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Select Board race offers town mainstays, fresh faces

by | May 16, 2024 | Featured: News, News

Select Board candidates

Candidates for the two open seats on the Select Board, (from left) Brian Herr, Joe Clark, Kyla McSweeney and Peter Mimmo, pose at a recent event at the Woodville Rod & Gun Club. PHOTO/JOHN CARDILLO

On May 20, voters will have the opportunity to choose from four candidates running for Select Board to succeed outgoing members Muriel Kramer and Irfan Nasrullah.

The Independent recently interviewed Brian Herr, Joe Clark and Peter Mimmo about their respective goals and presented their views in the order in which they responded to interview requests. While Kyla McSweeney did not attend her interview, she supplied a statement that was used to present her perspectives.

Brian Herr

A resident of Hopkinton for 24 years, Herr spent 12 of them serving on the Select Board. He started his career in construction and currently works as the senior vice president and general manager of Solect Energy’s construction services group in Hopkinton.

“One of the things that works in my favor is that I have been in the construction business for 40 years,” Herr said with a laugh. “Nobody minces their words.”

This thick skin and master’s degree in government prepared him for his previous tenure, including a stint as chair. He decided to run this time because he wanted to provide some direction during a volatile time.

“We do need to calm things down and take a step back,” Herr explained. “If we go back to what I call solutions-based management — not blame-based management or drama-based management — I think we can solve a lot of these problems. That’s how I manage my business, and that’s how I served on the board before.”

Some of the accomplishments he said he is most proud of during his previous terms are the building and funding of the Marathon School, the library, the Fruit Street fields complex, the Center Trail and the Hopkinton Center for the Arts. While there were tensions on previous boards, members were able to set them aside to accomplish these goals.

“The current tensions on the board reflect the tensions in the community,” he said. “I think I can bring a level of respect back to the board. The current board tends to review things ad nauseam. I believe in making decisions.”

The budget is a key issue for Herr. He hopes to use his knowledge of municipal finance to help the town make tough choices as it works on implementing two school construction projects.

If elected, he also wants to address some “lingering issues” with the Hopkinton Police Department, which has experienced scandals over the past year. The firing of former Sgt. Tim Brennan remains a hot topic in town.

Another focus for Herr will be recruiting and retaining Town Hall employees. He also urged a slow hiring process for hiring the new town manager, noting that interim Town Manager Elaine Lazarus is very capable in her new role.

Joe Clark

First-time candidate Joe Clark is no stranger to town. The Hopkinton native’s father served the Hopkinton Fire Department for over 40 years, including as its chief, while his mother is a teacher in the Hopkinton Public Schools.

Despite his lack of interest in politics, Clark decided to enter the race because his parents instilled public service in him. A major concern of his is the number of people who have left their jobs in Town Hall and the Police Department.

“I just think our town is in need of a change,” he explained. “I’m not OK with sitting back and hoping that things happen.”

Clark noted that, from his perspective, “The town has not had the right leadership in place.”

“It’s frustrating to see that, because it’s a great place to live,” he shared. “You combine the employment issue with massive school projects, the downtown isn’t completed and the drinking water issues. I don’t think we’ve ever had this many critical things happening at once.”

He criticized the current Select Board for seeming to be mired “in a ton of bureaucracy” and “micromanagement.”

“Granted, none of these decisions are easy,” Clark said. “And in this position, not everyone is going to be happy.”

What has frustrated Clark in recent months is that resident concerns expressed during the public comment period have gone unaddressed for weeks. While he understands that Open Meeting Law prohibits immediate responses, he encouraged the new board to give status updates or take up issues in executive session.

“People going into the Select Board race need to understand what they are getting into,” he said. “Even though it’s a volunteer position, it is a public-facing position. Everyone has the right to approach you and ask about your thoughts on things.”

Clark’s style is to meet a person for a cup of coffee rather than engage on social media.

“I’m not coming at this like I have the solution,” he explained. “I want to be clear on that. It’s making sure that the people feel they have been heard.”

Some of his key issues include improving water quality and ensuring basic town services are met. He referenced the lingering concern over the Upper Charles Trail Committee’s structure. He also wants accommodations for people with disabilities “intertwined in the goals we are trying to accomplish.”

Peter Mimmo

Mimmo has served as an attorney for the state for two decades in labor dispute resolution. He hopes to transfer his skills to a Select Board role.

“I think I can offer some leadership to help make sure that we keep our town as beautiful and as attractive as it was when I moved here in 2015,” he explained. “We have all these challenges now, and it is a difficult circumstance to jump into because there is a lot of hostility out there. I’d like to think with my years of experience in dispute resolution shows that I try to build bridges and reach a common ground.”

Mimmo also has local government experience. In addition to his current position on the Board of Assessors, he previously held town positions in Northbridge. On the Board of Assessors, he has worked on initiatives to reduce taxes for eligible seniors, lower the age of deferring tax payments to 65 and increasing the senior volunteer tax credit amount.

He addressed recent racist messages found at the high school and on a school bus, as well as accusations of racism made by Select Board vice chair Shahidul Mannan. Mimmo intends to meet with community leaders to discuss these concerns and spread the message that this behavior “has no place in Hopkinton.”

His strategy is to have open communication and community connection. As a Select Board member, he pledged to hold office hours if elected.

Mimmo recently attended an Eid al-Fitr celebration as well as a gathering of supporters for beleaguered former police Sgt. Tim Brennan. While the events were different in tone, they each reflected how some populations feel their concerns are not being addressed.

While the Eid al-Fitr event was festive, he described the feelings of the Brennan supporters as “very visceral.”

“I don’t have quite as strident a view as they have on the matter, and I made that quite clear,” said Mimmo. While he understands the conflict as an arbiter and noted that the case is in arbitration, he asked that the tension “be dialed back.”

If elected, Mimmo would like to be the liaison between the Select Board and the HPD to “build a bridge.”

Other than school and water projects, he said the board “will need to take a hard look” at the town’s finances. He also stressed the need to promote Hopkinton as a welcoming place for commercial development. Utilizing tax increment financing agreements could help attract companies to town, particularly in the biotechnology industry because of Hopkinton’s MassBio platinum status.

Kyla McSweeney

McSweeney moved to Hopkinton in 2007 and has “been involved in the town in various capacities” during that time.

“I began my service on the Center School Council and then also served on the Marathon School Council when my younger daughter attended kindergarten and first grade,” she stated.

McSweeney also has volunteered with the committees to support the building of Marathon School and the new Charleswood School. She was elected to the Cemetery Commission in 2021, which she said gave her “direct insight into the running of a town committee” as its secretary.

McSweeney works for the state’s Department of Early Education and Care managing several contracts and grant programs. She considers her fiscal acumen and policy and law experience as key assets she can bring to the Select Board.

One of her goals is “only funding essential services and needs” as the town grapples with funding two school projects and the resulting tax increases.

“My experience in policy and law has provided me with the ability to listen to a multitude of different viewpoints and bring people together,” she explained. “Recent events and matters in town have resulted in many residents feeling that their voice has not been heard. I believe we only hear from a small number of voters, and I seek to gain perspective from many residents about the issues they most care about.

“Our government is not accessible to the average resident,” continued McSweeney. “Making efforts to make our government more friendly and transparent is really important in order to encourage more participation in government.”

She hopes to “bring a fresh perspective” to the role.


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