Candidate Profile: Burlington Patch

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Candidate Profile: Shari Ellis For Burlington Board of Selectmen

Shari Ellis is one of three candidates running for two seats on the Burlington Board of Selectmen.

Christopher Huffaker, Patch StaffVerified Patch Staff Badge
Posted Fri, Mar 12, 2021 at 2:30 pm ET|Updated Fri, Mar 12, 2021 at 3:25 pm ET

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What are the critical differences between you and the other candidates seeking this post?

While it is evident that all three candidates love our community and have served the town in various capacities, I represent a different and important perspective: civically, professionally and personally.

My 25 years of civic experience have given me a deep understanding of the town’s finances, and bylaws. As a result, I have a broad perspective ranging from budgeting and finance, to land use, planning, and responsible development.

Professionally, I have worked locally in the human service fields for the past 20 years, directly interacting with seniors, Veterans, and individuals living with disabilities. With that experience, I bring with me a first-hand understanding of the challenges that many in our town face.

Burlington’s residential population is 52 percent women, and as such, I represent a demographic which has not had any representation on this Board for over 10 years.

The Board of Selectmen should better reflect the community which they serve.

If you are a challenger, in what way has the current board or officeholder failed the community (or district or constituency)

I believe that on several occasions, this current Board has missed opportunities to better represent our community. Three such examples illustrate that point.

First, I believe the Board needs to facilitate open dialog with residents and encourage civic participation. Welcoming this dialog and understanding all perspectives prior to rendering opinions would improve both the process and result of their decision making. One simple way to improve this would be to modify the Board’s agenda. I feel it would be more respectful to our residents to move Citizen’s Time from the end of the meeting to be the first order of business; thereby eliminating the need for residents to sit through an entire meeting before they’re able to make their views known.

Another example of a missed opportunity includes an apparent lack of communication regarding a new housing proposal currently being deliberated. In this particular proposal, the Board, acting on behalf of the town, concluded that this high-density housing complex would be a benefit to the Town. Their conclusion was made without a public hearing, or without abutters knowledge of the proposal. These actions indicate a clear disregard for those members of our community who will be most affected and is not consistent with past practice of public notice and public hearings. As a member of the Board, I will make transparency and public participation a priority. Burlington residents deserve to have a voice in the decisions that impact their property and their quality of life.

Finally, the role of the Selectmen includes setting the strategic policy and planning for the future of the town. Given the recent overwhelming support by Town Meeting for a Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion serving the Schools, it is notable that a similar discussion on behalf of the entire Town has not made it to the Board’s agenda. That needs to change. There are immediate, yet impactful steps we must take, such as increasing the availability and accessibility of information, to ensure that all Burlington voices are heard.

What accomplishments in your past would you cite as evidence you can handle this job?

My proven leadership in Town governance, my professional background, and my dedication to the community 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 accomplishments on some key issues I have targeted 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.

My focus on the responsible development of our community brings specific knowledge and experience to the Board. As Chair of the Zoning Bylaw Review Committee and former Land Use Committee member, I have a deep understanding of 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.

As I mentioned previously, my professional 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 many members of our community, which has given me a first-hand understanding of the challenges they 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. I look forward to bringing that valuable knowledge to the Board.

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.