The Select Board and Planning Board gathered tonight to interview five of six candidates for the open Planning Board seat created by former member Eric Ryder’s resignation.
Applicants for the position were Jason Christian, Jonathan Ciampa, George Ferdinand, Mike Morawski, Robert O’Brien and Matthew Richard. O’Brien pulled his name from the running over the weekend.
Select Board chair Todd Johnson explained that the combined boards would select a resident to serve until the next town election, in April 2023, when someone will be elected to fill the remainder of the five-year term, which runs through 2025. Going forward, Planning Board elections are for three-year terms.
“The rightful deciders are the voters,” Johnson said, pointing out that residents may or may not elect the person selected tonight, should he choose to run.
“Right out of the gate, and I believe I speak for everybody at this table, I want to thank you,” said Johnson. “Putting yourself out to serve the community is not an easy thing at times. It is a sacrifice.”
Planning Board chair Stephen Johnson stressed the need for the person selected to be able to make all meetings, to have the best interest of the entire town at heart and to let criticism roll off.
“Our board can be somewhat polarizing, in terms of the reactions we get,” he said. “Make sure you have tough enough skin.”
Each applicant had five minutes to address the boards, and members were able to ask questions.
Christian has served for three years on the finance committee and spent 20 years in the military. He would need to resign from the Finance Committee should he be appointed to the Planning Board, according to Todd Johnson.
In response to a question on whether he will run in April, Christian said he was unsure.
“I honestly don’t know,” said Christian. “I haven’t decided yet, that’s a very difficult question. Until you sit in that seat, you don’t know.”
Ciampa has been a resident since 1999. He first got involved by volunteering with the Tewksbury 9/11 Committee and has relevant professional experience. He holds a BS in Architecture from Northeastern and currently works as a project manager, senior estimator and safety officer at electrical construction and engineering firm John A. Penney Co.
“I’ve seen good construction, I’ve seen bad construction,” he said. “I’ve seen times when clearly somebody is shoehorning their way into a neighborhood or an area or a lot.”
Select Board member Jayne Wellman asked Ciampa about his work on the ESBC change order subcommittee, which has been instrumental in keeping the new Center Elementary School project on budget.
“You don’t want to give the store away,” said Ciampa. “Every dime comes from the taxpayers of Tewksbury.”
He said if chosen, he will “absolutely” put his name on the ballot to fulfill Ryder’s term and would hope to be an advocate for all residents.
Ferdinand said he was motivated to seek the position after retiring from a 37-year career in the automobile industry. Ferdinand has run for various positions in town, including Planning Board, and said he’s never waged a negative campaign. One goal would be to implement the town’s master plan and seek revenue opportunities.
“I was in favor of all the signage off the highways,” he said, along with supporting a range of marijuana uses in town.
Murawski is a 13-year resident and says he’s looking to become more involved in town activities. He has a degree in plastics engineering and currently works as a program manager in the pharmaceutical industry.
“I’ve managed budgets up to $10 million,” Murawski said, and adds that he has won awards for getting projects off the ground on time and completed on budget. He has always had an interest in real estate and would lean toward running in 2023 should he find the role a good fit.
Setting expectations for the time commitment, Planning Board member Vinny Fratalia said the Board generally gets its packets on Friday afternoons, and individual members often spend weekends doing site visits and reviewing plans in advance of Monday evening meetings.
The final applicant to be interviewed, Richard, just purchased a home in Tewksbury with his fiancee and plans to be a long-term resident. He currently works in landscape design, doing a lot of residential construction.
“Landscaping is becoming a very important final feature in plans,” said Planning Board vice-chair Bob Fowler, pointing out that Richard has relevant professional experience.
“Have you familiarized yourself with the areas and the locations in town?” asked Select Board Mark Kratman. Richard cited sidewalks as a feature that drew he and his fiancee to town.
Johnson and Kratman also encouraged applicants not selected to run in April, given that there will likely be two open seats. Fowler has said he will not run again in 2023, after 40 years on the board.
After speaking with all candidates, the two boards voted unanimously to appoint Ciampa. Most were familiar with Ciampa given that he served on the Town Center Master Plan Committee and currently sits on the Elementary School Building Committee.
“The person you’re replacing, Mr. Ryder, brought a significant amount of experience,” said Stephen Johnson. “I appreciate you putting your name forward, bringing what you bring to the process.”
More Open Seats Filled
After a recess and an exit by the Planning Board, the Select Board filled open seats on the Tewksbury North & Trahan School Reuse Committee, Mass. Cultural Council, Open Space & Recreation Plan Committee and Historic Commission.
The North & Trahan School Reuse Committee, with three openings, had the most applicants, at five: Jason Christian, George Ferdinand, Laura Caplan, John Deputat and Jeff Elwell.
Christian and Ferdinand also applied for the Planning Board seat.
After speaking with all candidates, Select Board vice-chair James Mackey nominated Elwell for the Trahan seat, seconded by Wellman. Elwell was confirmed unanimously.
Elwell is a lifelong resident whose mother teaches in the Tewksbury Public Schools.
“I’m just very passionate about the community,” he said. He is currently director of innovation and technology at specialty contractor EM Duggan, which was named the 2021 MCAA Innovator of the Year. He has significant experience with land use and construction technology.
Kratman nominated Deputat for the first general resident seat, seconded by Mackey. He was confirmed unanimously. Kratman next nominated Ferdinand for a general seat, also seconded by Mackey. He was confirmed four to one, with Wellman voting nay.
Deputat is currently the chair of the Tewksbury Housing Authority and Community Preservation Committee, while Ferdinand is employed as a janitor at Winchester Hospital.
The Open Space & Recreation Plan Committee, with three openings, had four applicants: Raymond Bowden, JoAnn Brace, Susan Young and Joe Zanette. Zanette did not attend the meeting.
After speaking with all candidates, the Select Board voted unanimously to appoint Bowden, Brace and Young.
Bowden helped with the Bligh St. boardwalk project and has constructed benches and kiosks for the town, as well as helping out with maintenance as a trail steward. He previously served three years on the Finance Committee.
Young says she has attended Open Space meetings for some time and found that the pollinator garden project resonated, based on her years on the Tewksbury Garden Club, which beautifies the Library, Town Hall and other sites in town.
“Being able to educate the community about the beauty of nature is very important,” said Young.
Brace enjoyed the hikes arranged by the Committee this summer. Looking for a way to get involved and give back and after participating, she was inspired to apply.
As the sole applicants, Niharika Karia and Karen Joyce Favreau were named to the Mass. Cultural Council and Historic Commission, respectively. Favreau also applied and was appointed to the Historic Study Committee and is on the Tewksbury Historic Society.
“We’re fortunate and blessed that we have more people interested in some of these positions than we have openings,” said Johnson. “We’re a richer community for that.”
He encouraged those not selected to “stay plugged in” because new openings arise continually, and reminded residents that all board and committees meetings are open to the public, and members welcome resident participation.
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