EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

October 31, 2013

At-large candidates Q&A


The Eagle-Tribune

---- — Name: Sharon Birchall

Age: 56

Address: 8 McKinley Ave.

Occupation: Business development officer, Metro Credit Union

Education: Lawrence High School, Northern Essex Community College

Personal: Widow, daughter Kelly, sons Charles and Scott, grandson Gianni; Chairperson, Lawrence Municipal Airport; Board member, YMCA; Board member, Greater Lawrence Community Action Council; past president, Exchange Club

Why should people vote for you?

I’m a new voice with fresh ideas and no ties to any current city employee or official. I’ve spent many years in the finance field and feel I have the experience and ability to contribute to our community in a fiscally responsible manner and a positive influence for needed change.

What’s the biggest issue facing the city? Why?

We need a fresh look at how we can creatively reduce expenditures without impacting the quality of life issues that affect our residence. Examples such as exploring outsourcing in appropriate areas and looking at new growth potential and helping that growth be realized will help reduce the current trend.

What specific aspect of city government will you work to improve?

I would like to focus on making government access and communication better for my constituents. Being a voice for concerned citizens is an important issue for me. We all have the need to be heard and feel our concerns and issues are being addressed in a positive and respectful manner.

Which, if any, city services should be privatized? Why or why not?

Consolidation and privatization in certain areas of government make sense. Legal services and IT are two departments that are good examples that could work if implemented appropriately. Consolidating city and school IT Departments could also be an area of substantial savings.

How would you rate the current council’s performance? How would you improve it?

Being an elected official is always a difficult position. I feel this council has done a respectable job and has made every effort to vote their conscience for the betterment of Methuen.

 

Joyce (Silva) Campagnone*

Age: 67

Address: 2 Currier Ave.

Occupation: Records coordinator

Education: Graduated high school; attended Salem State College and Northern Essex Community College

Personal: Married to Stephen C. Campagnone Sr. Three married children and five grandchildren

Why should people vote for you?

I would ask people to vote for me so I can continue to represent them with honesty and sincerity. Listening to people’s concerns is important. Getting results is what they would want. Decisions should be made with everyone’s best interest in mind. Communication between council, mayor and residents is essential.

What’s the biggest issue facing the city? Why?

Keeping our taxes down. Being a blue-collar community, any increase would not be easy on the residents. Visibility of police in the neighborhoods is very important for the residents to feel safe, both on the street and in their homes. We want our businesses to also feel protected against crime.

What specific aspect of city government will you work to improve?

The IT department has been the focus point recently. I would like to see comparison between our own employees with the right equipment or bringing in a private firm. What would be the cost savings? I think that is very important, performance being very important.

Which, if any, city services should be privatized? Why or why not?

Before making a decision, a study of cost savings, effectiveness, should be proven in black and white. Maybe doing it on a trial basis for a short time to see the outcome. We shouldn’t just jump into it.

How would you rate the current council’s performance? How would you improve it?

We have made some difficult decisions. Implementing the food tax has proven to be very beneficial to help generate money. Also, supporting the high school renovations. The council took that vote to support the financial plan and the renovation plan. I believe having a building committee is a positive aspect.

 

Name: Daniel Grayton

Age: 23

Address: 31 Varnum Ave.

Occupation: Northeast regional field director, Coalition for Marriage and Family

Education: B.A. from Bryan College

Personal: Single

Why should people vote for you?

I will be an honest and unbiased representative of the taxpayers and bring a new and fresh perspective to the council. I want to serve the people of Methuen and have been working hard knocking doors and listening to try and better understand the needs of all Methuen neighborhoods.

What’s the biggest issue facing the city? Why?

The rising tax rates are the biggest issue facing Methuen. As councilor, I will work to maintain a competitive tax rate by taking advantage of savings opportunities in the budget and spending taxpayers’ money more efficiently. We must ensure Methuen remains an attractive place to live and do business.

What specific aspect of city government will you work to improve?

Communication. I would make it a priority to improve communication both between the mayor and City Council, and between the City Council and the voters. Open and respectful dialog is important in order for local government to understand and respond to the needs of the city and taxpayers.

Which, if any, city services should be privatized? Why or why not?

If elected, one of my first priorities would be to privatize the IT department. Privatizing IT will provide a better service to City Hall at a better price to the taxpayers. Privatizing does not work in every situation and must be looked at on a case-by-case basis.

How would you rate the current council’s performance? How would you improve it?

The failure to appoint a new solicitor and the lack of transparency surrounding the firing of the health director are examples of a council that needs fresh perspectives. Councilors must work in the best interests of the taxpayers and have open and honest discussions regarding all decisions.

 

Name: James P. Jajuga

Age: 66

Address: 146 Forest St.

Occupation: Small business owner, Jajuga Associates

Education: B.S., Northeastern University

Personal: Wife: Paula; two sons: Jim and Matt; granddaughters: Ashley and Kaitlyn

Why should people vote for you?

I have the knowledge of the issues and the experience inside and outside of government to bring about positive change. I am a veteran of the Marine Corps, a retired state police lieutenant, former state senator, former secretary of public safety and past president of a chamber of commerce.

What’s the biggest issue facing the city? Why?

The most concerning issue for me is the lack of a strategic long-term plan focused on accountability, services and economic development to create jobs and opportunities. The reason why this issue concerns me is that we cannot improve in the short-term if we do not have a long-term vision.

What specific aspect of city government will you work to improve?

I am committed to working to improve the efficiency, accountability and performance of all government services.

Which, if any, city services should be privatized? Why or why not?

I will seek a comprehensive review of all municipal and school department functions to determine the opportunities that exist for cost savings. Specifically, I would determine the most efficient and effective way to privatize the information technology and city solicitor positions.

How would you rate the current council’s performance? How would you improve it?

The current council has tried its best to make the right decisions. However, Methuen needs new, experienced leaders with the know-how to get things done. I have the knowledge of the issues and the experience inside and outside of government to bring about the positive changes that are needed.

 

Name: Robert Crowley LeBlanc, Esq.

Age: 68

Address: 2 Plumwood Drive

Occupation: Lawyer

Education: B.S. Business Administration, Suffolk University; MPA, Northeastern University; Graduate Certificate Urban Administration, MIT; JD, Massachusetts School of Law

Personal: Married, with three children, nine grandchildren and a great-grandaughter.

Why should people vote for you?

This election is about trust. No one has ever questioned my integrity and strong ethics. My education and experience can bring maturity and civility to the council. I’m a consensus builder and would work to have the council stop fighting with the mayor and start working to make Methuen better.

What is the biggest issue facing the city?

Residential taxes have gone up under the mayor form of government and it’s time to give taxpayers a break. As a councilor I would measure every decision by how it impacts residential property taxes and will work with like-minded councilors to freeze residential taxes for the next two years.

What specific aspect of city government will you work to improve?

Municipal finance and the creation of a performance-based budget system so the increases are not automatic.

Which, if any city services should be privatized?

If a city agency is failing in doing its job then we should look at a better way of doing business. The council needs to do its job every day to make sure that the taxpayers are getting quality service at a fair cost.

How would you rate the current council’s performance?

Poor. For the past two years, the leadership factor of the council has been found wanting. They can’t seem to get out of their own way. I’d hope to influence my colleagues to think through a course of action, act professionally and work with the mayor instead of undermining.

*Denotes incumbent