Candidate Questions: Board of Selectmen Candidate Shari Ellis
Why are you seeking to be elected or re-elected to this position?
Burlington needs a strong, knowledgeable, open minded, and experienced member who will add a diverse perspective to the existing Board, and represent the Town that Burlington is today. I am more than ready to take on this role and am confident that I will make a significant contribution as a member of the Board of Selectmen.
In that regard, I have immersed myself in town governance in varying capacities over the past 25 years. I have been a leader in the areas of planning and responsible development, a champion of fiscal responsibility, and an advocate for housing and resource accessibility. At this critical juncture, Burlington needs leadership that both understands the complex issues our community currently faces, as well as the importance of planning responsibly for the future.
Now is the time to elect someone who has a proven track record and broad understanding of both the issues and the impact they have on our community, and who can hit the ground running on day one. I am that person.
What do you hope to accomplish in the next three years?
While the immediate need will be to focus on the recovery from the impacts of COVID, in my view, there are the following four specific areas that also require attention.
- Economic Health
- Thoughtfully and creatively address how to manage the current revenue decline; with tax increases being the option of last resort.
- Promote a diverse commercial base, while managing the fluctuations of the economy, through creative use of zoning, planning and economic development resources.
- Environment / Open Space
- Using the existing Burlington Master Plan as a framework, support its recommendations for a healthier, walkable/bikeable Burlington by taking advantage of the abundant open spaces and parks to encourage connectivity. Explore opportunities to fund those efforts outside of taxpayer dollars.
- Seek additional opportunities for public/private partnerships to enhance our current open spaces. While several of these areas have protected status, others would benefit from improved stewardship and protections.
- Sponsor the development of a Comprehensive Communications Plan that proactively provides opportunities for transparency in government. Encourage public engagement through various means, such as community forums, surveys, traditional and social media.
- Expand opportunities to inform residents and business partners about the many resources, events and special places that Burlington has to offer.
- Community Character
- Support Burlington’s economic development and seek alternative funding sources for local initiatives, while proactively managing redevelopment of our community connections. One approach could be to evaluate housing opportunities and modes of transportation between our commercial and residential areas, which would ultimately benefit both businesses and residents.
- Pursue cost effective opportunities and partnerships to invest and improve access to our many recreational areas, parks, playgrounds and community spaces. Assure they are safe, well maintained, and a source of pride to the community.
What do you think are the most pressing issues for the board over the next year?
Without a doubt, the recovery from the impact of COVID on both our business and residential communities must be the number one priority. Having heard from many in our community, other issues that should be at the forefront of our Town’s agenda include:
- Budget – Explore alternatives to tax increases, while managing town services. Balance the Town’s short-term budgetary needs with the longer-term financial health.
- MWRA – As the Town transitions our water source to the MWRA (Massachusetts Water Resource Authority), the Town must continue to address infrastructure needs, while being mindful of the requirement to educate the community on resource conservation.
- Commercial Diversity – Advance economic development initiatives to attract a diverse business community, in order to mitigate a fluctuating economy.
- Local Transportation –Understand our community’s needs for transportation and related infrastructure, which could ultimately lead to the development of a Transportation Strategy and Implementation Plan.
- Housing –Assess the current state of Senior and Veteran housing, with a goal of creating options to address imminent needs.
What makes you a strong candidate for the board?
My proven leadership in Town governance, my professional background, and my dedication to learning, have prepared me to be a strong and effective member of the Board.
I have been an active Town Meeting member for 25 years, and one that does not shy away from tough issues. Resulting actions from my focus on some specific issues include:
- Initiated the 2018 School Department Fiscal Review, with the result of a total revision and new formalized process for school financial oversight,
- Instrumental in the establishment of the Town’s Zoning Bylaw Review Committee, to address a recognized regulatory gap.
- Co-sponsored the re-establishment the Town of Burlington Scholarship Fund• Championed the development of the Burlington Sidewalk Program
It is with my focus on the responsible development of our community, that I bring a particular skill set and knowledge to the Board. As Chair of the Zoning Bylaw Review Committee and a former Land Use Committee member, I have acquired a depth of knowledge regarding our Town Bylaws. I have extensive experience working with our residents, business leaders, fellow Town Meeting Members and numerous Town departments, to find solutions that are in the town’s best interests. As an active participant at many municipal meetings, I am well versed in the many facets of Burlington’s government.
Professionally, my background is in human services which has included working at Minuteman Senior Services, the LABBB Collaborative and volunteering for Meals-on-Wheels. These experiences afforded me the opportunity to interact directly with seniors, Veterans and those living with disabilities. These interactions have given me a first-hand understanding of challenges that many in our town face, such as access to resources, communication, transportation, and housing.
In addition to my civic and professional activities, I have spent considerable time listening to community leaders and different constituency groups to hear their perspectives and concerns. In January, I participated in the Massachusetts Municipal Association’s Annual Conference, that included workshops on such topics as: Economic and Fiscal Outlook 2022, Helping Local Businesses, Municipalities Achieving Net-Zero, Setting and Achieving Cyber-Security Goals, and Cultivating Equity in Communities. I look forward to bringing the valuable information I learned to the Board.
Ultimately, I am proud of my accomplishments as a representative of my precinct, my leadership on Town issues, as well as my track record of service to our community. I believe in being thorough, respectful and inclusive in my approach, and I believe that both words and actions matter. I represent a different and important perspective, and I am more than prepared on day one to make an immediate and significant contribution to the Board of Selectmen.
What would you say to voters to encourage them to vote for you?
Unprecedented times call for fresh thinking so that we can approach the challenges we face with creativity. I have a deep understanding of our Town’s governance yet recognize that a new and diverse perspective is critical to guiding our community forward.
To that end, I am uniquely qualified to represent the Burlington of today and am well prepared for this role. I have the knowledge, experience, energy and passion necessary to make an immediate and valuable contribution to both the Board of Selectmen and to the Town of Burlington.