The Town of Natick depends on the active participation of its citizens in governance of the Town. Natick voters will on March 30, 2021 cast their ballots for candidates running for Select Board, a contested race.
There are two candidates running for one open 3-year seat on the Select Board, which serves as the chief executive board of the Town and, as such, is vested with all the municipal authority not specifically retained by the Town’s legislative body, Town Meeting.
The Select Board candidates are Paul Joseph and Guimel DeCarvalho.
Natick Report invited the candidates to answer a few questions about their qualifications and priorities for the Town of Natick. Below is Paul Joseph’s Q & A. Here is a link to Guimel DeCarvalho’s Q & A.
Paul Joseph—candidate for Select Board
Natick Report: What is your background and what qualifies you for a position on the Select Board?
I’ve been politically active in Natick for more than 13 years. An extensive overview of my experience can be found on my website (onenatick.com); however, some highlights include:
- Natick Select Board member from 2010-2013, chair of the Economic Development Committee (EDC) for 6 years, and Town Meeting member for almost 10 years
- More than 30 years of business experience, spanning start-ups to Fortune 100 companies. I’ve started or co-founded three business, served on several non-profit boards, and worked as the CEO of the MetroWest Chamber of Commerce from 2015-2019
- Extensive experience supervising people, including hiring, firing, disciplining and developing; managing high performing teams; and, serving on executive task forces during two major corporate mergers, consolidating different corporate cultures into unified teams
- Business strategy consultant and teacher, including adjunct faculty at Babson, WPI, and in several Executive Education programs. I’ve used simulations to provide experiential education and coaching to business leaders, including international audiences in Asia, Europe and the Middle East.
- Recipient of the Foundation for MetroWest’s “2017 Civic Leader of the Year” award.
My platform is focused on four priorities, including:
1) Hiring Natick’s next Town Administrator
2) Navigating the impacts of a post-pandemic economy on Town revenue and operations, especially municipal services and school budgets
3) More effectively incorporating community feedback into policy decisions, operations, and volunteer appointments
4) Examining Natick’s governance model and operating norms and their impacts on the Town’s ability to grow and operate more effectively and equitably
I became politically active in late 2007, when Natick Public Schools proposed closing Johnson Elementary School to close an anticipated gap in the Town’s FY2009 budget. My interest in one issue sparked curiosity about “why” did things get to that point, “how” does local government work, and “what” can I do about it? I went from volunteering on the 2018 YES for Natick Operating Override initiative to serving extensively in various local government and non-profit roles.
My wife of 23 years, Magdalena (“Lena”) and I moved to Natick in 1995 to attend graduate school. After a brief move to Austin, TX for my job, we bought our first home in Natick in 2002 where we’ve raised our two children. Now aged 20 and 18 years old, our children benefitted substantially from Natick’s public schools, local athletics programs and community resources. Most valuable have been the relationships with our Natick neighbors and our “village,” the lifelong friends we’ve made as fellow parents and community members.
NR: How can Natick further support existing businesses and encourage new ones to come into Natick?
Joseph: Natick must:
1) Update and simplify its zoning bylaws and hearing processes
2) Invest more heavily in economic development, ideally earmarking budget from local options taxes and creating a economic development corporation as a non-profit, public-private partnership with the Town
3) Create and implement a robust business retention and expansion (BRE) action plan in collaboration with local businesses, commercial property owners, the Natick Mall, Natick Soldiers Systems Center, and various Town constituencies, including the Natick Public Schools.
These efforts should leverage the extensive work already completed, including the Natick 2030 Master Plan, the Natick Public Schools 5-Year Strategic Plan, the Natick Center Strategic Plan, the “Golden Triangle” Study, and the 2050 Net-Zero Action Plan, to name a few. These should inform a unified “revenue generation” plan that spans the municipal services and school department budgets and defines measurable and time-bound objectives for growing our commercial tax base.
Throughout the pandemic, our Community and Economic Development (CED) Department, Board of Health, and key community partners, notably the Natick Center Cultural District, have done a great job educating businesses about changing guidance from the Federal and State agencies, conducting inspections, promoting grant and loan programs, and serving as vital resources to our struggling businesses. The CED also effectively partnered with the EDC and outside vendors to launch new a website and online resources to “hook” prospective new businesses during their site-selection processes.
Further, we’ve become more agile and flexible, allowing some short-term changes to zoning and permitted uses of space—curbside pick-up, sidewalk dining, etc. We “must not waste a good crisis” and make sure that some of these improvements don’t get lost when we return to our new normal! Let’s learn from these “exceptions” and permanently adopt those practices that will accelerate our economic recovery and enhance our quality of life!
NR: How should Natick manage the financial implications of the pandemic going forward?
Joseph: Effective planning must take both a longer-term and “singular” view of our revenue and operations—we must get away from the parallel processes undertaken annually by the school department and municipal services “sides” which then subsequently try to reconcile gaps through often heated, “zero sum” negotiations. Our taxpayers are better served when we focus more on growing the pie together and less on fighting over the slices.
Natick must employ more sophisticated, and multi-year, scenario planning, working from a unified accounting/IT system, and through a process predicated on the effective and respectful collaboration between the town’s two “chief executives, the Town Administrator and Superintendent, their department heads, and the major policy boards.
We need to leverage Natick’s strong bond rating and reserves by focusing our budget with “the end in mind” – big picture thinking about what the community wants from its schools and municipal services in the next several years, not just one year at-a-time, and establishing the goals, and metrics, that will take us there. On the operations side, we should establish metrics such as “service level agreements” (SLAs), “quality of service” (QOS), etc. while potentially sharing services across departments. This approach will help each “side” take baby steps toward a more unified, transparent, and value-oriented budgeting process.
If we continue to build budgets with an “incremental” or “level services” mindset, compounded by our parallel planning and budgeting processes, Natick will rapidly fall behind other communities with more agile systems and governance already in place.
NR: How can Natick best continue to act on the concerns of its residents of diverse backgrounds?
Joseph: The Select Board can be most impactful by addressing systemic issues that adversely affect residents (and non-resident business owners, visitors, and prospective community members) of diverse backgrounds. Some examples include:
1) Natick’s (lack of) affordability
2) Limited access to resources for businesses owned by underrepresented community
3) Overcoming ignorance and inertia
Unfortunately, achieving equity and justice in a predominantly white, affluent community has historically been a vague, aspirational goal but in practice and policymaking it’s a long overdue priority.
Natick currently has several organizations striving to identify and act on BIPOC community concerns, including the new, Select Board-appointed Equity Task Force.
I have asked prominent members of these organizations questions like: “What has already been achieved?” and “What more needs to be done?” Interestingly, I’ve heard candid comments that can best be described as a muted cynicism, such as “Natick is trying” or “…has its heart in the right place.” Responses like these shine a brighter spotlight on how privilege allows us to, on the one hand, feel like we’re making progress, but on the other, hand, ironically reinforce systemic racism by merely appearing to address it. The Select Board and its members must strive to deliberate and define policies and practices that continuously move Natick towards a more just and equitable community.
Examples of specific actions include:
1) Incorporating diversity and equity goals recommended by the Equity Task Force and other community constituents into various policies and practices. For example, (a) including diversity training and objectives into the Town Administrator’s performance review and the Select Board’s annual goals, or (b) charging the Economic Development Committee with identifying and recommending best practices to attract and retain businesses owned by BIPOC or other underrepresented community members
2) Hosting a summit with members of the Housing Authority, Planning Board, professional staff and community organizations (e.g., Family Promise of MetroWest, SMOC, the Natick Service Council, etc.) to identity constraints in the current zoning bylaws and to pursue incentives (e.g., tax credits, grants, etc.) to increase Natick’s stock of affordable (low income) housing
3) Promoting civic engagement focused on equity, by participating in local and regional events hosted by the above mentioned groups or attending workshops hosted by organizations like the Massachusetts Municipal Association (MMA) or the Society for
Human Resources Managers (SHRM); or,
4) Changing the Equity “Task Force” into a standing “Committee.” The name “Task Force” implies the group will be highly focused for a short-period of time and then disbanded. I would hope, and expect, this work will yield a recommendation to establish the group as a long-term, advisory committee to the entire community, serving the Select Board, School Committee, Planning Board, and Town Meeting, among others.
NR: Is there anything else you would like to say that the above questions did not cover?
Joseph: Most of the urgent work Natick needs to undertake will require successful hiring and onboarding of a Town Administrator, holding the Select Board and its members accountable for re-establishing and overseeing an effective collaboration between the Town Administrator and the Superintendent, and navigating the economic uncertainty of the post-
Natick residents are rightly concerned about balancing affordability with investing in our schools and vital municipal services. I offer the experience, domain knowledge, and a track record of effective collaboration and decisiveness required to succeed from Day One.
NR: How should voters reach you if they want more information?