Sunderland voters to decide contest for Select Board seat
SUNDERLAND — On Tuesday, incumbent Selectman David Pierce will vie for re-election against challenger Peter Murphy for a second three-year term.
Pierce is the newest selectman. “I’ve always believed it is important to do public service,” said Pierce as he reflected on the past three years. “The Select Board is close to everything that goes on. It’s a big time commitment.” He also said that the position has a learning curve that he has just overcome.
Before serving on the board, Pierce served for nine years on the town’s Conservation Commission. When making decisions, Pierce said he considers all townspeople and departments. “You’ve got to look at all the different aspects of the town — all the different groups and try to represent everybody,” he said.
If re-elected, Pierce sees the development of a master plan and an upgrade of the town’s technology as some priorities. He already launched a new town website this month.
Pierce’s challenger, Murphy, is a newcomer to town politics. He ran and lost a bid for town assessor last year. He has lived in Sunderland for more than 20 years. “I wanted to get into town politics. I think I’m ready for the big picture. There has to be a change. I don’t see it happening,” Murphy said.
The 64-year-old considers himself conservative and “wants what is best for the town and what we can afford. We have to find a way to do that.” Murphy worked at the University of Massachusetts for 42 years as a facilities manager before retiring in 2010. “I love the town,” Murphy said.
Murphy hopes to bring new ideas to the table if elected. “I think someone has to go out and talk to people. There are a lot of different facets in town,” he said.
If elected, Murphy would reach out to UMass students to volunteer in the town.
Murphy believes he can bring insight into town finances with his experience handling multi-million dollar budgets with the university. And he plans to thoroughly review town budgets to avoid another tax cap override.
“You have to learn to do more with less. I have experience with that,” Murphy said.
Another hot button issue for the town is affordable housing.
The town has been stuck at a 0.4 percent affordable housing rate, falling below the state’s 10 percent recommendation. And with the recent state high court upholding a permit for a proposed 150 apartment complex on Plumtree Road known as Sugarbush Meadows, the question of how the town can increase its housing stock is likely to crop up again.
Though Pierce could not speak on specific details of the Plumtree Road plans because the town is in negotiations with the new property owners, he said one of the board’s goals is to get more affordable housing in town. He said the town is working to get housing that actually is used for affordable and senior living and not just another set of apartments.
Murphy, on the other hand, disapproves of how the town has dealt with the Sugarbush proposal over the past six years. He believes the town lost a huge revenue source when it did not purchase the 67-acre property.
All the other incumbents in town will have uncontested races. Those seeking re-election are Town Clerk Wendy Houle, Town Assessor Jim Kowaleck, Town Park Trustee Ken Kushi, Board of Health member Caitlyn Rock, and Library Trustees Beth Berry and Lisa Tripp. Moderator Bob Duby, Planning Board members Sara Snyder and Dan Murphy, and Elementary School Committee member Douglas Fulton were also nominated. Mike Wissemann was nominated for Cemetery Trustee. Traci Sackrey was nominated to represent the elementary school committee to the town park. Judy Pierce and Lyn Roberts were nominated to run for Frontier Regional School Committee.