Massachusetts Daily Collegian

In-depth Q&A with second district candidates for Amherst Town Council

Four candidates face off for two seats

Courtesy of Amherst Town Council

Courtesy of Amherst Town Council

By Kathrine Esten, Assistant News Editor

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.


Email This Story






Following the Amherst Sept. 4 preliminary election, four candidates are in the running for the two second district council seats in what will be the inaugural Town Council. The candidates are presented in order of placement in the preliminary election. Some responses have been condensed for publication.

Lynn Griesemer, Amherst Survival Center board president, former Town Meeting member, former UMass associate vice president for economic development

Motivation in running for office: “This is a major transition for our town, and I want to help it go well: listening to many viewpoints, finding common ground and moving forward. We’ll only have one chance for a good start…I want to apply my experience in economic development to broaden the tax base and provide relief to homeowners.”

Three agenda priorities:

  • Working to make the transition to the new form of government successful and constructive.
  • Broadening the local tax base through creative economic development that respects our small-town character.
  • Providing sound stewardship for public facilities, including the elementary schools, fire and DPW facilities and the library.

Griesemer, a 30-year Amherst resident, received 855 votes in the preliminary election.

This will be Amherst’s first town council. How do you envision the town council operating in the town, and what will you do to create this vision?

“I have no illusions about the challenges this first group of Councilors will face. But I love a challenge, especially in a good cause.  And being part of a successful transition for our town is a very good cause. The issues we face are not easy, and will require careful discussion, creative thinking and principled compromise. This is how I’ve approached things my whole life, and I hope to bring that attitude and experience as a member of the new Council.”

What is the biggest issue facing the Town of Amherst right now?

“Meeting the high expectations of citizens for excellent public schools and services while keeping residential property taxes under control.”

What role do you feel local colleges and universities should play in town decisions?

“The University and the colleges are key to our identity and vitality. We’ve been very effective over the years in maintaining strong cooperative relationships, especially in areas such as economic development and energy and water conservation. I want to build on those relationships and look for opportunities for the town and the campuses to succeed together.”

As a town council member, how would you balance the concerns of students with the concerns of permanent town residents?

“Many of my district’s residents are students, so they are part of the constituency I aim to serve. My experience has been very positive, and I believe we can continue to find common ground through regular communication and sharing of perspectives.”

Patricia De Angelis, Town Meeting member and community volunteer

Motivation in running for office: “Amherst is a diverse community….I believe in creating spaces, both physical and emotional, where all voices can be heard. The idea of an Amherst that celebrates diversity, is just and challenges itself to build sustainably is what motivates me to run for office.”

Three agenda priorities:

  • “Develop solid council policies and procedures. I will work to see that these include development of committees and work groups that include a significant number of residents not often heard from and residents who stand to be impacted by council decisions.”
  • “Revisit/revise the master plan to aid us in making development decisions that are sustainable into the future. The plan should provide a framework for assessing capital project plans and clarify what we mean by “mixed-use” buildings and sustainable/green development, holding ourselves and developers to those definitions.”
  • “Work to ensure physically and emotionally healthy environments for our students, our elders, young families and those among us most at risk of homelessness or oppression.”

De Angelis, a 25-year resident of Amherst, received 572 votes in the preliminary election.

This will be Amherst’s first town council. How do you envision the town council operating in the town, and what will you do to create this vision?

“The council will be the governing body in our community; charged with responding to citizen concerns and ideas by doing the work of considering multiple aspects as we look at economic and development issues, create policies and practices that foster sustainability and find ways to address and balance issues of economic, environmental and social justice….I plan to work with all council members to create policies and procedures that will enable us to function effectively. To do this, we need to utilize the ideas of newcomers and the experiences of current board and committee members as we take on the responsibilities involved in governing.”

What is the biggest issue facing the Town of Amherst right now?

“Finding ways to fund capital projects: the rebuilding and renovating of our elementary schools and our libraries, renovating the DPW building and the North Pleasant Fire Station so it can accommodate modern trucks. Additionally we need a fire response capability in South Amherst. Using our reserve and stabilization funds is one way to fund the beginning of these projects, but we need to apply for federal and state grants, and to have Amherst College and UMass contribute monies to help support these projects.”

What role do you feel local colleges and universities should play in town decisions?

“The town’s relationship with Hampshire College, Amherst College and UMass is a symbiotic one, which offers wonderful benefits but also creates challenges. For example, UMass houses barely over 50 percent of its undergraduates and graduate students. Consequently, the need for student housing has impacted our community, driving up home prices, limiting affordability and taxing town services and institutions. College students support local businesses, participate in town events and forums, volunteer in our schools, at the Amherst Survival Center, at Not Bread Alone, and in many other ways that help our community thrive. We need each other. The colleges and University already have a voice in town decisions, often driving development and affecting taxes and other economic issues. I would like to see them take on a share of our tax burden and costs.”

As a town council member, how would you balance the concerns of students with the concerns of permanent town residents?

“My district, District 2, includes students in UMass dorms, rental housing and apartments. You are my constituents on an equal basis with any resident. And I will treat you equally, listening to your voices, asking you to serve on town committees and boards, asking for your ideas and  asking you to help shoulder the responsibilities necessary to develop creative, successful collaborations around issues.”

Victor Andres Nunez-Ortiz, Governor’s Advisory Council on Veterans Services, Amherst Youth Soccer Association board of directors, Veterans of Foreign Wars Amherst Post 754, UMass alum

Motivation in running for office: “My primary motivation for running is my children.  I envision a town that will always be here for my children to come back to when they grow up.  I envision an Amherst that will always be pioneers on issues facing our world today and a place my family can always call home.”

Agenda priorities:

  • “The top 4 priorities are the school project, the fire house, DPW building and the library.  I believe all 4 can be achieved simultaneously and through thoughtful discussion and planning.”  

Nunez-Ortiz, a resident of Amherst for 18 years, received 442 votes in the preliminary election.

This will be Amherst’s first town council. How do you envision the town council operating in the town, and what will you do to create this vision?

“I will bring my experience working in state, local and non-profit organizations to make smart decisions in order to grow Amherst together.  I envision a diverse set of individuals having the best interest of our town as their priority. Individuals whom will base their decisions on their ability to listen to the concerns of our constituents.”

What is the biggest issue facing the Town of Amherst right now?

“Our town needs to improve in attracting young families and individuals  to come and live in the town. In order to achieve this we will need creative ways to broaden our tax base, provide affordable housing and continue to provide the quality municipal services Amherst has to offer.”

What role do you feel local colleges and universities should play in town decisions?

“UMass, Amherst College and Hampshire College need to have active role in town decision to better serve the students and residents alike.  We will work together to grow Amherst together.”

As a town council member, how would you balance the concerns of students with the concerns of permanent town residents?

“A collaborative spirit will be need in our balancing the concerns of the students and residents . This we can achieve by good communication and by continuing the initiatives already established.  As a UMass alum I will work to giving our student population a voice that is heard.”

Peter Vickery, Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce board of directors president, town meeting member, former Governor’s Council member

Motivation in running for office: “I am running because Amherst needs more jobs and more homes. Everything else — maintaining our excellent schools, conserving our open space and safeguarding our social services — depends on economic vitality.”

Three agenda priorities:

  • “Maintaining our excellent schools.”
  • “Conserving our open space.”
  • “Safeguarding our social services.”

Vickery, a 19-year resident of Amherst and 10-year resident of the second district, received 434 votes in the preliminary election.

This will be Amherst’s first town council. How do you envision the town council operating in the town, and what will you do to create this vision?

“The council needs to focus on setting policy and engaging in effective oversight without trying to manage or supervise, while the town manager needs to stick to managing without trying to set (or undermine) policy. That is the way to deliver the outcomes that the voters have a right to expect.”

What is the biggest issue facing the Town of Amherst right now?

“Engineering a climate that encourages small, locally-owned businesses to take root and grow.”

What role do you feel local colleges and universities should play in town decisions?

“The University is our biggest employer and most important strategic ally. So the council needs to remind the people who work and study at UMass, Amherst College and Hampshire College that they are welcome and that Amherst is their home. There is much more that the town can do to capitalize on being a classic New England college town that is host to the flagship campus of the University of Massachusetts….That way, when problems arise (and they will) the town and University will have better chance of resolving them effectively.”

As a town council member, how would you balance the concerns of students with the concerns of permanent town residents? 

“My message to students is simple and unequivocal: You are welcome; for now this is your home from home; and in time I hope that you grow to love the place so much that you decide to stay. Some voters live here most of the year, and others live here year-round, and we all have the same reasonable expectations and responsibilities toward one another, e.g. respect and consideration.”

Editor’s note: Victor Andres Nunez-Ortiz’s response has been added.

Kathrine Esten can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @KathrineEsten.

Leave a Comment

If you want a picture to show with your comment, go get a gravatar.




Navigate Right
Navigate Left
  • In-depth Q&A with second district candidates for Amherst Town Council

    Archives

    SGA’s plans for restorative justice, addressing Coach Whipple and the new funding guidelines for student groups

  • In-depth Q&A with second district candidates for Amherst Town Council

    Archives

    Police Logs: Friday, Oct. 12 – Saturday, Oct. 14

  • In-depth Q&A with second district candidates for Amherst Town Council

    Archives

    Amherst College hosts discussion with journalist Michael Lewis on managing the federal government

  • In-depth Q&A with second district candidates for Amherst Town Council

    Archives

    A-10 Notebook: URI stays hot with fourth straight win over Dayton

  • In-depth Q&A with second district candidates for Amherst Town Council

    Archives

    The man behind UMass boxing: How Rocky Snow’s life changed after using the sport as an outlet

  • In-depth Q&A with second district candidates for Amherst Town Council

    Archives

    Minutemen turn attention to Davidson Wednesday

  • In-depth Q&A with second district candidates for Amherst Town Council

    Archives

    UMass men’s soccer rolling with experience as A-10 tournament looms

  • In-depth Q&A with second district candidates for Amherst Town Council

    Archives

    Why you should shop locally – and how to do it

  • In-depth Q&A with second district candidates for Amherst Town Council

    Archives

    Coping with the reality of sexual assault

  • In-depth Q&A with second district candidates for Amherst Town Council

    Archives

    Service workers at UMass should be treated better