GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

April 18, 2013

Three seek two Manchester board seats

By James Niedzinski
Staff Writer

---- — MANCHESTER — With deadlines past and all the papers returned, Manchester’s election ballot is targeted to include three candidates vying for two Board of Selectmen seats in Manchester.

With current selectmen Mary Hardwick and Susan Thorne announcing early on they would not seek re-election, School Committee member Ann Harrison, software engineer Eli Boling and Manchester Essex school DECA team volunteer Robert Hoff Jr., have all now collected the needed signatures and are seeking their seats.

Harrison has represented the town on the regional School Committee for nine years, before that she served on the Finance Committee.

The 63-year-old Tucks Point Road resident moved to Manchester with her family when she was about 13 and works as a software developer consultant for a variety of businesses. She has worked with her husband, who started a number of companies and has done on the financial side, working with a number of small businesses.

”The pressing issue right now is our infrastructure,” she said. “Our Department of Public Works and water facilities are in terrible shape.”

Harrison also said with low interest rates on loans, the town should start to examine long-term projects, if elected she would encourage the Finance Committee to look toward long term planning.

”It’s time the town took a serious look at what needs to be fixed in an organized way,” she said.

Harrison also said she would push for more transparency, keeping the website better updated with minutes and agendas of the various boards, committees and departments around town.

Boling also works as a software developer, working from home for a California based company.

The 48-year-old Pleasant Street resident has served on an ad-hoc committee that makes reconciliations and suggestions about emergency dispatch for about one year, he said.

Boling has lived in Manchester for about 11 years, he has since taken an active role in participating to School Committee and Board of Selectmen meetings.

”Over time, I have gotten to know a lot of these people and the workings of the town,” he said.

Boling said the town needs to educate residents about the unfunded liabilities facing the town.

“It’s not a black and white issue,” he said. “It will require careful planning.”

Boling also said addressing long term projects now rather than later would allow the town to save money in the long run and address the unfunded liability issue.

While Boling said communication is a two-way street, he added he would like to improve, as much as possible, the flow of information between the town and residents.

Boling also noted the infrastructure problems facing the town, added the need for a new, permanent Department of Public Works director is immediate.

The last candidate to submit papers, 51-year-old Hoff, of Mark Street, said he was a little bit “irked” when he realized there were initially just two candidates running for the two seats.

Hoff was born and raised in Manchester, but only moved back to the area about six years ago, buying his childhood house. Hoff, the creative director for his own consulting company, has no experience on any boards or committees, but he regularly volunteers for the Manchester Essex DECA team as a chaperon and a judge.

“If I’m not engaged in a project, also in the substitute teacher list,” he said.

He filled in for a teacher at just last week, teaching a seventh-grade class.

Hoff said part of the reason he was encouraged his papers was the discussion at the April 1 Annual Town Meeting. Hoff returned the forms the next day, just making the deadline.

He said he believes that bringing new energy, ideas and concepts could be beneficial to the town.

Hoff, like other candidates, mentioned the unfunded liabilities as one of the issues facing the town.

”I think this can has been kicked down the road for awhile now,” he said.

The Annual Town Election is slated for May 21 at Manchester Memorial Elementary School. The Board of Selectmen’s race is the only contested race on the ballot.

There is also one vacant three year term on the Planning Board, with two candidates running for re-election, but with three seats and thus an opening for a write-in run.

James Niedzinski can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3455 or at jniedzinski@gloucestertimes.com.