Walter_Wilk

Walter Wilk, candidate, Mansfield Select Board 2021.

On May 11, I’m asking for your vote for Mansfield Select Board. If elected, I’ll bring leadership on issues you’ve said matter most — taxes, implementing an economic development strategy, providing the quality of life residents deserve — while improving the Board’s transparency and accountability. I want the Board return to its original purpose — establishing a vision for Mansfield and developing long-term strategy to achieve it.

As a Finance Committee member, I’ve led a cooperative approach to putting our financial house in order, taking a “one town-one budget” approach and eliminating fighting between town and school. I’ll bring that same leadership and cooperation to the Select Board, helping them pivot from a reactive body to one proactive on financial and economic development matters, achieving goals, not just setting them.

Over the past two years, the Board failed to capitalize on significant revenue opportunities that could have lowered taxes and increased Mansfield’s financial flexibility. Town leaders were unprepared to sell the Main Street Fire Station when abandoned in 2019, resulting in potential losses of $200,000 and thousands more in delayed tax revenue. Similarly, delays in selling tax-title properties identified three years ago cost Mansfield thousands. We face a similar issue with the West Street Police Station. While some suggest delays are a result of unexpected issues, I say the Board lacked planning and preparation. This failure could result in increased rehabilitation costs and delays in gaining use of the space.

Chairing the Downtown Committee, I worked with local business on parking, zoning laws and aesthetics to improve the area. Some board members think building a park and adding a fall festival is enough to claim victory. But the Board must do more. Drive downtown and you’ll see “for rent” signs at the new apartments; a large empty parking lot and underutilized store fronts. If elected, we will develop a plan, with specific timetables, to change restrictive zoning laws; fully utilize lots and implement (not just talk about) the right type of growth to make downtown more vibrant.

I want to return accountability and transparency to your Board. It’s unacceptable to say things are fine, skipping out on hard debates or asking questions under the guise of “consensus”. I’ve made sure FinCom addresses tough issues in an open and transparent manner. We didn’t rubber stamp requests such as $14 million for well-water improvements; we held hours of discussion to make sure financial implications were understood and we’d minimize short- and long-term resident impact. If elected, I’ll never punt my duties to another committee because I fear the consequences of having an opinion.

I’ll never hide critical debates from the public. For example, the Select Board supported multiple 20% raises for the Town Manager without much open discussion or completing his review. I won’t argue here the validity of the raises, but promise, if elected, there’d be greater transparency and public involvement on issues like this.

Some suggest we’re doing just fine on these issues. They may point out Amazon is coming (they found us, we didn’t find them); we have a new park (yet we haven’t invested in the heavier used school playgrounds) and there is a spirit of collaboration on the Select Board (because some would rather rubber stamp proposals than ask questions).

I’ll confront tough issues, be more proactive on financial matters and seek to lead, rather than go along to get along. I’ll be upfront with residents on what we need to address and how I propose working with others to meet those needs. I’ll remember as a Select Board member, I serve you and not some special interests.

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