LONGMEADOW — In contrast to a number of towns in the area, Longmeadow is presenting a somewhat healthy ballot chart with contested races for Select Board and School Committee.

With the June 11 election races for town moderator and a solo seat on the Planning Board facing no opposition for the incumbent candidates, focus is likely going to be on the other posts, save for the singular spot on the Housing Authority which fielding no candidates will most likely be decided by write -in voting.

Town Clerk Timothy Donnelly said approximately 2,500 vote-by-mail ballots were sent out to residents with far less than that number returned as Election Day approaches, but the town is instituting new options this year.
“We are going to do an advanced processing of the mail-in ballots on June 7,” he said. “We take all the ballots up to June 6 and we open the ballot, stick it in the [ballot] machine and lock up the memory cards and on election day, those plus the people coming into vote are added to the totals.” The combination of the walk in and write in votes are compiled for the final totals.

Donnelly said at least half of the town’s voter count of 12,500 are currently voting by mail with an overall turnout past of roughly 20% casting votes in town elections.

The contest for the one Select Board post up for grabs features incumbent Joshua Levine facing opposition from newcomers Andrew Lam and Leah Peterson. Levine who is finishing off his first term and seeking reelection.

“I’ve learned a lot and I’ve forged really good relationships with town officials and residents that I think can rely on me to be a good voice for them and to try to help them out with particular problems,” Levine said.
Levine, an attorney who moved back to Longmeadow six years ago, said he has learned a lot from his fellow board members on how to deal with the budget and things that are of particular importance in order to make sure that the town is spending its money wisely.

He said there is a potential opportunity for town residents to explore different internet options aside from the current Comcast plan with an alternative for the town to make money on the prospect. Acknowledging a lack of room for growth within the town, Levine said, as a member of the middle school building committee that there are opportunities to build the town’s tax base without focusing on raising taxes.

Peterson, a financial services professional, enters her first political race with an eye on a Select Board seat. Growing up in Longmeadow and matriculating through the school district, she returned to town 10 years ago where she started her family, something that gives her an eye on a new middle school in town.

“I was motivated to move back to Longmeadow because of the services that I enjoyed growing up and that’s what I wanted for my own children.” She said. “Kids are still riding their bikes to school; we have lots of parks and pools and green spaces for families to enjoy and that’s what I wanted for my own children.”

Peterson said her parents who are retirees also still live in town and that keeping them and other seniors around is an important platform. She also acknowledged infrastructure issues that require additional attention, identifying roads, town run buildings and the future of the middle school as primary issues of concern.

She said the challenges the town faces in the future need to be addressed by those who have the skills to address them.

“My background in financial services, my background as an executive and strategic leader, I think I bring a skill set that doesn’t exist on the board today and doesn’t exist among the other candidates.”

Lam has been a town resident since 2008 and is also making his first run for Select Board. He said he wants to use his past experience as chair of the Finance Committee to manage the town’s tax dollars judiciously and help Longmeadow navigate challenging fiscal times ahead.

“I have a passion for prudent fiscal management and feel this is more important than ever in an environment with high interest rates, increasing inflation and employee costs, and significant upcoming projects like a new middle school.”

Lam also seeks the opportunity to preserve the experience his children had in town for younger families as well as maintaining Longmeadow’s historic character. He is a self-professed advocate for renewable energy while acknowledging the town’s defense against the gas pipeline project, which he said,” requires ongoing vigilance in a legal battle that is sometimes glacial and always frustrating.”

Lam also maintains the town must adapt to changing times in regard to schools and the transition to renewable energy. “Our schools are our greatest asset and expense, but, based on projections, our student body size may gradually diminish so our costs may not rise as steeply as in the past, “He said. “At the same time, improving maintenance of roads and buildings will draw more resources, but are investments worth making.”

School Committee incumbents Jamie Hensch and Mary Kathleen Keane are on the ballot facing from longtime town resident Jose “J.J.” Rodriguez. However, Keene is not actively campaigning.

The incumbent remains on the ballot, but she indicated that due to a recent cancer diagnosis, she will be unable to serve out a term if reelected. Despite that, she has presented her position on the pending issues faced by the committee, which appeared as a letter to the editor in the May 30 issue of The Reminder.

Hensch, who has served on the committee for the past fives years acknowledges the new Middle School project as a major priority and said that being a part of the endeavor is something he’s excited about.

As part of the committee through the coronavirus pandemic, Hensch said he encountered challenges he never expected while at the same time he saw ideas and plans presented by groups and representatives he had not anticipated, including the new English language arts curriculum proposals advocated by Keane as well as other areas that included outdated materials that he saw a need to update and examine.

Rodrigez has twin sons in the middle school. He has lived in town since 2013 and has served the town as an interim Town Clerk as well as the Chair of the Town’s Rules Committee.

An attorney and a retired Secret Service agent, Rodriguez is making his first attempt at a School Committee post and established his platform with a focus of concern on school safety while prioritizing the educational system.

He also advocates inclusivity and diversity in curriculum and recruitment to allow for differing perspectives in the educational process.

“We can’t live in a bubble,” He said.” I think that everyone needs to be exposed to what’s going on around us.”
From a community standpoint, Rodrigez also acknowledged the limitations within the town and how the community needs to move forward.

“This place is already built out,” he said. “There’s no other place to get tax revenue than from the residents.
More information on town election balloting can be found at longmeadowma.gov.