LUDLOW — Two incumbent Board of Selectmen members face challenges for their seats in Ludlow’s annual town election. Incumbents James Gennette and Manuel Silva are opposed by Ludlow businessman Alex Montagna and Police Chief Daniel Valadas.

With nine races in this election, only three have incumbents facing challengers: representative Town Meeting members, School Committee and the Board of Selectmen.

Reminder Publishing spoke with all four Board of Selectmen candidates vying for the three-year positions.

Alex Montagna

Reminder Publishing submitted photo

Born and raised in Ludlow, Montagna attended Ludlow High School and wrestled for the Lions before graduating in 2005. He graduated from the Isenberg School of Business Management at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and worked in the finance and logistics fields before launching his own business. He lives in town with his wife and two children.

Montagna said, if elected, he will be advocating for immediate action to address pressing town issues, among them two town-owned buildings adjacent to the post office.

“These buildings need to be auctioned or developed instead of being an unnecessary insurance cost,” he said.

Top priorities include funding for education, asserting the current board does not take the school budget seriously and doesn’t understand or properly review the information presented to them by the School Committee.

Seeing what he describes as a “turf war” between the Board of Selectmen and the School Committee, he wants to see them working together.

“Well-funded schools are a boon to the entire community,” he said. “With properly funded schools, young families will want to move to Ludlow, making this a community that can support small businesses.”

Montagna said a town that constantly loses staff and teachers each year is not a community capable of attracting the best teachers available.

“When the budget is being decided, I will be fighting to fund our schools and keep us up to the pace of our local surrounding communities,” he said.

Characterizing a “general tenor and lack of curiosity when we’re passing things in this town,” Montagna said that will be his primary commitment to the taxpayers, and he will demand that all possible options are weighed before a decision is made. “It seems to me like all the decisions have already been made before they vote on it,” he said.

Montagna cited the time taken to approve the demolition of Veterans Park Elementary School before final approval in 2023.

“We paid thousands and thousands of dollars of insurance to hold that building when it could have been demolished years ago,” he said.

As for long term goals, Montagna said he would like to see a town-run cable or electric company and town-owned land become parks and walking trails, in hopes of attracting community growth.

“I envision Ludlow as a town that welcomes families and seniors alike, where we can thrive together without division,” he said.

Manuel Silva

Photo credit: Ludlow Community TV

A member of the Board of Selectmen for 12 years, five-term incumbent Manuel Silva has been involved in local government for 40 years, retiring as assessor for the town of Wilbraham after 34 years. After leaving Wilbraham, the towns of Palmer, Monson and Southbridge recruited Silva to work with their assessors.

“When you deal with the assessors, we dealt with most of the departments, so we know pretty much what’s going on in town,” he said.

A Ludlow resident since 1963, Silva and his wife have five children who all attended Ludlow schools and live in town. He has been involved in many areas of the community, coaching sports and participating in a number of town organizations.

Among issues and accomplishments in his current term that Silva is pleased with are the dissolution of the Board of Public Works, new school construction and the consolidation of the town treasury and tax collectors’ departments into one office.

Silva said the board worked well together during the current term and accomplished much of what they set out to do.

“Things are progressing and it seems to be working,” he said. “Hopefully we can continue to streamline a lot more issues and make it better for the community.”

Silva said contracts for Ludlow’s trash services will likely be among the next major hurdles for the Board of Selectmen to clear.

“Trash has been a sore spot in most communities actually, and it’s certainly a sore spot in Ludlow when we initiated the trash fee because it just went up so high and we couldn’t possibly meet the budgetary needs,” he said.

Silva said he would like to come up with a contract that would allow Ludlow to eliminate the $100 monthly fee while perhaps implementing an in-house, automated collection system.

Staying within the town’s means and budget is a priority for Silva while also finding ways to attract and retain the right people to work in Ludlow by compensating them properly and competing with private sector positions.
Silva said by now, the taxpayers know who he is, how he’s likely to vote and what he is all about.

“I’m invested in Ludlow, I’ve been a property and business owner for a long time,” Silva said. “I really like the community and I just want to see Ludlow prosper.”

Daniel Valadas

Photo credit: Ludlow Community TV

Police Chief Daniel Valadas joined the department in 1993 as a patrol officer. He moved up the ranks and will celebrate his fourth anniversary as chief next month. The military veteran attended American International College and Western New England University, graduating with a master’s degree in criminal justice and law enforcement administration.

“I’ve always had an interest in government,” Valadas said, pointing to his education where he double majored in political science and government and criminal justice at AIC.

Speaking to his law enforcement and leadership background, Valadas said he believes his presence on the Board of Selectmen would bring an uncommon mindset to the decision-making process.

“I think I offer an interesting perspective as a current and longstanding town employee,” he said.

Valadas said he shares concerns about what he calls “a duality in our government structure.”

“Fiscally, two separate bodies literally divide the town’s budget as far as authority, line item and review,” he said. “It’s not efficient.”

He also noted that the town has been dealing with a lot of attrition, which he said is reflective in other communities as well but puzzling for Ludlow.

Valadas also expressed doubts about potential outsourcing of services and the town’s use of vendors.

“There’s been talk recently about outsourcing our central emergency services public safety dispatch,” he said. “To me that is completely the wrong thing to do, we have a premier central dispatch that services every resident or anybody that is in Ludlow.”

Valadas cited serious considerations to subcontracting those services to an outside vendor, eliminating 13 jobs in town.

“Ludlow is a community that’s thriving,” he said. “It’s not a dying community, it shows its prosperity with the steady, economic growth of a suburban, residential, quasi-urban and a downtown attached to two larger cities.”

Despite that, Valadas said the town is not getting the comparable level of interest and have not been able to recruit some of the quality professionals he said Ludlow should.

“That bothers me,” he said, acknowledging there is a competition with often higher paying private sector jobs.

Addressing the balance between his appointed chief responsibilities and a potential elected position, Valadas said any conflicts would be minimal, noting there would be some votes he would have to recuse himself from such as final budgets and positions. On other occasions, he would be speaking to his fellow board members as the police chief in the case of promotions and new hires, yielding to board members while still offering his opinion on issues.

“I’m certainly willing to put forth the effort at this time in my life to try to make things better for everyone,” Valadas said. “Not just for my family but for everyone and that’s what I’ve tried to do for my 34 years of service to Ludlow.”

James Gennette

Photo credit: Ludlow Community TV

Now in his third year on the Board of Selectmen and serving as chair, James Gennette said he hopes to continue his civic duty in Ludlow.

Gennette and his wife Angela have lived in the town for 30 years, with the couple’s two children both attending the Ludlow school system. A small business owner, Gennette has worked for nearly a decade in information services while also serving as vice chair on the Pioneer Valley Federal Credit Union Board of Directors.

He is an advocate for Ludlow Power Source, a group electricity purchasing program designed to improve the cost of the supply of electricity to residential homes and businesses.

Gennette is pushing for the renegotiation of the town’s existing waste management contract and supports the pursuit of automated trash service.
“It looks like we can do that,” he said. “It’s a big deal and I think this has been a pretty important topic for the residents of Ludlow.”

Also upcoming, Gennette pointed out, is the testing of a road wear tracking software system designed to monitor roadway degradation over time to allow for more efficient road repair.

Moving ahead, Gennette said he hopes to review the town’s financial infrastructure more thoroughly.

“I think our investment performance is very small,” he said, taking note of Ludlow’s bond expenditures and interest payments for the construction of Harris Brook Elementary School.

“We have a stabilization account that’s roughly $7 million now that could be generating at least a 4 or 5% return with the way the stock market is right now,” he said.

With other town projects in motion, Gennette said it’s time to look at finances, particularly in regard to how different community groups stand to be impacted.

“Our economic cycle is always changing, and our current financial cycle favors our seniors. In due time that will change, but right now we have a decreasing student population and an increasing population of retirees,” he said.

Gennette, a supporter of the Senior Center, Veterans Center, and the Commission on Disability, said a municipality that can keep their seniors in their homes the longest, will experience better long-term financial stability.
“Our municipality has, and always will, invest in young families,” he said. “We anticipate a return on that investment when those families retire.”

As far as Ludlow’s economic and community health, Gennette has an optimistic view.

“The challenges that we’ve had have made us what we are right now,” he said. “I think that we had to go through the situations that we’re in to get to where we are, I think the town is in a great place right now, we are set up to be very progressive going into the future, fundamentally sound financially and I think we’re prepared for what the future might hold in the short term.”

Ludlow’s annual town election is Monday, March 25.

Voting hours are 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

More information is available at ludlow.ma.us.

bzito@thereminder.com | + posts