As select board chairman departs, Webster residents face off to fill open seat

  • A sign encourages voters to go to the Webster town hall.

Monitor staff
Published: 3/9/2018 5:33:17 PM

As chairman Bruce Johnson prepares to step down after seven years on the Webster select board, residents will have to make a choice about who will take his seat on the board.

On one end, there’s Adam Pearson, the 38-year-old Hopkinton Highway Department employee who has lived in Webster all his life.

“I’m not a politician,” Pearson wrote in a memo sent out to Webster residents in February. “I’m a man willing to roll up my sleeves and solve problems for our town.”

Then, there’s Chris Schadler, a retired wildlife educator relatively new to Webster. Schadler moved to the town from Strafford five years ago, but says she intends to stay for a while, and bring her knowledge of working in other small town governments to Webster.

“One of my greatest strengths may be that I’m not from Webster,” Schadler said. “Because I have lived in many small towns and participated in town government in those small towns, I bring a pretty diverse perspective.”

Schadler is currently chairwoman of the Webster conservation commission. She also chaired the conservation commission in Kensington.

In many ways, the candidates have similar goals in mind: Both are concerned about Webster’s ailing infrastructure: the roads, Clothespin Bridge and Knights Meadow Brook culvert projects – both red-listed by the state – and replacing and expanding the town’s salt shed.

They both think more collaboration should occur between the select board and those creating the Capital Improvement Program. Webster has a compartively low tax rate – $22.97 per thousand – but that could be threatened in coming years with all of the town’s pending improvement projects.

“(The tax rate) is artificially low, because we’ve kicked the can down the road a long time,” Pearson wrote in his memo.

Pearson said he wants to create a budget advisory committee to review the town’s spending. Schadler wants to create more accountability by studying other towns of similar size for efficiencies.

“There are processes that towns of our size use successfully that we can borrow as templates to make the process of accountability doable,” she said.

Schadler said a challenge in the future will be finding ways to encourage economic development, while conserving Webster’s rural charm.

One suggestion she had for development was turning the old auto property on Deer Meadow Road into a business that would be relatively unobtrusive, like IT offices.

“We have a good property that could be sustainably developed into something that would be good for the town, and be easy on the neighborhood,” she said.

With many similar priorities in mind, what makes the candidates different may be the experience and level of commitment they bring to the position.

Schadler said she feels being retired is an important asset for a select board member.

“It’s a difficult position,” she said. “You really have to be able to commit 100 percent.”

Voting will take place on Tuesday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. in town hall.

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