Two new faces poised to join Belchertown Select Board, election set for Monday

Belchertown High School. 04.25.2023

Belchertown High School. 04.25.2023 DL

By Emilee Klein

Staff Writer

Published: 05-17-2024 4:41 PM

BELCHERTOWN — Two new names running for the two open Select Board seats will appear on the ballot in an election with no contested races on Monday.

With current members Peg Louraine and Ron Aponte stepping away from the Select Board, Nina Miner and Whitney Kuhnlenz are poised to take their seat at the board. In other election news, the remaining candidates for open seats on the School Committee, Board of Health, Planning Board and Town Clerk are all incumbents or associate members running for reelection.

The transition of power comes just a month before the vote on the Jabish Brook Middle School building project and the Proposition 2½ override that comes with it. The vote and its financial impact on the town holds a lot of weight for Miner, who wants to steer the town’s finances — and taxpayers’ bills — away from expensive hikes.

“(The project) is going to translate to significantly impact taxes over the next 20-30 years annually and that’s extremely concerning to me when people can barely afford their grocery bills and electric bills,” Miner said.

Miner grew up and has lived in Belchertown most of her life. She has previous leadership experience as the chair and secretary of Belchertown Animal Control Advisory Board for several years, but her ability to negotiate and balance multiple perspectives originates from her day job as an employee benefits broker. Miner said that ensuring the employers, union and employees are satisfied with the benefits package is a balancing act, similarly to how budgets also balance financial responsibility with municipal and resident needs.

Kuhnlenz is new to Belchertown. She moved to town in 2022 with her two young children, and began volunteering at the library, parent-teacher organization, Belchertown Community Preschool Association and Belchertown Cultural Alliance. With 16 years of academic advising experience for universities, Kuhnlenz spends most of her professional life listening to college students as a former academic advisor and current faculty at the Amherst College Career Center.

While she said she’s ready to hit the ground running on the Jabish Brook and other building projects, she believes her listening skills will play a major role during her first year on the board as she learns more about the town’s history and residents’ needs.

“The role of the Select Board member is to hear the community and to be able to make sure all of the needs are met, in that sense I see it as the caretaking role of the town,” Kuhnlenz said. “I do feel that I represent a population of Belchertown residents because I’m newer to the area, I have a young family (and) I’m in the workforce.”

Others on the ballot

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School Committee candidates Amy LaMothe and Ruby Bansal are both incumbents who wish to see the fruition of all the work put into the Jabish Brook project come to reality. LaMothe moved to Belchertown in 2017 and joined the School Committee three years ago. She spend her term devoted to the safety and health of students as part of the Healthy and Safer Schools subcommittee, where she worked to improve the student wellness policy, elaborated on structured time for physical exercise and addressed student mental health.

Banal has lived in Belchertown for 22 years and has two terms on the School Committee under her belt. She has not only been on the committee when Superintendent Brian Cameron was hired, but she also helped craft the district’s Five Year Strategic Plan. She serves on the Property & Transportation and Finance & Budget Subcommittees, bringing her own experience as a mother with two children in the Belchertown school system to everything she does.

Leonard Bilodeau is the only associate member on the ballot looking to become a senior member of the Planning Board. He’s lived in Belchertown since 2010 and joined the Planning Board in October 2023. Bilodeau’s background as a realtor gives him an in-depth understanding of the processes and functions of a Planning Board.

Theresa Camerlin has the longest history with the town of any candidate on the ballot, and is seeking another term as town clerk. Over her 27 years as a Belchertown resident, she’s worked as secretary to the Belchertown Fire Chief for 16 years, assistant town clerk for seven years and town clerk for three years. During her term, Camerlin has made efforts to obtain a voting clicker system for Town Meeting, preserving and archiving Belchertown documents dating back to the 1600s and improved transparency between the Town Clerk’s office and the community.

Board of Health candidate Colleen Duroshea could not be reached for comment.

Elections will be held on Monday in the Belchertown High School Gymnasium. Polls open at 8 a.m.