WILMINGTON, MA — Incumbents Greg Bendel and Kevin Caira, and challengers Rob Fasulo, Mark Maselli, Dan Murphy, and Suzanne Sullivan, are running for TWO three-year seats on the Wilmington Board of Selectmen.
Wilmington Apple is asking the candidates multiple questions each week leading up to the April 27 Town Election.
The latest question:
What grade would you give to Town Manager Jeff Hull for his performance over the past year? Why? Are you looking for a change in leadership at Town Hall?
Below are the candidates’ responses, in their own words:
In October of this past year, the Board of Selectmen unanimously reappointed Town Manager Jeff Hull. When we established Mr. Hull’s contract, we included an annual evaluation clause that would address Mr. Hull’s job performance. Such an evaluation tool is designed to be both informational and constructive. As a Selectman, I am obligated to abide by the terms of the contract and if re-elected, I will offer an honest, thorough and instructive evaluation of the Town Manager.
I can tell you that Mr. Hull and I do not always agree on matters of policy but I respect his work ethic and value his many contributions to the community. I believe that Wilmington has competent, talented and dedicated department heads and town employees. Their work has been exemplary. I am not looking for a change in leadership at Town Hall.
I would give him a C-, below average. I think he has made some very good Department Head hires at Town Hall. This low grade is more reflective of the current leadership of the Board of Selectmen not totally of Jeff. I am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. Jeff is talented and very capable of doing the job and finding solutions if left to his own devices. Unfortunately a lot of people see him as the bad guy for allowing and promoting these controversial projects that negatively impact our neighborhoods.He has preached civility to the people but to many of us his actions (which speak louder than words) are not civil. People see though it. I, as others, believe he is taking direction and being pressured not only from the chairman of the board but from outside influences also. Information requests have revealed that his prior bosses, the former town manager (whose brother is the chairman) and a former selectman are really behind the controversy and are responsible for all the ill will in town. They have been involved in the three most controversial projects in recent times: the Global Gas Station/Carwash Development, The Detox, and now The New England Transrail /GFI Project. They basically act as lobbyists pedaling their political influence, controlling the current board. They offer little expertise other than their influence over town boards and they work hard to get their elected representation on the Board of Selectmen. This has made Jeff look very bad and people see him as the reason these projects have come forward, and to some degree he also shares some responsibility. So if the Board changes and we take back our government from the “lobbyists” maybe Jeff could be a good Town Manager and realize the former Town Manager and former Selectman are no longer his bosses that he works for us, the people and we no longer want to have to fight projects that will negatively impact our neighborhoods that will financial benefit only the “insiders”.
As a school teacher myself, I know that grades are not given, they are earned. Like all of us, myself included, there is always room for improvement. I know for a fact that our Town Manager puts in very long hours everyday and sometimes on weekends too. I would give our manager high praise for his work ethic and conservative budgeting. During our last negotiations with the manager I believe we came to a another conservative agreement which also includes a performance evaluation tool that the town never had before. Admittedly, the manager and I have had some disagreements over certain issues, but they have always been civil and we have always treated each other with respect. I have seen first hand that being the Town Manager is not an easy job and requires juggling many balls at once. I have also learned that the manger has an unbelievable staff that work with him behind the scenes everyday. The people who work in Town Hall and for our town departments are very hard working people who are extremely dedicated to our town. Without their help, the manager would not achieve the same successes he does now. Running a town requires a total team effort and the manager is just one part of that team. I believe the team of people we the residents have assembled are working very hard on our behalf, I support them, and they deserve high marks.
If you would like to find out more about my candidacy, please visit gregbendel.com.
I am not sure its fair to be asked to give Mr. Hull a grade, because I don’t think we have ever seen Mr. Hull do the job we have asked him to do. After having conversations with town employees from many different departments, I firmly believe that Mr. Hull is being controlled by the Board of Selectmen and what we have seen of Jeff is a result of what specific people on the board are directing him to do. Because of this belief I will give the three sitting members of the Board of Selectmen that consistently vote together a failing grade.
Why? For one example, We just watched as the 362 Middlesex Ave. project was forced through town departments, and was approved without so much as a twitch from any boards or commissions, while 99.9% of residents begged the town administration to stop it, yet it came down to one vote in the last board to squash it.
Both incumbents are on record in September of 2017 on WCTV as supporting the measure, Use of politically safe ambiguous language does not change the fact that they failed to represent the people who voted them in. Neither incumbent attended any of the Planning or ZBA meetings to advocate for the residents. They stayed home, they watched on TV and at least one of them communicated with Mr. Hull via text message about town counsel working behind the scenes to get the proposal approved. This project was proposed by Mr. David Ray and the chairman of the board’s brother at the aforementioned meeting.
A second instance, for the past 20 years the town’s position on Olin was no development until remediation. The town has spent thousands of taxpayer dollars fighting New England Transrail pushing this agenda. We learned in September of 2018 that the town changed its position on development at the site sometime after March of 2018 after receiving correspondence from the chairman of the board of selectmen’s brother proposing the project.
Change within Town Hall starts with the Board of Selectmen. Change starts when we can break the consistent four(three) to one votes that come out of every Board of Selectmen’s meeting. Change starts when the board can stop micromanaging our very well paid town manager and letting him sink or swim on his own merits. Change starts when we end the conflicts of interest that have become business as usual in our town hall. Change starts on April 27th when you cast your vote for Fasulo and Sullivan and end the “Caira Fatigue” so often talked about in private circles.
I would grade Jeff Hull as a C. My grade is based on my perception as a citizen of Wilmington and not someone who has worked directly with him. I would expect that the incumbents in this race may have a very different rating.
We have needed a fire substation on the North side of town for many years now and there are no solutions on paper for it to happen any time soon – it’s a wish list item – and the need for it is only going to continue to grow and become more of a desperate situation. The attempt to purchase the Ice Rink was not handled properly and was a big loss not only for the hockey and figuring skating leagues, but for the community. While it would have benefited our local youth groups it also would have been a small source of revenue. Olin has dragged on way to long. The EPA has not been pushed hard enough to give our town updates and all the while plans for development of the land continue. The Detox Center should have been dealt with way back in 2017 when this developer was “introduced” to the town. The town failed in negotiating with the developer to get this built in a more suitable location in Wilmington as well as getting anything of value for the town. The fate of what happens next is in the hands of a federal judge and it should never have gotten to this point.
As far as looking for a change in leadership, I am running for a seat on the Board of Selectman to make a change, so yes, I think it is time for a change. New voices, fresh ideas that will lead to a better direction for Wilmington.
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