WILMINGTON — On Thursday, August 19th, Rob Peterson hosted a Selectmen forum for the upcoming Special Election. The forum was slated to feature candidates Mark Nelson and Judy O’Connell.
Mark Nelson was unable to make it, so the event shifted to a conversation between Judy O’Connell and Peterson, with the intent of getting to know Candidate O’Connell better.
The Wilmington Apple and WCTV gathered questions submitted from residents to ask candidates. The special lasted just over 30 minutes and can be watched at any point at WCTV.org.
As described in her introduction to Peterson and the voters, Judy O’Connell is 48 years old, and a member of the Class of 1991 at Wilmington High School. She pursued higher education at Merrimack College as a two time athlete.
Her career has consisted of experiences working for Hewlett Packard for 11 years, Methuen Public Schools for five years, and spending the past 14 years owning a real estate business in Wilmington.
O’Connell has previously served on several boards and committees in Wilmington, such as the School Board and the Board of Selectmen.
Another question asked centered around Jeff Hall, the current Town Manager, and whether or not O’Connell would support a renewal of his three year contract. As part of the hiring team for Jeff, she believed the Board of Selectmen had the candidate for the job. O’Connell said he had a great track record, knew the town, and worked well with local businesses, the budget, residents and committees.
She finished by saying that Hall is a tireless worker, and while she doesn’t agree with everything he’s done, she knows he’s committed to the town and deserves the spot he’s earned.
When asked if she would push forward a new Senior Center or a new Town Hall Building, O’Connell emphasized that it was “critically important to note that projects should not be pitted against each other.” She stated that both are crucial to the town and that residents voted to move ahead with each. She also noted that if Wilmington waits on these projects, they will continue to increase in cost. A Priority Plan would be needed, but O’Connell believes both can be possible, though committees need to be good communicators to make this work.
Another question revolved around the possible instatement of an Economic Development Director. O’Connell discussed how well of a job the Local Chamber of Commerce did a good job encouraging residents to go local and giving aid to local businesses. She understood that there are storefronts that need to be filled, and noted that vacant buildings still pay rent.
She suggested that Wilmington should look at other communities to see what does well, and maybe install a grant writer.
O’Connell was asked about why she wanted the position, and what were three things she would do differently.
She said that Wilmington has been home for generations in her family. O'Connell wants to give back to a community that has given so much to her in terms of her childhood, business ownership, and during her time serving on committees.
Politics can be a “dirty word,” to O’Connell. But she wants to get involved and leave Wilmington better than when she found it.
It was further emphasized that she is “running for today, not on past successes.”
In terms of things she would do differently, she would like a state rep to come talk to residents about what we can do, and encourages open dialogue. She then wants to improve virtual communication with residents, such as a text message when the water bill is due. She stated that there is always room for improvement, and new and innovative ways to make things better, though enhancements take time and money.
O’Connell discussed pressing issues for Wilmington, such as school, traffic, & taxes.
Every issue is important, and she noted that residential taxes are going down, and shifting to the commercial side. She talked about the services that some communities pay hundreds of dollars for services Wilmington has been able to provide to improve quality of life on a conservative budget.
Due to the housing shortage in Massachusetts, Wilmington has to be careful to remain to have affordable housing.
In terms of traffic, O’Connell stated that Wilmington can use Town Zoning to continue moving towards progress. She emphasized the need for common sense development, and that traffic doesn’t have a “magic fix,” due to the two train lines and highway exits. She also stated that while Wilmington was looking at intersections and working with the state to make improvements, Wilmington has no jurisdiction on state roads.
O’Connell then emphasized that she votes her conscience and bases it off research, and can make impartial decisions. She reflected that it’s common knowledge that she’s in real estate, enlisting and selling existing homes, but she doesn’t see all land as housing plots. She finished by stating that she’s honored to work with builders she’s worked with.
To wrap up her time with Peterson, Judy O’Connell thanked WCTV and Rob, and loved the opportunity to reconnect to town residents. She described that it’s been an honor to serve philanthropically and on past committees, and urged everyone to vote and check out her facebook page, Vote Judy. In her eyes, Wilmington is in a critical time in town’s history.
Wilmington is a wonderful town and she would like it to continue to be, with the upcoming major capital projects, pursuits in funding education and ensuring Wilmington is a town for all ages.
In a final quote from the station:
“WCTV extends a special thank you to host Rob Peterson and director Adam Dusenberry for the quick and skillful pivot which has allowed us to present this evening’s Candidate Conversation. This is a change from the previously planned Candidates Forum that was to be held tonight.”