As a former elected official who served with Mark for 12 years on the Warrant Committee and Board of Selectmen, I have a unique perspective on his character. I want to share what I know about Mark – his humanity and empathy for his fellow citizens. Mark listens. He gives people a voice. By listening, he is able to build consensus.
Mark’s father passed away last year. Those of us who have suffered this experience know its emotional toll. One’s first instinct is to shed obligations that might interfere with caring for family. Mark concluded, however, that his father would have wanted him to continue his service to his fellow-citizens. Belmont needs Mark’s experience and wisdom.
When I speak of Mark’s “character,” I mean that he always volunteers to take on the toughest projects.
These are projects where there is no political gain. There is a high likelihood of failure. There is a chance that you might lose friends, or gain enemies. They are projects where compromise usually is the only solution, compromise may not leave everyone completely satisfied.
Here are three examples.
Minuteman Vocational Technical School District. On February 22, the Town Meeting approved Mark’s warrant article for a new Regional Agreement for Minuteman. The vote was almost unanimous. For at least 25 years, the cost of Minuteman has been controversial in every Annual Town Meeting budget debate. The debate pitted parents of Minuteman students who valued its vocational-technical education against other parents who felt that the high cost of Minuteman hurt the budget of Belmont Public Schools.
Mark accepted the challenge to engage with all of the other 15 towns in the District – their Selectmen, their administrators, and the governing bodies of Minuteman itself. This was a multi-year challenge that he accepted when he joined the Board. The objective was to make significant changes to a 50-year-old Regional Agreement. Fifty years without real change! After six years of effort, with the help of Jack Weis and Bob McLaughlin, change was achieved.
The Community Path. Committees appointed by the Selectmen have studied the geography, design, and safety aspects of the Path, but it remains unresolved. There are committed proponents (who want safe transportation alternatives that do not emit carbon, and safe walkways for families) and committed opponents (homeowners who abut the proposed Path alternatives).
The only answer must rely on consensus building by a leader who can gain the trust of all parties. This must be a leader like Mark Paolillo who can be relied upon to propose solutions that are fair to all.
The Financial Task Force. The need for a town-wide long-range financial plan has been evident for decades. Mark Paolillo took the challenge, initiated the Financial Task Force, and made it a reality. The Task Force concluded that an override was needed, and Mark provided leadership to the override. Without his thoughtful and sensitive work, the override would not have happened. Mark now needs to take his inclusive approach and build consensus on how to implement the Financial Task Force recommendations.
Importance of this election. High turnover of elected officials in the past two years raises the stakes in this election. One of the Selectmen has only one year of experience in Town governance. Half of the School Committee members will be new, and only one member has negotiated a union contract. Mark’s institutional knowledge is vital to the future of Belmont.
Please join me in re-electing Mark Paolillo as Selectman on Tuesday, April 5. It’s important.
Ralph Jones is a Town Meeting Member for Precinct 3. He also has chaired the Board of Selectmen, the School Committee, and the Warrant Committee.