May 182014
This entry is part 4 of 5 in the series 2014 Election

This year’s contest for two seats on the Board of Selectmen is probably the most watched race in the 2014 Town Election and carries the highest stakes for Groton’s future.

Two political novices, Shane Grant and Barry Pease, are taking on two political veterans with decades of service to the town on the Board of Selectmen, Planning Board, and other bodies — current Chairman Peter Cunningham and Anna Eliot. That means that voters have a choice to stay the course the town is on, or change leadership and possibly direction.

The Board of Selectmen are going to be very busy and involved in charting a course for the town that will have an impact for years to come. The town is still adapting to a relatively new Charter and Town Manager administration; roles are still being worked out between the BoS and the Town Manager. Although the selectmen have no direct control or responsibility for them, tumultuous school district finances are a concern because the school district budget affects the town budget. Both the current Board of Selectmen and the School Committee, plus the Finance Committee, have pledged to work more closely and cooperatively — but those good intentions haven’t jelled into anything concrete yet. Half a dozen important development projects are underway or planned: the new Central Fire Station, the GELD complex, redevelopment of the old Central Fire Station on Station Avenue, the new Groton Inn, Boynton Meadows, Squanacook Hall, Prescott School, the Myette medical building, and others are in the work. Of these, more than half involve the town as seller, builder, potential developer, or owner.

Groton’s Board of Selectmen has five seats; each is a three-year term. Groton’s other selectmen are Josh Degen, Jack Petropoulos, and Stuart Schulman.

The Groton Line Candidate Questionnaire

NOTE: A technical note about the table — we’ve got four candidates to compare side-by-side here, but computer screens only have a certain amount of room. There’s a horizontal scroll bar at the bottom of the candidate table so you see Barry Pease’s information if it doesn’t fit on your screen — Pease’s last name is last, alphabetically, so his column is the one that’s not likely to fit well.

Finally, there’s a wide-screen version of this story available that gives you more screen space — just click this sentence to check that out.

CandidatePeter CunninghamAnna EliotShane GrantBarry A. Pease
Peter Cunningham

Peter Cunningham

Anna Eliot

Anna Eliot

Shane Grant

Shane Grant

Barry Pease

Barry Pease

OfficeBoard of SelectmenBoard of SelectmenBoard of SelectmenBoard of Selectmen
Are you the incumbent office holder?YesYesNoNo
Candidate address44 Smith StreetLongley Road PO Box 513Main Street23 Island Pond Rd
Candidate townGrotonGrotonGrotonGroton
Phone(978) 448-3497(978) 448-0100(508) 789-2499(978) 448-1489
Web site
How old are you?65655242
What year did you become a Groton resident?1979at birth1961. I was born in Groton Hospital, raised and educated in Groton. I have travelled the world and returned home to the area 30 years ago and have lived in Groton for about tle last decade.February, 2003
Party affiliationDemocratic PartyUndeclaredOtherRepublican Party
Academic degrees / training -- please enter one per line.Nasson College - B.A. in History & Government
Fitchburg State College - M.S. in Counseling Psychology
BA Psychology/History University of Mass. Boston 1972;
College of Public & Community Service, Law certificate 1990;
Jurist Doctorate from Massachusetts School of Law 1994;

Negotiation and Dispute Resolution and Effective Business Communication from Radcliffe Seminars;
Landscape, Disposition and Development; Preservation Development, Zoning Innovations through Harvard Professional Development courses.
Graduated Groton Dunstable Regional High School.In Progress - Bachelor of Business Administration, UMass Lowell, Graduation May 2015.
If you're currently employed, what is your "day job" or vocation(s)?Pleasantly retired! Attorney - Sole practitioner specializing in Juvenile and Probate Law.Architectural Millwork Specialist and Building ConsultantDirector of Sales & Marketing at Burkart-Phelan, Inc.
Family information -- married, divorced, number of kids, etc.Married to Jean with two daughters; Jenny and Laura. Jenny, 33 is completing her Masters degree in Wildlife Biology at the University of Missouri and will be conducting studies on bird migratory patterns in Barrow, Alaska this summer. Laura, 29, is a graphic designer for Nokia working on user interface applications at the company's Cambridge office.Single, two grown children and two grand children who are the fifth generation Grotonians.I live in Groton and am divorced with 2 kids who live in Pepperell.Married (15 years in May!) with 2 children, Bunny is 11 and Carter will be 9 in May.
Please outline your experience in the public sector or community service, including elective or appointed offices.First community activity was as a member of the First Parish Church building committee where I wrote a successful grant to the Mass. Historical Commission which funded the restoration of the church's foundation. First town government activity was as a member of the Personnel Board. I then was elected to the G.D. Regional School Committee where I served for two terms and then to the Board of Selectmen where I have served since 1996. Public service in Groton: Planning board 1986-2008; Groton Stratigic Planning Grant Committee; HUD 202 Grant Committee; Growth Management Committee; Station Avenue Overlay District Infrastructure Committee; Prescott Reuse Committee; Sign By-Law Review Committee; Economic Development Committee; GDRS Superintendant Screening Committee 2 years; Hazel Grove Study Committee; Underground Utilities Committee; just to name a few.Community activities: Board of Directors and fundraising chairperson for Nashoba Community Hospital Auxiliary 1975-85; Groton Garden Club 1972-1987 and since 2013; District Commissioner and Head Instructor Groton Pony Club 1968-73; Initiated the design and oversaw Shepley Hill conservation project 1986; Board of Director Groton Historical Society; current board member of the Groton Board of Trade;
Community activities: Board of Directors and fundraising chairperson for Nashoba Community Hospital Auxiliary 1975-85; Groton Garden Club 1972-1987 and since 2013; District Commissioner and Head Instructor Groton Pony Club 1968-73; Initiated the design and oversaw Shepley Hill conservation project 1986; Board of Director Groton Historical Society; current board member of the Groton Board of Trade;
Over his lifetime, Shane has been an active Boy Scout in the United States and attained Eagle Scout in Australia. One thing Shane appreciates learning in scouting was to be prepared which he is. Shane served for several years in the US Air Force working in the motor pool as a heavy equipment operator and mechanic. After being honorably discharged, he returned to develop his career and family in the area where he volunteered as soccer coach for 3 years His daughter has been active in music and drama and Shane helped out at school events as much as he could. Shane frequently volunteers at Meals on Wheels. His preferred service is to work on Christmas or Thanksgiving with friends who also bring their kids to volunteer as well for a few hours on days when we all expect to receive a lot. He believes we should all take time to give to those who have less on those days.Member of the Groton Town Meeting Review Study Committee.
What personal quality do you think is your strongest asset?The ability to step back from whatever the current issue may be and consider the larger picture of it's impact on our community.Strong interpersonal skills; Catalyst and initiator; follow through and investigative qualities; I am a good listener and able to explore options; decision maker but reserved in order to make sure decisions are based upon a full knowledge of facts; My training as an attorney enables me to evaluate governing laws and by-laws that are meant to foster positive growth and development.I have the experience and ability to assess situations, listen and gather facts, process information, solve problems and implement solid plans to repair situations carry on building something stronger and more functional than before. I believe that my extensive and intimate knowledge of the town and the lands of Groton could be most effectively used in the office of Town Selectman and I also know that this is where my committed service will best meet, be able to address and serve the town's growing development and budgetary issues. I offer straightforward analysis, courageous acceptance of reality and steady corrective actions. These are some of the skills I have developed and honed over my lifetime and my 35 year career in construction, sales and design industries. I passionately offer my service to Groton in order to better nurture and help steward the struggling growth of my hometown, Groton.When I see or hear about a problem or concern, I want to discuss it and resolve it if possible. I go about doing so with an open mind, in a logical, planned, and well thought out manner.
Why did you decide to run for this office?I am seeking re-election to the Board of Selectmen to continue advocacy on issues which I feel are important to townspeople. Among these are pursuing a sustainable approach to funding for our schools while at the same time continuing the high level of municipal services people have come to expect. I love my home town and want to serve in my best capacity. After 22 years on the planning board, I decided it was time to offer my knowledge in a broader arena. The town has faced a lot of controversies and continues to be challenged with budgetary, fiscal managerial dilemmas. As a member of the BOS, we initiated meetings with the GDRS Committee and worked collaboratively to assist the town in providing options on how to navigate their fiscal crisis. My grandchildren are beginning their education in the GDRS system and I want to continue the working relation between the town municipal government and regional school district. Groton has reputation of not being business friendly. Another goal is to increase the businesses in town. It is important to continue as a member of the BOS to help improve these working relationships. I decided to run for this office because living and working on Main Street Groton over the last several years, I have witnessed some inefficient and less-than visionary development in the town center in particular. As I immersed myself in becoming precisely familiar with some of the basic laws, rules and regulations of town government as I began to participate as a resident and citizen in some of the process of town government, I was alerted to many shortcomings, shortcuts and unfair practices. As huge budget errors precipitated cuts in services, protection and education and thus began the increase in taxes resulting from the crisis facing us at Town Meeting to the tune of several million dollars, I was concerned enough to learn more. When I did, it became clear to me that our town needed some help and better communication and representation of all townspeople's needs rather than the wants of the usual few. I have a unique set of building and business skills that will serve this town particularly in a crisis requiring some creative repair of the past errors as well as creative and clever rebuilding of a better future. All of these things prompted me to make my final decision to offer myself in public service to Groton as a Candidate for Selectman 2014. It is my hope to inspire all townspeople to understand the decisions that affect us all in Groton. No matter the neighborhood, we are all abutters. Once informed of a policy's effect on land owners and taxpayers, people can respectfully voice their vote with knowledge to back it up. Besides, being a selectman in Groton runs in my family as my grandfather Fred Martin was also a Groton Selectman back in his day. This is a community, and we have a lot of people who volunteer at every level to make sure our community thrives. The sports programs would not be possible without the tremendous commitment of these volunteers. Community volunteers in our town are responsible for making sure that there are boy scout troops, girl scout troops, and chess club. Grotonfest would not be possible without such community activism. Two friends of mine are volunteers on existing elected boards. Just as my family accepts and benefits from the contributions of others within our town, it's important for me to repay that contribution, to give back to Groton. When I asked for suggestions, without hesitation, everyone told me that I'd make an excellent member of the Board of Selectmen.

Deciding to run for such an important office wasn't an easy decision. I think I can help people feel more involved in running their town. It's my way to say "thank you."

I can help make things better for our children, and for our neighbors. If I can do something like that, I feel that I have an obligation to do so.
What is the single most important issue facing the town and how would you address it from this office? OR What is the most important issue facing this board?Clearly the most important issue is, as stated above, addressing the budget challenges we have seen in a manner that is sustainable and invokes trust from the taxpayers. In addition to funding for our schools we need to recognize that Groton's population is aging and programing to meet their needs is as equally important. Effectively addressing these issues requires them to be identified as priorities by the Board of Selectmen in setting their yearly goals. It also requires establishing strong working relationships with all stakeholders which I feel I have a good ability to do. Right now, it is working with the GDRS Committee and the new Fire Chief search. I am able to offer a balanced approach to critical decisions. I examine what the options are and identify the most urgent aspect of a problem. I look to the broad implications of decision. I weigh the pros and cons. I work collaboratively with other board members and encourage differences in opinions. I like to explore the merits of the opposition. It is only by having a open dialogue that a sound decision can be made especially when there are diverging opinions or different proposed courses of action. There is not one single most pressing issue facing Groton rather there are several pressing issues that have been thrown out of balance as a result of a series of errors, a few miscalculations and an overall lack of communication between town government and townspeople. The now apparent lack of balance between services, protection and education offered to Groton residents is going to be more painful to some and less to others perhaps but regardless of blame or depth of individual interest, our town as a whole needs to make some corrections in its development choices and policy direction.I believe in transparency. I believe that an elected or appointed individual within the Town of Groton should avoid even the appearance otherwise. Groton deserves nothing less.
How would you improve or contribute to the Groton-Dunstable Regional School Committee's budget process?Where the Groton-Dunstable Regional School District is a seperate governmental entity, it is ultimately their responsibility to manage their budgeting process. However, given what has occurred over the past couple of years there needs to be more direct participation by the town in monitoring the district's budget. I was a strong proponent of creating the town/school budget working group which will meet periodically to monitor school finances. Comprised of a Selectman and FinComm members from both towns, this group will meet with School Committee representatives, our Town Manager and the district's Superintendent and Business Manager and will serve as a second set of eyes to monitor and track the budget and spending patterns.I recommend that a new group of fiscally experienced persons be appointed to form a financial advisory Board for the school district budget. The school budget is larger than the municipal budget and it would be appropriate for the school district to have a financial advisory board a kin to the municipal Financial Committee. High quality education does not imply that more money be spent. Good education means that qualified and capable persons connect with the students and parents in order to bring out the best in our children. Providing superior quality in-house special education services can bring down special education costs. I will challenge unfunded state mandates such as the statutory requirement that regional school systems cannot charge fees for busing. The town municipal government needs to continue to operate with a mind toward having the capacity to adequately fund the schools and to work with the school committee to insure that funding levels are responsibly projected into the future.Communication and collaboration between town government, townspeople and school committee. Creativity is the key to success but without open, honest communication which welcomes all and includes opposition is what is needed for a change. Often it is from opposition that the best solutions are sparked and developed to be ultimately adopted for the good of all rather than a select few.Education is vital to our future. The strength of our schools reflects on the strength of our Town. I am a HUGE supporter of education at all levels, and will not yield on this subject.
There is a fundamental and beneficial partnership between the Groton-Dunstable School District and the Town of Groton. I will advocate for funding education and related educational services at the highest levels. I will also demand greater oversight and better communication. I will help make sure the vision is defined, and the goals are clear. This will require a different set of policies and collaboration between the Town of Groton, the Town of Dunstable, and the School Committee.
We need a vision that involves strengthening our schools and preserving our future. This must be a primary goal during the Board of Selectmen’s next term. If elected, I will work to create and champion a team dedicated to this critical piece of Groton’s future.
What other issues are important and how would you address them?Since Groton adopted it's charter in 2007, we have been well served by it's form of governance. This fact was affirmed by the state Dept. of Revenue's Division of Local Services which in their recently completed financial management review concluded that the town had made significant improvements in the administration of town government, a fact recognized by bond rating agencies who have upgraded the town's bond rating twice to it's current AA+. However, the charter does call for periodic review and we are now at that point where a charter review committee needs to be convened to review the charter and make recommendations to Town Meeting on ways to improve it. Groton needs to change its image and become more business friendly. The town meeting concept plan is an impediment to businesses locating in our town. The planning board is working on identifying business and neighborhood business zones. I initiated the Economic Development Committee and am a member of the Groton Board of Trade. The Four Corner area of town has the potential of being an commercial center. The 134 Main Street development and the new Groton Inn project has triggered a valuable enhancement to the village center area. I support the proposed development of the Prescott School site. The proposal brings to Groton high end tech jobs, new office space, a new 60 space municipal parking lot and a pedestrian bridge to the rail trail. It would create 3 new businesses in town and stimulate other businesses in the area. The town needs to work with businesses to foster growth that is in scale to the town's rural character.The biggest "other issues" are also related to each other and somewhat out of balance and I will be tireless in attempting to improve communication of information from town hall, the treatment of opposition, and participation at town meeting. It is sad to me that in a town of 7700 registered voters, most warrants are voted on and decided by about 150-250 people. No one should be afraid to speak at town meeting but many, many residents are. A vote is your voice and I would like to help the townspeople to find their voice, participate in the process and improve efforts and accommodations at Town Meeting for voting. We need a framework to determine the balance between accessible conservation land, inaccessible conservation land, and recreational space. These three demands on open space can co-exist, but the guidelines for desired ratios are not currently defined. Since there are several elected boards involved in this dynamic, it is an appropriate challenge for the Board of Selectmen to consider with a process that involves community input, and concludes with a written policy in broad coalition with the other elected boards.

Chapter 9 of the 2011 Master Plan documents the problem with business growth in Groton. More emphasis must be placed on completing the goals set out in this chapter. Specifically, more focus should be placed on commercial office space. Just like we want to live here in Groton, people would love to work here in Groton!

There is no documented vision for the use, improvement, or replacement of Town property. The senior center is at capacity. There is a demand for more specific community space. There are vacant buildings. The BoS needs to take a step back, look at the whole picture, and make fundamental decisions regarding all of the pieces and how they will look in 5 to 10 years.

The Town Meeting Review Study Committee had several recommendations to the BoS. I intend to work with fellow members to review and implement these recommendations, starting with the formation of a group to study electronic voting at Town Meeting.
Does Town Meeting have a role in setting town policy or strategic direction, or is that solely up to the affected elected board? Can the BoS or other elected boards ignore articles and directions approved in Town Meeting? Where the various town boards or committees empowered to draft by laws need to have those affirmed by Town Meeting, it is ultimately that legislative body that sets the course for the town. The best example of this is the town's master plan which is developed over a long period of time with numerous groups and sub committees participating on a variety of topics, yet it must be adopted by Town Meeting. This plan then serves as the basis for much of what happens in zoning and also provides the foundation for many of the grant applications the town applies for. Whether the BoS or other elected boards are bound by the votes on specific articles depends on the nature of the article. Some are enabling articles, which give the affected board the authority to take a certain action, but do not require it. Other articles may require a specific action or outcome. Usually a policy direction proposed to town meeting has undergone a thorough process of committee meetings, public hearings and other means of reaching towns people. Individual boards can make proposals and research the acceptability of such proposals. Groton has changed greatly since I grew up here. Persons expectations are changing. Growth is inevitable. Expectations are high. The multiple forms of media have a great impact on how people come to understand their town and its leaders.
Usually a policy direction proposed to town meeting has undergone a thorough process of committee meetings, public hearings and other means of reaching towns people. Individual boards can make proposals and research the acceptability of such proposals. Groton has changed greatly since I grew up here. Persons expectations are changing. Growth is inevitable. Expectations are high. The multiple forms of media have a great impact on how people come to understand their town and its leaders.No Board can ignore what town meeting has approved. However, some votes are advisory only. Town meeting is able to ask for a reconsideration such as the spring town meeting article to rescind the fall vote to provide mosquito control.
Town Meeting has a role in setting town policy as do elected boards, however I believe that citizen's rights are being usurped by the imbalances of the process and in particular the lack of information, explanation and time provided to the voters combined with lack of participation by registered voters at Town Meeting. The Board of Selectmen should not ignore articles approved at town meeting but neither should they stack them in such a lightly documented somewhat stacked agenda. All of the town business is related just like no matter the neighborhood, we are all abutters.The BoS should never ignore articles or directives approved in Town Meeting. Town Meeting is one of the few times that a group of citizens can challenge a BoS policy or decision. The will of Town Meeting is quite clearly determined by a definitive vote of an article or on amendments to articles. Through this process, if Town Meeting wills that the BoS change policy or direction, it is surprising that any BoS member would consider otherwise.
Please compare and contrast your approach to the office of Selectman to the other candidates. What makes your approach different and better?This is a hard one to answer at this point since I am not familiar with the 'approach' of the other candidates. I do believe I have the ability to work well with others and have demonstrated that ability over my years of public service. It is crucial for any member of an elected board to be a team player and understand that one may not always be on the prevailing side of decision made by that board. It is important to then move on and not engage in negative tactics which ultimately undermine the board's effectiveness.My hope is that all the candidates would bring their diverging opinions to the public and debate them in a candid and professional manner. When I was born, the population was less than 1/4 of what it is today. I have watched my home town grow from a farming community to a rural suburb. The heart of Groton are the people who live here. There are many opportunities for people to contribute to the well-being of the town. I want to make Groton is a better place than I found it. My input over the years on the planning board has influenced most of the developments where most of the population lives today. As a planning board member, my name is on all the developments plans that were constructed since 1986. The Charter and By-Laws of the town are not perfect and through debate and change, those laws can be improved. But it is my firm belief that the town is in a better position today than it would have been if those laws were not enacted. It seems to me that status quo rather than new ideas have been presented. I don't believe that doing more of the same again and again will yield a better result in the future. The best companies do not contrast themselves to another company or product. The very best stay positive and show the world what they have to offer. Instead of a comparison, I would prefer to tell you about my approach. Then, it is up to you to decide.

I am a candidate because I want to do the right thing, and see things done properly. While I will listen to public opinion, I will not compromise the right decision just to suit the loudest voices.

I enjoy the process of building a team, discussing the viewpoints, finding consensus, and establishing a guiding coalition to implement the new policy.

I have excellent business acumen, and I apply this experience to many areas of my life. The Board of Selectmen would be no different. Beginning with an open mind, each concern, issue and challenge must be considered from as many perspectives as possible. The process is to ask the right questions, actively listen to people, understand the fundamental concerns, collect the proper data, discover the legal boundaries, address the social concerns, and view the perspectives of the proponents and opponents. There are viable, long-term, comprehensive solutions to any challenge. It's our job to find it. You demand results, and I understand how to get them.

If you appreciate my approach, if you feel that this approach will benefit your Board of Selectmen, cast your vote for Barry Pease.
What, if anything, should be done about increasing revenue from tax-exempt entities, who make voluntary gifts or PILOTs to the town and/or the school district?By definition, PILOTs, or payments in lieu of taxes are voluntary payments made to the town to in some way compensate for town services. There are clearly different types of tax exempt entities in Groton, those that are non-profit organizations such as religious institutions and hospitals, the private schools and then GELD which is operated as an enterprise fund and generates revenue from the sale of power. This is not a new issue and has come up periodically over the years. And in each case a conversation needs to take place with these organizations to explore their contributions to our town. That discussion needs to be based on an assessment of relevant comparables which do exist, such as in the case of GELD, the PILOT payments made by other municipal light departments to their host communities. And of course the same comparable analysis needs to be applied to the other tax exempt institutions. It is worth noting that some of these institutions make payments above and beyond the PILOT and have been responsive to specific needs of the town when they arise. We have been having these discussions and will continue to do so, but it is important to recognize that at the end of the day any PILOT payment is entirely voluntary. It is also true that there is no pot of gold to be found in PILOT receipts that will solve whatever fiscal challenges face the town. There are many intangible ways that these tax exempt instituions benefit Groton and we are a better community due to their presence. We, as a board need to work cooperatively with those entities who are already making voluntary gifts. There are other non monetary contributions some entities make, such as the use of some of their facilities. We have to balance what their PILOT is and compare that with what other amenities they may make available to the town. One factor is to measure what their total valuation is and figure a percentage of that as a possible payment. We would look to other towns and compare their valuations with other municipal entities who pay PILOTS. I am aware of several gifts etc. however I have not researched the issue in depth particularly because gifts are great and not a problem requiring an emergency solution. I'd prefer to gather more information and knowledge after the election if only to become more aware of another issue worthy of developing for the benefit of Groton. I would refer people to a letter I have written on this subject.
What else would you tell Groton voters?I ask for the support of the voters at Town Election on May 20th. My years of experience in town government are a valuable asset to the Board of Selectmen as it faces the challenges we will be facing over the next year. I feel I have demonstrated an ability to work well with others and have the long range vision needed to fully assess the important issues facing our town. I also take pride in the overall improvement and efficiencies in the provision of services to townspeople as well as their ability to access information about their town government.Please get out and vote on May 20th. NEW LOCATION for Precinct 2 and 3 who will be voting at the Country Club (Pool and Golf Center) on route 119 opposite the Groton Post Office. I ask for your vote. Groton is an attractive place to live because of how we have managed the growth thus far, and I am determined to be on the BOS to help shape the course of our growth into the future.I believe in public service and in offering my considerable skill, insight, business and building experience, not to mention my energy as a candidate for Groton Selectman 2014, it is my hope to inspire yet other qualified citizens to do the same. I fearlessly believe in facing and solving problems rather than continuing to tolerate them. I would like to help townspeople understand Groton's predicament and further that ignoring a rough reality inevitably compounds errors which will always make a bad situation worse, which is never the direction I would choose or recommend when I roll up my sleeves and get to work.People tell me that the Board of Selectmen will benefit from a different perspective. The Board of Selectmen is a team of 5. That team will be stronger with greater diversity of backgrounds and motivation.

There are a great number of Groton’s residents who moved here within the last 15 years, and we all really love this town. Whether it’s long-time residents, younger people beginning families, or older people starting the next phase of their life here, we need to keep everyone in mind as we look towards the future.

I would like to thank everyone for giving me the opportunity to be part of this vibrant community, and I look forward to receiving your vote on May 20th.

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