MONTAGUE – A four-candidate Board of Health race highlights an otherwise uncontested ballot for Tuesday’s town election.
The four candidates looking to serve on the Board of Health are competing for a three-year seat currently held by Chair Al Cummings, who decided not to seek re-election. Other uncontested positions are expected to be filled primarily by incumbents.
Polling will be held from 7 am to 7 pm on Tuesday. Locations vary by precinct, with Precinct 1 polling at the Montague Center Fire Station; Precincts 3, 4 and 6 polling at the Franklin County Technical School gymnasium; and Precinct 5 polling at the Gill-Montague Senior Center.
Kathleen Burek, who has been the town’s animal inspector for around a decade, has lived in Montague Center for “at least 50 years.” Within the past couple, she said she feels the Board of Health has been underappreciated.
“I think the Board of Health has done a very good job,” she said. “I think they need to be recognized for the effort they put in each and every day.”
She has held various other positions in town government, citing past service as a Town Meeting member, library trustee and member of the Police Advisory Committee. Burek also has experience providing drug and alcohol education at the high school level.
Overall, she said, she has a keen ability to “read people” and a savvy for “community-based” undertakings.
“I am a very fair person and I respect all cultures and people,” Burek continued. “I enjoy people.”
Turners Falls resident Catherine Dodds, a 37-year-old who moved to Montague from New York City just three years ago, said that, if elected, she looks forward to being a “breath of fresh air” for a Board of Health that has shown a “lack of proactivity,” saying “there was really nothing coming out of Montague” regarding COVID-19 response.
“I don’t feel like Montague did as well as Greenfield did,” Dodds said. “I always felt like it was following (Greenfield’s) lead.”
Although this is Dodds’ first foray into local politics, she is a medical doctor who currently serves as a general internist in adult primary care. In addition to emphasizing the importance of COVID-19 proactivity, she said she would look to more effectively use modern technology to benefit the board’s work.
“I feel like there’s a big disconnect between the older generation… and the next generation who wants to get involved and is more technologically aware,” she said.
Former home care agent and long-term care facility nursing assistant Maureen McNamara said the issue of inadequate dog waste disposal is what inspired her to run for a Board of Health seat.
“It needs enforcing,” she said of Montague’s “pooper-scooper” regulations. “It’s absolutely horrible.”
The 13-year Turners Falls resident described the current Board of Health as “weak,” having “many issues.”
“I think the change brought to the Board of Health would be a good thing,” McNamara said.
Should she be elected, McNamara would look to increase the number of trash barrels available around town. She would promote “preferably more knowledge beside signs on business doors” to make public announcements, citing consistent flyer distribution as a possible way to improve communication with residents. This, she said, would also benefit public awareness of current pandemic conditions.
“I would like a stronger education to be available to all of what the variant is,” McNamara said of changing the nature of COVID-19.
Rachel Stoler’s positions include community health program manager for the Franklin Regional Council of Governments (FRCOG), as well as co-coordinator of the Communities That Care Coalition and Franklin County’s Mass in Motion coordinator, focusing on health equity. Stoler also noted having done community health work with the Peace Corps in Mali. She said adding the Board of Health membership to this list is something she has wanted to do for years as a service to her community.
“Health is a community project,” the 19-year Turners Falls resident said. “It goes beyond rules and regulations and enforcement. It’s sort of about building community. ”
Major tasks Stoler hopes to undertake if elected include keeping better records of coronavirus-related hospitalizations and providing better access to COVID-19 testing and vaccination. She emphasized, though, that she would also focus on promoting fundamental contributions to a healthy lifestyle, such as farmers’ markets and walking spaces.
“So much about a healthy community is making sure residents have access to their basic needs,” she said.
The following residents are running unopposed:
■ Selectboard, three-year term – Christopher M. Boutwell Sr., incumbent.
■ Moderator, three-year term – Raymond A. Godin.
■ Town clerk, three-year term – Debra A. Bourbeau, incumbent.
■ Treasurer / tax collector, three-year term – Eileen M. Seymour, incumbent.
■ Assessor, three-year term – Ann L. Fisk, incumbent.
■ Tree warden, three-year term – Mark Anthony Stevens, incumbent.
■ Library trustees, three-year terms – Margot G. Malachowski, incumbent; Nancy L. Crowell, incumbent; and William C. Quale.
■ Soldiers Memorial Committee, three-year term – John T. Murphy, incumbent.
■ Gill-Montague Regional School District School Committee, Gill representative, three-year term – Jane A. Oakes, incumbent.
■ Gill-Montague School Committee, Montague representative, three-year term – Heather L. Katsoulis, incumbent.
■ Gill-Montague School Committee, Montague representative, one-year term – John Frederick Irminger. Irminger was appointed to the committee earlier this year.
Seats that have no candidates running for election include a three-year term on the Parks and Recreation Commission and a two-year term as a Montague representative on the Gill-Montague School Committee.
Reach Julian Mendoza at 413-772-0261, ext. 261 or email@example.com.