Andrew Steinberg seeks Select Board seat in Amherst; Stephanie O’Keeffe, Diana Stein will not seek re-election

Friday, December 06, 2013
AMHERST — Incumbents Stephanie O’Keeffe and Diana Stein said Monday they will not seek re-election to the Select Board next year, and Andrew Steinberg, chairman of the town’s Finance Committee, will run for one of those positions.

Steinberg cited the need to grow the tax base, preserve housing opportunities for people of all income levels, provide appropriate housing for local college students and continue responsible management as his reasons for running.

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“Amherst is a great place to live and I want to make sure we have a community that works together and preserves and enhances the quality of life we have here,” Steinberg said.

Two seats are available in the March 25 election and O’Keeffe and Stein, both elected in 2008 and re-elected in 2011, said they are not seeking an additional three years.

“I think that two terms is plenty for me,” said O’Keeffe, who has served as chairwoman since December 2008.

“I’m not running again,” Stein said. “I’m glad that Andy has stepped forward.”

Steinberg, 65, came to Amherst in 1980 to serve as director of Western Massachusetts Legal Aid. He has been a Town Meeting member since 1996 and is chairman of the Regional School District Planning Board, a four-town board that is examining whether to restructure the administration of the elementary schools in Amherst, Leverett, Pelham and Shutesbury.

A Finance Committee member since 2005 and chairman of the panel for the last four years, Steinberg said he is aware of the pressures on the budget.

Steinberg said Amherst needs to continue to find opportunities to increase the tax base to provide services and programs.

“Responsible growth is the only way we can improve the tax base without resorting to (a Proposition 2½ debt-exclusion) override,” Steinberg said.

Steinberg said it is fortunate that in recent years the Select Board has been focused on sound management.

“I really want to have a town committed to a collaborative and transparent process in making decisions,” Steinberg said.

If elected to the Select Board, Steinberg said he would leave the Finance Committee.

Moving on

O’Keeffe said being chairwoman has been a full-time job for five years and it is a challenge to maintain that degree of commitment.

But she is proud of the work the Select Board has done together, calling her time on the board productive, including hiring John Musante as town manager in 2010.

“I feel really good about all the change and transition that has happened,” O’Keeffe said. “It’s been an honor to serve Amherst in that capacity.”

Stein said she spends many hours each week at board meetings and on other committee work. “It’s the right time to move on,” Stein said.

Stein said her initial campaign promoted a local option meals tax, which was adopted in 2010, and she has offered viewpoints on issues facing Amherst that differ from those of other Select Board members.

“I’ve sometimes been a dissenting voice, but we got (along) very well,” Stein said. “I think we functioned well as a board.”