by developer Ravenwood LLC.

St. John welcomed to Land Use Department

Laurie St. John was welcomed to the Land Use Department as its administrative assistant. She previously worked in the Finance Department for the past two years.

Planning Board will continue to meet virtually

Planning Board members decided they will continue to hold virtual meetings. Members agreed to gather informally twice a year to connect in person.


  1. Beth Malloy

    Great job picking the best person for the job. Couldn’t agree more. Congratulations Parker.

  2. Darlene Hayes

    Congratulations Parker!
    Thank you for being a proven advocate for our community since moving here in 2016 caring about our environment and so well spoken when you presented at ATM in 23 on behalf of LMPA.

  3. KT

    This article states “neither Thomas nor any of the 10 people who voted brought up what would appear to be an obvious conflict of interest in having someone write or edit stories about a board on which he sits” I am curious if the author feels that this same conflict of interest possibly exists for the Select Board member who is the Secretary of and Content Writer for eHop?

    • Jerry Spar

      From the editor: The eHop site does not publish its own news reports on Select Board meetings (nor any other town meetings). It only links to town press releases/forms and other sites’ articles. So, no, there is no conflict of interest there.

      • Glen Dawson

        Hi Mr. Spar: Is KT correct that Select Board member Amy Ritterbusch is the “Content Writer” for eHop? Wouldn’t that imply a certain amount of editorial discretion about what eHop chooses to publish, or more importantly, chooses not to publish? After all, if eHop doesn’t create any original content of their own, then why have a “Content Writer”?

    • Glen Dawson

      Wow. That is a really good point about a certain Select Board member who runs eHop. Wouldn’t that be Amy Ritterbusch? Sure sounds like a huge conflict of interest. Maybe the Massachusetts State Ethics Commission would be interested to know this little tidbit of information. Speaking of which, Peter Thomas contacted said commission before he applied for the Planning Board to ask for their guidance. Why Peter chose to subject himself to the humiliation of this lopsided vote is beyond me. One could speculate that he doesn’t have a lot of fans amongst certain town officials, as HopNews has a penchant for engaging in quality investigative journalism, which this town desperately needs. It is interesting, though, that the only person who voted for Peter is actually the person who runs the Planning Board. At any rate, my congratulations to Mr. Happ. He sounds like a good choice. And regarding quality investigative journalism? Stay tuned…

  4. Realistic Fish

    The one vote from the chair of the planning board, you could also speculate that HopNews has given that individual a lot of attention for his very worthy charity marathon run including enticing free online subscriptions if you donate to his charity initiative. One could speculate the one vote was in compensation for that. One could speculate that HopNews chose this charity initiative to in grace himself for a vote, there are lots of charities and local runners but this one seems to run favor with HopNews, just speculation that HopNews tried to have this individual feel indebted to garner support. Just speculation.