NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

October 19, 2013

Amesbury District 5 candidates sound off


Newburyport Daily News

---- — As part of The Daily News’ coverage of the upcoming election in Amesbury, we asked the candidates for City Council to fill out questionnaires and provide a synopsis of their platform and reason for running.

Today, the coverage continues with the responses of the candidates for District 5: incumbent Joe McMilleon and his challenger, Erin Butt.

JOE McMILLEON

Candidate’s statement:

Both my wife and I are retired and living on a fixed income. So I understand how difficult it is to pay for quality services that cause our taxes to increase. These are the reasons I seek this office:

First, I firmly believe there are ways that we can have quality schools and other essential services and lower our taxes. However, this will not be easy and it will not be accomplished overnight. Lowering taxes and continuing to provide quality services is complicated — it is not a black and white issue that can simply be solved by saying we will cut spending and lower taxes.

Second, I believe this process will require a sensible and disciplined approach regarding salaries and benefits. We cannot continue to fund what we cannot afford.

Third, because property taxes are the primary source of revenue for all cities and towns and the school budget represents almost 55 percent [26 million dollars] of our overall city budget, the state and federal government need to fully fund their portion of the mandated programs they have placed on all communities. This would save $200,000 to 400,000 in the Amesbury school budget. In addition, the state, rather than continuing to cut local aid to cities and towns needs to increase the aid that they provide.

Fourth, reclaiming, preserving, and enhancing our lakes and waterways as vital assets to our community.

Finally, we need to find other sources of revenue, other than property taxes, like commercial and industrial development. We need to provide incentives for these companies to locate in Amesbury.

Age: 64

Years in Amesbury: 22 years

Family: wife, Lucy McMilleon; son, Jesse Despo, 39; and daughter, Beth Rust, 37

Education: Lesley University, M.S. human resource management; Abilene Christian University, M.A. in religious studies; Fitchburg State College, M.A. in educational guidance counseling; University of Massachusetts, Amherst, B.A. government and sociology; Northeastern University

Current employment: part-time adjunct professor Northern Essex Community College, psychology and sociology; part-time adjunct professor Cambridge College Graduate School of Management

Past employment: principal, Lawrence High School; principal, Haverhill High School; assistant vice-president, Merchants National Bank

Political/public service experience: Amesbury District 5 city councilor, 2008 to present; vice-president of Amesbury City Council, 2009; Amesbury Councilor at-large, 2002 to 2005; president of the Amesbury City Council 2004 and 2005; member of Amesbury Energy Task Force; member of the Lake Attitash Association

Top 3 priorities:

1. I believe in and have worked to provide quality services to our city while providing ways to lower taxes. I will continue to present reasonable, well researched solutions to address these concerns. Promoting commercial and industrial development, cutting excessive salaries, and lobbying the state for increased local aid are some of the ways to accomplish this goal.

2. Continuing to provide quality educational services for our children.

3. Reclaiming, preserving, and enhancing our lakes and waterways as vital assets to our community in terms of property values, recreational areas, secondary water resources.

ERIN BUTT

My husband and I moved to Amesbury more than 10 years ago and decided to make this city our home to raise our daughters. We love Amesbury. It’s a beautiful city, rich in history, with caring residents. The sense of community in our city is unmatched. But the path we’re on is unsustainable. Our property tax rate is in the state’s top 10, yet our schools don’t even rank in the top 100. More and more people simply can’t afford to live in Amesbury.

We need to focus on fiscal responsibility and economic development without negatively impacting our schools, public safety and community services. I have been involved in numerous non-profit and government organizations throughout the years. I will bring sound business and proven decision-making skills to deal with the issues facing Amesbury today.

I am running for city councilor to provide our schools with the support and resources they need to be successful, to ensure we live in a safe community and to bring a new era of inclusive leadership to City Hall. It’s time for a change and I believe I have the experience, fortitude and energy to help drive Amesbury to a healthier path. Other municipalities have found a way to balance reasonable tax rates, provide excellent education and promote business development. We can too. I ask for your support, and your vote, on Nov. 5.

Age: 43

Years in Amesbury: 10 1/2

Family: husband, Chris; daughters, Madison, 17, and Peyton, 10

Education: M.S., leadership, Northeastern University; B.S., economics, Northeastern University

Current employment: director of strategic planning and proposal development and quality management representative at Quantech Services, Inc. in Lexington. Additionally, I am a certified internal auditor. Since joining Quantech in 2002, I have held the positions of proposal manager, acting technical director, and business manager to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Lincoln Laboratory, the Department of Education and the Federal Aviation Administration.

Past employment: Booz Allen Hamilton, McLean, Virginia, senior consultant/associate; Commonwealth of Massachusetts, House of Representatives, Committee on Ways & Means, budget analyst

Political/public service experience: I have been involved in government budgeting, financial management and cost estimating at both the state and federal level for the past 21 years. As a budget analyst for the Mass. House Ways & Means Committee, I was responsible for developing the House budget for several large agencies, including the Department of Mental Health, the State’s Soldiers’ Homes and the Group Insurance Commission, as well as researching the budgetary impacts of proposed legislation. In 1994, I became a consultant primarily supporting the federal government, working with the Air Force, Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Missile Defense Agency, Department of Education, Federal Aviation Administration, and the Department of Labor.

Top 3 priorities:

1. Fiscal responsibility. Stabilize our taxes and spend wisely.

2. Support our schools. Ensure our schools provide the best education possible to our children.

3. Strategic economic development. Increase our business base and encourage strategic economic development that benefits, not burdens, our residents.