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16 Takeaways From the Tewksbury Candidate Forum

Anderson seeks to educate students on the implications of using technology, while Weir would like to boost Town Meeting participation

Last week the Tewksbury Town Crier and the Carnation welcomed Katie Anderson, Kate Bugda Gwilt, Ryan Lloyd and Dustin Weir to the annual Candidates’ Forum, which was moderated by Wilmington Apple editor Robert Hayes and facilitated by Tewksbury Telemedia. Paige Impink acted as timekeeper.

All candidates on the ballot for this Saturday’s election were invited. George Ferdinand declined, while the date conflicted with a family event for Jessica Rauseo. Jonathan Ciampa, Patrick Holland and Nicholas Lizotte did not respond.

Many family and friends along with current elected officials attended to support the candidates. Here are four key takeaways for each. You can watch the entire event at the YouTube link, below, or jump to the time noted next to each candidate’s name to see his or her portion of the program.

NOTE: By law, political programming must be paused on the town YouTube channel 48 hours before an election. The link will be active again after the election.

Ryan Lloyd (2:35) is running for Housing Authority. He served for 12 years in the U.S. Air Force, mostly overseas. During his time in the military, Lloyd earned an associate’s degree in Transpor­ta­tion from the Commu­nity College of the Air Force, and later earned a bachelor’s degree in Poli­tical Science from the Am­erican Military University. Campaign page.

1. The military prepared him for logistical challenges. The Housing Authority manages all state-funded housing stock in Tewksbury, some 183 units across 54 buildings, as well as 160 federal vouchers. With residents constantly moving in and out and frequent repairs needed, logistics can be a challenge. The newest building was constructed in 1993, the oldest in 1967.

“Situationally, I’ve been able to handle things from a massive earthquake in Japan that altered what our plans were for the next six months to being woken up in the middle of a deployment because a shipment that was supposed to go out had a problem with the load team,” said Lloyd. “I’ve never found a task that is too big to handle if I’m with the right people.”

2. He is interested in more responsiveness and transparency. Lloyd said that he’s talked to people in the community who continuously try to reach out to the HA board to get information but don’t hear back.

He wants to change that and is open to having Housing Authority meetings televised.

“I grew up in a low-income household, so I know the challenges firsthand of dealing with figuring out how to pay for certain things, where money’s coming from, how to keep a roof over everyone’s head.”

3. He is interested in working with NMCOG to add new units. Tewksbury has the second longest waitlist for housing in the region, with more than 14,000 people. Lloyd took part in a recent workshop and is focused on the town’s housing production plan.

4. Related to responsiveness is respect. Hayes cited a survey where only 67% of tenants said they were usually or always treated with courtesy and respect when they contacted Tewksbury Housing Authority management, well below both the regional and state averages, and asked how he would change that.

“Respond to them and treat them like a person and not just someone who’s covering rent and just living there because it’s their only option,” said Lloyd. “Treat them with dignity and respect.”

Dustin Weir (15:15) appreciated having a one-year “trial run” as Town Moderator, as he was elected to fill an unexpired term. He has BS in Mechanical Engineering from Northeastern and an MS in Plastics Engineer­ing from UMass Lowell and feels he has the temperament and skills to manage the role. He works as an engineering manager in Leominster and has lived in town with his family since 2016.

1. Weir wants to work to expand the accessibility of Town Meeting. That’s not referring to actual physical access, but to voters feeling comfortable attending and understanding the process.

“I think town meeting can be somewhat intimidating and a little confusing,” he said. “You may see, driving through town center, that that there’s a town meeting, but what does that entail? What are we doing there? What goes on, and how can you participate?”

He’ll prioritize answering those those questions for voters, along with others they may have.

2. Weir questioned the purpose of an Indefinite Postponement motion, in which an article up for discussion isn’t voted up or down but is delayed for an indefinite period, effectively killing it.

“It inverts the whole yes/no thing,” said Weir. “In principle, I feel like if somebody goes through the effort to bring an article to town meeting, that they deserve to have a ruling from the town.”

“Town meeting, it’s not run by politicians, it’s run by all of the individual citizens in the town.”

3. He would appreciate ideas to increase attendance. Given that less than 1% of Tewksbury’s 23,000-plus registered voters typically attend Town Meeting, there is room for improvement.

“If anybody has any ideas to increase participation, I’d love it,” he said. “For me, it’s all about efficiency and clarity.”

4. Weir is not in favor of changing Tewksbury’s Direct Town Meeting form of government.

In fact, he’s very much against the idea.

“In the current climate and with people’s current perception of government, I think going to anything less than a direct participation in, direct access to how the government is run, isn’t the direction that we want to go,” he said. “I’m not sure why anybody would want to consider taking that direct power away from the people.”

In fact, as Town Clerk Denise Graffeo stated in a recent explainer program also hosted by Hayes, the last time a charter change was discussed, Town Meeting voted overwhelmingly to retain the current form of government rather than move to a representative model.

Katlynn “Kate” Bugda Gwilt (26:10) is the only candidate in the forum facing an opponent as Board of Health is the sole contested race on April 1. She and her family moved to Tewksbury in 2020. She earned a Ba­chelors of Science in Bio­logy at Syracuse Univer­sity and a Doctorate in Phar­macology from Northeastern University. She is currently employed as a researcher at Boston Chil­dren’s Hos­pital. Campaign page.

1. If elected, she will focus on improving mental healthcare access and information. Her first priority would be a page on the town website listing what’s available, but she also has ideas for increasing opportunities for residents.

“There’s a significant lack, and a significant waitlist for, mental health care right now,” she said.

To address the problem, she suggests creating partnerships with local training programs for psychologists and with medical schools, where degree candidates need practice hours. Supervised and semi-supervised trainees who are going to be licensed shortly could facilitate peer support groups for people in town who may be struggling.

“I have a nine-month-old daughter, and myself and others were really struggling with postpartum depression — this is a huge problem,” she said. “The most remarkably helpful thing is this kind of support group system. And it only takes a trained facilitator.”

2. She would like to restart Tewksbury’s Wellness Fair. Within that umbrella she foresees a range of educational opportunities. For example, another priority is animal welfare. She can envision a panel of BoH officials and staff available to educate residents on topics such as keeping backyard flocks healthy. There could be activities for children and booths for local businesses.

“There’s a significant lack of, and a significant waitlist for, mental health care right now.”

3. She’s also looking for greater BoH involvement in educational efforts as Tewksbury prepares for recreational marijuana.

“I have a PhD in pharmacology, so I have a very nuanced opinion on recreational marijuana use,” she said. “I have colleagues that specialize in cannabis research. I would be willing to make that connection to provide these resources to the town to educate on some of the long-term consequences of young folks using marijuana, and the long-term medical implications that aren’t widely publicized.”

4. She promises to be a champion of open space. She called out Tewksbury being listed by U.S. News as one of the top places to spend the pandemic lockdown because of our abundance of green space. While not part of the Board of Health’s official purview, she pledged to advocate for the preservation of these spaces.

“Availability of green space goes hand in hand with not only mental health but physical wellbeing,” she said. “Once you cut down a 50-year-old tree, you can’t really get it back.”

Hayes also touched on Bugda Gwilt’s involvement in a grassroots effort to relaunch town-sponsored recreational activities for children, teens and adults. However, she told the Carnation that she does not want to politicize that effort and is de-emphasizing it until after the election.

Kaitlyn “Katie” Anderson (43:20) grew up in Amesbury and gra­duated from Suffolk Uni­versity in 2007. She married a Tewksbury native and moved here in 2010. She earn­ed her Master’s Degree in International Supply Chain and Operations while working in various leadership positions at Raytheon. She has three children in the Tewksbury school system, and she and her husband have volunteered extensively in the schools and in sports programs. Campaign page.

1. She will apply her leadership experience when it comes to the three jobs of the school committee — policy, budget and the hiring and firing of the superintendent.

Hayes asked, given what she knows now, whether Anderson is inclined to renew the superintendent’s contract.

“I met with Superintendent Reagan and assistant superintendent Laurie McDermott and I went through their their initiatives, their goals, their vision for the students,” said Anderson. “I’m a leader and a manager in my job and the way that I approach that with my staff is that I set very clear expectations of goals and what it looks like to be successful and to be not successful. So that’s what I would need to look at when I’m evaluating her performance.”

That said, she is pleased with the district’s current goals and vision.

“I’m excited to see that come to fruition in the next 12 months of her of her tenure,” she said. “And I’m excited to evaluate that when it comes time.”

2. A major concern is the threat inappropriate use of technology poses to the social and emotional wellbeing of students.

Because she has a sixth grader and a seventh grader who have just started using phones, she’s experiencing this firsthand.

“They’re just learning about the implications of things that they say or things that they do, or things that they share,” said Anderson. “I think that learning is key. These kids need to understand what those implications are for other folks, the other kids that maybe they’re saying something about.”

Besides education about how what is said online can affect others, she wants to keep TPS technology policies up-to-date.

“We can’t do a review of technology and processes and policies today and assume that that’s gonna last for the next five years,” she said.

“Our family, as you can tell, values volunteerism. We are excited for our kids to see what we do for the community so that they understand that it’s important to give back.”

3. She also sees her professional experience helping with contract negotiations.

“In my current role at Raytheon, I negotiate very large deals with very large suppliers,” said Anderson. She advocates being forthcoming, open and transparent. While, as Hayes pointed out, that’s tricky in closed-door sessions, some principles apply.

“When you walk into a negotiation, you’re not going to get everything you need, and neither is the other side,” she said. “We need to be open about where that middle ground is and help support both the teachers as well as the town and the town budget, and be mindful of that. But also always have the mindset of what is right for the kids.”

4. She hopes the $54 million plus TPS budget can fund more services for students.

Anderson was scheduled to meet with TPS Business Manager Dave Libby the day after the forum to review the budget but was able to provide some perspective.

“With some of the issues that we’ve seen in education coming out of the pandemic, there’s a lot more services that are needed for students,” she said. “And I think that we need to make sure that those services are well represented in the budget.”

The Carnation thanks Paige Impink of The Town Crier, Robert Hayes of the Wilmington Apple and the residents who submitted questions for the candidates. Please vote this Saturday, April 1.

Lorna is a U.S. Army veteran and 25-year resident of Tewksbury who has written for organizations ranging from the DIA to InformationWeek to a free weekly in New London that sent her to interview the pastry chef at Foxwoods.

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