SWAMPSCOTT — Six candidates vying for two seats on the Board of Selectmen fielded questions from residents during a candidate forum at Swampscott High Thursday night, tackling some tough topics while outlining their vision for the town.
The selectmen candidates include banker and former zoning board member and incumbent Selectman Donald Hause, who is running for a second term; salon owner Dina Maietta; Town Meeting member Andrea Lee Calamita, who also teaches second grade in the Lynn Public Schools; attorney Mary Polly Titcomb, who is a Town Meeting and Finance Committee member; businessman Stephen Williams; and retired Swampscott police officer John “Rich” Cassidy.
Selectman Patrick Jones has decided not to run for another term, creating the opportunity for at least one newcomer on the board. There are two three-year terms up for grabs.
The forum was sponsored by the Republican and Democratic town committees and moderated by Jim Peterson, the vice co-chairman of the Democratic Town Committee. It drew approximately 100 residents to the high school.
Andrea Lee Calamita
“I’m running for selectman because I want the best for our community and I represent all the residents of this community. I believe a common sense approach is the best way to problem solve and planning is missing in the Board of Selectmen,” said Calamita, who has lived in town since 1971. She is a mother of two teenage boys who attend Swampscott schools. “My primary concern is working towards a more balanced development and stopping the over development in town, she said.
“I’ve been reaching out recently to a lot of people that I haven’t seen or talked to before. One of the things they miss in Swampscott is the priority of education,” said Williams, a businessman and real estate owner and the former owner of the Rent-A-Tool equipment business in Revere. Williams has lived in town for 55 years. His four grown children have gone through the schools and his wife and two of his children have taught on the North Shore. Williams said his business background would be an asset for the board.
“I have served on many different committees, volunteer committees, coaching; I had spent 12 years on the Zoning Board of Appeals before I was fortunate to be elected selectman for the past three years,” said Hause, who has a background as a business owner and in banking, finance, commercial real estate and municipal government. He and his wife and three children have lived in Swampscott for about 17 years. His children went through the schools, and his wife is a kindergarten teacher’s aide at Hadley Elementary School.
Hause, as the incumbent, defended the work of the board, saying the town is in the best financial shape in decades “and that didn’t happen by accident.” Hause said the town has revamped its financial team and budgeting process. The town has been able to lower taxes two years in a row, increase its surplus and increase its bond rating to AA+. Increased cooperation with the state has opened up access to grants as well.
Mary Polly Titcomb
Titcomb, a child and family law attorney, said she is excited by the thought of public service, which is why she went to law school. She said her legal skills, including offering mediation services through her law practice, “come in handy in every area of life, and it especially would come in handy on the board.” She has a 4-year-old daughter and 7-year-old son who both go to Swampscott schools. Titcomb noted she was a resident and Town Meeting member of Precinct 1, which has not had representation on the board in some time.
“I cannot imagine running for this position without that insight and experience, investing hundreds of hours of understanding the municipal budget and how that informs municipal policies,” Titcomb said.
John “Rich” Cassidy
Cassidy is a recently retired police officer of 33 years with the Swampscott police. He comes from a well-known family in town. His grandfather served on the board of public works, his uncle and brother have served as selectmen, and his father was the former police chief and a selectman.
“We love the town of Swampscott,” said Cassidy. He’s worked as the D.A.R.E. officer, coached basketball, baseball and football teams. Cassidy said he has not put up campaign signs around town “because I feel as if people don’t need that to pick who they like, who they want.”
Maietta, a longtime resident, is the owner of Salon 187 in Revere and a mother of two students in the Swampscott schools. She was critical of the town’s inability to take care of crumbling seawalls and a leaky middle school roof.
“Most importantly, I am a woman that has courage to speak up about the wrongdoings that have occurred in our community. To those of you who don’t know me, I proved over $20,000 was missing from our town last year as well as eight violations of municipal finance laws,” she said. “I’m not running because I work for developers or have a self-interested agenda. I am running because I want to be a voice for the community.”
Maeita was referring to an audit of the Recreation Department finances conducted at the behest of Maietta and her fiance, Rick Prezioso, as vendors to the Swampscott Farmers Market. They alleged funds were being mishandled. The audit last year did not uncover any fraud, but did uncover some violations of state municipal finance law, which prompted a change in procedures.
Earlier in the evening, three School Committee candidates, who are vying for two three-year terms, also fielded questions from residents. Incumbents Carin Marshall and Amy OConnor are both seeking second terms. They both made the pitch for consistency, while challenger Keiko Zoll seeks to bring her expertise as a business owner, writer, and in marketing and communications, to the school board.
The Swampscott Annual Town Election is Tuesday, April 30. The polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673, by email at email@example.com or on Twitter at @TannerSalemNews.