A VOTER’S GUIDE To Selectwoman Candidate Jomarie O’Mahony

WILMINGTON, MA — Jomarie O’Mahony is one of the three candidates competing for the one 1-year Selectman seat in this Saturday’s Town Election.

Below are O’Mahony’s Closing Argument; her Q&A’s with Wilmington Apple; links to her supporters’ letters to the editor; the full video of the WCTV debate she participated in; her interviews with WCTV (video) and the Town Crier (written); and more.

Closing Argument

I would like to start by thanking everyone who has supported me these last few months as a candidate. It was certainly a new role for me. I would like to thank my family and friends for their kind letters of endorsement, letting me put signs on their lawns, holding signs on the weekend for me and hosting meet and greets so I could get to know their neighbors and their neighbors’ thoughts on our great town. I especially want to thank Gary Depalma for helping me stay organized as a committee of one and Billy Burns for being my go-to guy to get my signs out.  I could not have done this without you both! I would like to thank the members of various boards that took the time to talk with me about various aspects of our town, from the budget to town meeting, I have really spent time studying and I appreciate the willing teachers I have had!

I would like to thank Kevin MacDonald and Daryn Marsh for running a civil campaign.  We may not agree on issues, but I appreciate that we all focused on our own positions of those issues instead of attacking each other. With civility being such a hot topic in our town right now, I am proud of us for modeling it.

I would like to thank my husband and children for once again supporting me as I spend time away from them for the benefit of a greater good.  We start with us and then get to community because that is the foundation of our home base. I love you so much for being my cheerleaders in this.

I would like to thank WCTV for having town committee meetings available on their website. I may have driven my family crazy by watching old meetings, but it was certainly helpful in preparing for this role! I would also like to thank Robert Hayes at the Wilmington Apple for asking thoughtful questions and giving us candidates a forum to share our views.

Finally, to my Town of Wilmington. My whole life has been spent with the thought process that I can make a difference one act at a time. My hope is that I have demonstrated my commitment  to this town in the last 15 years with my many acts of organization and service and that I have  developed enough of a reputation for you to trust that I will continue to act for all of us, with our best interests front and center, and with a love for our town that has deep roots.

With that, I humbly ask for your vote this Saturday.

On The Issues (Q&A’s with Wilmington Apple)

Is the Town of Wilmington heading in the right direction? Explain.

15 years ago, my husband and I chose Wilmington because it had a small town feel with a great commuter location, a strong school system, a new public safety building with a great police and fire department and housing that was affordable compared to the other communities we were interested in. In the last 15 years, all of the reasons we chose Wilmington still exist and we can now add to the list a wonderful community of friends and social and sports organizations that have supported our four children.

There is no easy answer to whether our town is “heading in the right direction” because “the right direction” is subjective. All of the qualities that had me fall in love with Wilmington 15 years ago still exist. The town is still close-knit and our school system and public safety are still strong. We have seen our residential real estate grow in value and quantity and the value of our homes with it. Unfortunately, our taxes have also grown. We have commercial property that is vacant and traffic issues on route 38 that create a hinderance to attracting new business into the area. We are losing our elder residents to other towns who are willing to create truly affordable housing options for them. A North Wilmington Fire Substation that was a topic of discussion when we first moved into town is still just a topic of discussion.

So, my final answer to this question would be that we have the ability to continue to head in the right direction as long as we value the assets of our town in the manner it deserves. We need to capitalize on our great commuter location and attract new business into town that adds value. We need to retain our elder residents and offer them housing that allows them to downsize at a lesser cost than the value of their current housing. We need to continue supporting our youth, veterans, safety officers  and school system to ensure that every resident’s needs are met. We have the capacity to do this and I believe with the right people making the critical decisions with the best interests of our citizens truly as our number one priority, we will remain on the right path.

Describe your past & present involvement with Wilmington’s town government (e.g., any appointed or elected positions, serve on any committees?) AND in the Wilmington community (e.g., volunteerism with non-profits, churches, schools, youth sports, etc.).

Currently, I am the State Appointee for the Wilmington Housing Authority. I am also on the WCTV Board and the President of We’re One Wilmington which I founded with a group of friends in 2010. I teach CCD for 9thand 10thgraders at St. Thomas Church.

Outside of the immediate Wilmington realm, I volunteer for the Ipods for Wounded Veterans Organization, am Vice President of the Greater Lowell Childrens Fund and volunteer for the Save One Souls Animal Rescue League.

I was the 2011 Good Guy and received the 2016 Unsung Heroine Award from the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women. In 2018, I was inducted into the Wilmington High School National Honor Society which was a great surprise and honor for me.

Previously, I was a member and past-president of the Wilmington Educational Foundation and have volunteered as a coach for my children’s soccer and softball teams as well as at their schools throughout the years.

Do you/did you support the construction of a detox facility at 362 Middlesex Avenue? Why or why not? What do you say to residents who strongly disagree with your position?

I believe the disease of addiction has reached epidemic levels in every community in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. It is a crisis that can’t be ignored (and one that we can’t pretend does not affect our own community here in Wilmington).  As an attorney for a state agency dealing with families in crisis, as well as a friend and family member to people in various stages of battling this disease, I see the benefit of an additional detox center in the area, knowing how desperate the need is for more beds. That being said, I do not support the construction of a detox facility at 362 Middlesex Avenue as the location is not appropriate for a medical center of the size being proposed.

We as a community need to be clear with our vision for this town and our representatives should govern with that vision in mind. We only have a limited amount of land and we should be thoughtful in our planning for its use. We have a portion of the town already dedicated to commercial and medical facilities with more appropriate locations for a detox center or something akin to it already available.

When I first moved to Wilmington over 15 years ago, I recall discussion of developing that section of Route 62 with street front stores that could create a “town center” like the town center in the nearby town of Reading. That plan never seemed to have been pursued seriously but it should have been. Such a location would also be a great location for additional affordable housing for seniors.

The sad reality is that this issue has created a huge division in our town and we need to figure out a way to bring the town and the current owner to the table to create a mutually agreeable compromise that will not have the town and the property tied up in expensive litigation for years to come. Given the current climate, I would invite our state legislative delegation to be a part of the discussions, as well, so that further allegations of impropriety can be extinguished and we can begin to solve the problem without distraction. As a member of the Board of Selectmen, I would champion for that to occur and would volunteer to spearhead it as soon as possible so that our town can move forward and begin to unify as a community instead of continuing in the current manner of division.

I would tell the people who don’t agree with what I am saying above to give me their plan – not the history of the problem, not the allegations, not their interpretation of the laws and by-laws – but a plan to bring resolution to the issue. I believe it is important to understand what happened that led to the current situation, but I want to focus our attention on finding the solution and then we can make sure this never happens again.

In September, the Wilmington Memorial Library hosted a month-long series of programs on civility to address a growing lack of civility in today’s society. In his latest newsletter, Town Manager Jeff Hull called for more civility in town when discussing controversial topics. If elected, what will you do to create more civility in Wilmington — online, at meetings, and in the community overall?

A few years ago, around the beginning of the school year, I became very frustrated with the lack of civility I noticed in some of our community pages and those “unofficial” school pages on social media –  where people were calling out teachers and school staff by name for various levels of “offenses.” I was horrified that such posts, and the subsequent comments to such posts, were allowed by the page administrators. I had just come up with a silly saying with my oldest daughter (#slapthecookie) to remind each other to make healthy choices and, after googling the phrase and determining there was no nefarious meaning to it, I decided to start posting it as a comment to such negativity to put a pause (or more hopefully, an end) to the thread. To my amazement, the negative rants remained but my comment was deleted. It was then that I realized that these pages are not moderating to their own rules – they took down a harmless comment with no known negative meaning but allowed the personal attacks to continue.

In response, I have tried hard to make sure the We’re One Wilmington Facebook page truly promotes kindness and positivity. I also worked with a committee of WOW members to launch our “Ordinary People, Extraordinary Hearts” campaign to recognize community members who go above and beyond to promote kindness and positivity in our community.  You see, civility is not enough. I have spent the last 15 years as a resident of this town trying to promote community spirit and positivity and kindness and will continue to do so whether I am elected to the Board of Selectmen or not.

I work in a highly contentious legal environment with soul destroying stories that could stop any conversation. I know how to be emmeshed in conflict while maintaining professionalism and seeking solutions.  I even chose the legal profession, knowing that there is an endless supply of lawyer jokes. But candidly (and more seriously), I have also been a target in the past of the negativity referenced above. My response to that negativity was, is, and will always be, to be the person that I am.

I am Dan and Marie Ardito’s daughter who was blessed to grow up, not just hearing abstractly about the tenets of our Roman Catholic faith, but seeing my parents live out that faith in the real world.  I am David O’Mahony’s wife who, when he was deployed to Korea with the United States Army for a year (when we had just had baby number three), learned to broaden my shoulders, keep my head down and not waste time and energy on negativity.  Most importantly, I am the mother of Patrick, Meghan, Danny and Josie, who knows with 100 percent certainty that my most important job is to model for my children how to live my life to the best of my ability with the conscious responsibility in helping as many others as I can.

I can say with certainty that there are going to be times when my arguments could get passionate, where my facial expressions may betray my attempts to remain calm and where I may not be in agreement with the majority but I can say with just as much certainty that I will always be respectful of my position, my responsibility to our community and my obligation to represent the community as civilly and professionally as possible.

What do you feel should be Wilmington’s next TWO municipal or school building projects? Why do you prioritize these two projects over other projects?

The first municipal building project I would support is the North Wilmington Fire Substation as I believe it is long overdue. Our town has developed and expanded and we now have industry and residences in an area of town where response time from our main safety building would be too long in the event of an emergency, Our police have addressed this growth by adding additional patrol zones and will hopefully have the personnel to support that but the only way for the Fire Department to effectively address this is to be afforded a space to have personnel and the equipment needed for them to respond to emergencies in the North Wilmington area.

The second municipal project I would support would be a community center in town that would have an expanded senior center as well as space that could be utilized in the late afternoon and evenings for youth and family activities. Our current Senior Center is too small for our senior community and we do not have a space for children and families to utilize for activities in the evenings and on the weekends. We have done a great job creating outdoor recreational space in town and it is now time to focus on an indoor facility that affords residents of all ages year round access to social and recreational community events and activities.

Are there any articles on this year’s Annual Town Meeting Warrant (https://www.wilmingtonma.gov/sites/wilmingtonma/files/uploads/2019_atm_warrant.pdf) that you currently plan to vote against? If so, which articles and why? And what ONE article would you most wish to bring to the attention of voters and ask that they support? 

I can’t say there are articles that I feel strongly should be voted against but there are two articles that I would ask voters to pay special attention to. The first is Article 37 which would set up a fund to hold funds from Verizon and Comcast to be utilized for cable access television. The Article itself is basic in nature and not controversial but there is a larger concern of changes in the FCC that could jeopardize the federal funding currently provided to support local cable access television like the services the town currently benefits from with WCTV. The Article itself is establishing a necessary fund to hold the funds received by contract from Verizon and Comcast but I would ask the voters to learn more about WCTV as well as the proposed FCC changes that could threaten it.

The second article that I believe warrants heightened voter attention is Article 42 that addresses affordable housing in our town. I believe the language of the article is appropriate and appreciate the 15% requirement for affordable housing in new multi-family developments but am concerned with single family home developments not being included and the clause that would allow affordable housing to be built off-site of the project as I am concerned that we are not doing enough to ensure affordable housing is actually created. I want to make sure we avoid another Whispering Pines or Yentile Place situation where the town approves over 55 housing with affordable units included and then the project either fails completely or needs to be modified to remove the very things that would benefit the community. We have limited land in this town and we must be thoughtful in its use. I would not support an Article that gives developers the ability to build market-rate housing with only a faint promise of affordable units that the town desperately needs so I would expect if this article passes, the town would be applying it in the best interest of the community.

If you are elected, what are at least three big things that you hope to accomplish during your 3 years on the board? How would you accomplish these things?

Given that the seat I am seeking is for a one year term, I can only speak to what I hope to accomplish in the next year. My number one focus would be to get more answers to the 362 Middlesex Avenue situation (i.e., the proposed detox center) and I would try to reconvene discussions among the parties to settle the matter. The second issue I feel needs our immediate attention is a solid plan for the North Wilmington Fire Substation and a time frame around the project. And the third issue on which I would want to spend time is the Olin issue.  The town has been waiting for answers and action for far too long. I would hope with the EPA putting the site on the Administrator’s Emphasis List we should at least begin hearing remediation plans for the site, which I believe are absolutely necessary before we can even begin to entertain any development of the site.

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?

Jeff Hull has worked for the Town of Wilmington for over 30 years. He has had his contract reviewed, and unanimously granted, in 2012 and then unanimously renewed in 2015 and 2018 with Boards of Selectmen comprised of 9 different individuals. I can only speak to his performance as viewed in public meetings and as reported to us over the past year, but I would give Jeff an A-. He has started addressing some of the long term financial obligations of the town in a thoughtful way and wants to put a capital plan in place that make sense to address the town’s current and longer term future needs. I have watched Board of Selectmen meetings in which he is requested to do specific actions (i.e. put together a sub-committee with specific composition of members) and then when he does just that, he has to spend time explaining his actions and choices, even when they were based on the criteria given to him by the Board. I would not be seeking change in the leadership at Town Hall and I would expect that Jeff would continue to be open to the ideas of the Board and the residents and businesses of Wilmington. I would have given Jeff a straight A but I would like to talk with him more about his methodology around the town’s current taxation and cash reserves and also about how we as a town can be more proactive in our town’s residential and commercial development and how he views his role in that.

(Editor’s Note: The above questions were submitted by readers. Each candidate was given the same amount of time each week to answer. These answers were previously published on Wilmington Apple over the past two months.)

Letters To The Editor/Endorsements

Watch The Debate

Candidate Conversation with WCTV

Wilmington Town Crier Candidate Profile

Campaign Announcement/Other

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Candidate’s Website & Social Media

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