MONSON — The annual town election in Monson is scheduled for Tuesday, June 11 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at Memorial Hall.

In addition to the regular polling hours, early voting is also available in the public meeting room of the Monson town office, Town Clerk Mary Watson recently told Reminder Publishing. This voting is offered from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on June 3, 4, 6 and 7. It is also available from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on June 1 and 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on June 5, Watson said.

The June 11 election will include voting for eight positions as well as one ballot question. Of the positions on the ballot, seven involve candidates running for reelection and a total of three positions contain multiple candidates running for the seat, according to the Town Clerk.

In uncontested races, Benjamin Murphy is running for reelection in the three-year position as highway surveyor, Christopher Haley is running for reelection within the three-year position on the Board of Assessors, Sarah McNamara Pedder is running for reelection in the three-year position as cemetery commissioner and Gilberto Ortiz is running for the three-year position of Water and sewer commissioner.

Additionally, there is an open seat on the Housing Authority for one year which is vacant. However, no candidates are running for this position, Watson stated.

School Committee

Within the School Committee, there are two seats that are available in this election. Each seat is for a three-year term. Incumbents Emily Rae Graves-Harrison and Allison Morgan are facing two challengers.

Graves-Harrison, the current School Committee chair, told Reminder Publishing that she is seeking reelection to bring residents’ concerns forward and give back to the Monson community. A lifelong resident and Monson High School graduate, Graves-Harrison is a single parent with two children in the Monson school system. With a bachelor’s degree in social services and a certificate as paralegal, she first began her career as an adult case manager at Massachusetts Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. In her current employment, Graves-Harrison works with schools to assist deaf and hard of hearing students in accessing the curriculum, she said.

While discussing the largest concerns for the School Committee, Graves-Harrison highlighted the need to further include students and the community at meetings, stating, “I have always encouraged all community members to attend. I take pride when students come to voice their concerns or praises as it is an important lesson to learn at a young age, and more importantly, knowing that these students feel comfortable to do so in such a formal process.”

She also noted that “consistent leadership” was needed at Monson High School by following set procedures as well as ensuring transparency and accountability. Graves-Harrison has served two terms on the School Committee, she stated. Graves-Harrison indicated that her role working for the state and as a parent has assisted her in her position on the committee.

Morgan was raised in Palmer and moved to Monson with her husband after their marriage.

She told Reminder Publishing that her family enjoys being outdoors, participating in town events, supporting her two children at sports games and traveling.

Morgan is currently employed as a special education supervisor where she works with parents to help transition students to public education after starting her career as a speech language pathologist.

Morgan also co-founded a nonprofit to support youth sporting opportunities. She originally ran for the committee to offer support to families and children who were negatively impacted by the coronavirus pandemic and is seeking reelection after her first term to continue to encourage conversations that support Monson students, she said.

Morgan emphasized that it was important for the committee to communicate with parents, students and staff on impactful topics in order to understand the community’s view. She also went on to state that she will use her experience in education to inform her decisions rather than simply utilizing her own beliefs.

“I have experienced all that encompasses the school system; as a parent, staff member and most recently an administrator. This has allowed me to understand how each decision impacts students, staff and parents in the community,” she explained, noting that this experience as well as her knowledge of special education, the universal design to learning framework and work organizing services for schools influence her ideas raised in the committee.

Challenger Peter Wiggins is also running for a position on the School Committee. Wiggins and his wife moved to Monson in 2018. With a master’s degree in criminal justice, Wiggins spent 23 years in the Army National Guard and seven to eight years at the Center for Human Development with a focus on supporting homeless families, he said. Wiggins is also part of Monson Zoning Board of Appeals as an associate member, he stated. His family includes seven children and 12 grandchildren. Two grandchildren attend school in Monson, Wiggins said. He highlighted that his grandchildren in Monson and responsibility as an American inspired him to run for the committee.

When asked about his concerns for the School Committee, Wiggins emphasized the need to focus on basic math skills, reading comprehension and civics as well as directly address public concerns of bullying, which he stated he identified through speaking with local parents. Wiggins did not refer to any specific bullying concerns.
“I can appreciate a traditional and classical approach to education which will assist and maintain a higher level of education throughout the Monson school system,” Wiggins stated, highlighting that he would provide a new perspective to the committee and work to support parental concerns.

Resident Karen O’Toole is also running for the School Committee. She told Reminder Publishing that she has been a resident since 2001, regularly volunteers in town and is raising a grandchild in the Monson school system. O’Toole serves as the chair of Monson Public Schools’ Special Education Parent Advisory Council and has previously served on the Age and Dementia Friendly Community Committee as well as the school building consolidation focus group.

O’Toole explained that she is running for School Committee in order to address the “disconnect between the School Committee and families” that she has observed in recent years and seeks to encourage public engagement at meetings. She emphasized the importance of allowing each member on the committee to voice their unique perspective and stated concerns for the reduced communication between the community and the committee at meetings.

“We should be able to expect consistent and reliable leadership from the School Committee and get the direction that we’re looking for — and need — from them. My focus during this election is to begin with open communication and dialogue and I think it’s a great starting place,” she explained, stating that the committee should direct residents with concerns to avenues that will allow them to further address the issue they’ve raised.

Select Board

On the Select Board, there is one seat available for a three-year term. Incumbent and current Chair Patricia Oney is running for reelection against residents Roxanne Gunther and Jeffrey Lord.

A Monson resident for more than 40 years, Oney told Reminder Publishing that she first ran for Select Board in 2021 to use her experience to serve the town. She acknowledged that this motivation continues to her current campaign, as well as experience from her previous term.

Oney has a bachelor’s degree in economics and a doctor of law degree, spending her career at the Massachusetts Department of Disability Services as an assistant general counsel, she stated. Prior to serving on the Select Board, Oney served on the Board of Assessors, Zoning Board of Appeals, School Committee and as town counsel. She also currently serves on the Monson Housing Authority after being appointed by former Gov. Charlie Baker.

“I have abided by my promise three years ago to devote the time and energy required to perform my duties as a Select Board member. I have invested myself in reviewing agreements, developing and drafting policies, working with department heads, responding to residents’ concerns, and assisting with the functioning of town government on an almost daily basis,” she stated.

Oney highlighted the importance of long-term planning to address issues such as increasing factual communication and town services while also addressing resident’s concerns of increasing taxes.
She noted that town participation is both an integral part of Monson and occasionally a challenge, acknowledging resident’s concerns with the pace of government but highlighting that maintaining projects such as revising zoning bylaws and pursuing grants will assist the town.

A resident since 2003, Gunther told Reminder Publishing that she is running for Select Board in order to address concerns of transparency and accountability that she has observed in attending meetings. She is retired and has served as a member of the General Bylaw Committee for two years, where she helps to update bylaws to remain current with the town. She is also president of the Quaboag Riders Women’s Auxiliary and helps to organize the Summerfest’s Doll Carriage and Bike Parade, Gunther said.

Gunther highlighted her attentiveness with town finances and willingness to seek out information to ensure it is correct, stating, “When people have an issue, they know that they can come to me and I will do whatever I can to help them.”

Additionally, Gunther stated that she hoped to encourage public engagement at Select Board meetings, indicating her concern that meetings are currently not informative for residents and her interest in addressing this issue. Gunther previously ran for a position on the Cemetery Commission.

Lord told Reminder Publishing that he has been a Monson resident for 23 years, living with his partner and young twin sons. He highlighted his interest in cars, driving his sons to Westview Creamery and modifying multi-family houses for apartments as a landlord.

“I teach my boys that you are either part of the solution or you are part of the problem. While that important life lesson is very easy to say, it is worthless unless you step up to the plate and do the work that is required to make things better,” Lord stated, noting that a mentor once said to him that public service is “the highest possible calling.”

He previously served on the School Committee for 13 years with the intention of “turn[ing] the committee around” and indicated that the current committee’s state was in part from his active participation.

Lord stated that he viewed the largest concern for the Select Board as increasing town revenue and explained that he was running to utilize his experience with owning several properties and working with others to address this issue.

Parks and Recreation Commission

There is one three-year seat available on the Parks and Recreation Commission. Incumbent Jan Michael DeMaio is seeking reelection for this position. DeMaio did not immediately respond to inquires by Reminder Publishing.

Challenging DeMaio is longtime resident Christopher David Howard, who told Reminder Publishing that he was raised in Monson and is the father of two young daughters. He highlighted his interests in hiking, pickleball and tennis. Over his 23-year career, Howard stated that his time in different roles have enhanced his ability to understand other perspectives. Furthermore, Howard said that his 10-year experience in analytics has improved his problem-solving and teamwork skills. He explained that he hoped to positively impact the town through this position and was seeking greater involvement in Monson.

“I have two young children growing up in town and I think it’s important that they have the opportunity to play rec sports if they desire, and even more important to have public parks and playgrounds available for us to spend time outside as a family around town,” Howard said, highlighting that he wanted join the Parks and Recreation Commission to help all residents who use these public spaces.

Howard explained that his main concern for the commission was challenges with the budget, which he stated he identified through attending meetings and conversing with other residents. He noted his interest in increasing resident involvement in the department, identifying town projects and seeking grants. Howard did not state any specific concerns within the budget.

Ballot question

Residents will also be asked to weigh in on whether the town should be allowed a Proposition 2 ½ debt exclusion for $4.9 million in energy efficiency upgrades at town facilities. Finance Director Jamie Farnum told the Select Board at its April 9 meeting the estimated tax impact would be $100 annually for a home valued at $350,000.

For more information, contact the town clerk’s office by phone at 413-267-4115 or by email at townclerk@monson-ma.gov.