WINCHESTER - Michelle Prior, a Winchester resident of 18 years, is running for Select Board on March 18. She is committed to seeing Winchester continue to be a community where excellent schools educate children and prepare them for life beyond high school. Prior also wants to see older residents stay in their homes, remain neighbors, and support new residents moving into town.
She noted to do that Winchester needs to maintain a mix of housing units in town, and at the same time be attentive to the rate of growth of residential property taxes.
Prior received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Saint Anselm College and her Master’s Degree in Business Administration from Clark University. Her educational experience, multi-cultural experience from having served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Philippines, professional experience gained over 30+ years consulting to state and local governments, specifically health and human services agencies, and active listening, moderating and facilitation skills have prepared her to be an optimal Select Board member.
In addition to her work experience, she volunteered in various capacities and built effective working relationships with many Winchester town employees, boards, volunteers, and Town Meeting members.
What makes her a good candidate for the Select Board is her professional experience working with government agencies to manage organizational change, implement policies and respond to state and federal mandates, grow their leadership capacity, and improve business processes that underlie their day-to-day work.
In addition to her professional experience, she gained firsthand knowledge of how the town operates and built effective working relationships with staff and volunteers all over the town through a dozen years of continuous volunteer service to the town.
She has been a Town Meeting member since 2011 representing precinct 4, most recently being re-elected to Town Meeting in 2022. There, she asks questions of article proponents and town leaders, seeking clarity on articles and motions. In addition, she occasionally does research and makes presentations to Town Meeting that are fact-based, moderate, and intended to provide additional food for thought for the meeting. She further stated that she will take that same approach to matters that come before the Select Board.
What sets her apart from her opponent is that she believes she is the most qualified candidate based on her current knowledge of how the town operates and her active role in Town Meeting. She has also served on other town committees at the request of, or after having been appointed by, the Select Board. She said that she knows the right people to invite into a room to discuss issues and opportunities.
She is aware that both she and her opponent have served on the Finance Committee; however, she served as the vice chair and the chair of FinCom, roles which involve a greater time commitment and more responsibility than that of a standing committee member.
If she is elected, the town can expect her to continue to be an independent thinker who cares about the town and respects other people's opinions. She is not afraid to dive into the details to improve her understanding of a topic to make a more informed decision. She will work collaboratively with her fellow Select Board members, with town and school leadership, and with other boards and committees. She will seek to serve the needs of all Winchester's residents.
Her main priorities will be to support the good government in town and quality education and municipal services for residents. She will strive for reasonable growth in the annual budgets and voters should expect her to be both fiscally realistic and practical. She mentioned that Winchester has seen the departure of some long-standing town employees such as a fire chief, DPW director, and town planner over the past six months, and the installation of a new town manager.
She is committed to working with the town manager and the rest of the board to assist with onboarding, professional development, and mentorship of new leaders as needed.
The motivating issues for Prior to run are that she wants to see the town maintain a mix of housing units available to residents of all ages and income levels. She wants it to remain affordable to renters, owners, new arrivals to town, and longtime residents.
She further commented that "we must be attentive to the rate of growth of residential property taxes."
She stated that Winchester can invest in infrastructure, fund capital projects, expand services and programs, and retainer employees through thoughtful planning and a carefully managed financial process.
As far as the Winchester community, Prior stated that it is a wonderful community full of people from a variety of backgrounds and with a diverse set of interests and talents. She found through her volunteer work in town, and in getting to know her neighbors over the years, that the profession of any one person does not define their entire being nor their worldview. She stated that Winchester has CFOs who consult on backyard gardening, retired finance professionals who moonlight as amateur electricians, a former town moderator who likes to quote poetry, adults who volunteer to direct or build sets for our spring musicals, and dozens of people who coach children at all levels of youth sports.
She commented that everyone benefits from the time and talent that neighbors give back to the town as volunteers and mentors.
The Winchester community can learn more about Michelle Prior on her website ElectMichellePrior.com
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