I believe Newton can become a better place than ever to work, raise a family, and retire. As Mayor, I want to provide our children with a top-notch education, an inclusive environment where empty nesters, seniors, young families, and people of diverse incomes can live together in affordable, vibrant villages and neighborhoods, linked by a transportation system convenient and safe for drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians, with wonderful open spaces and a greener, more sustainable environment.
Yet, Newton faces complex challenges:
- Market forces are impacting the size and scale of homes and who can afford to live here.
- Traffic is getting worse.
- Too much of our infrastructure lies in disrepair.
- Unfunded retiree compensation liabilities could crowd out spending on schools, seniors, and services if unaddressed.
Meeting these challenges requires more than a competent administrator. It requires a strategist, a forward-looking thinker who knows how to plan and deliver. Newton needs a Mayor who can tackle complex, interrelated challenges and develop a financially sustainable budget that invests in our priorities systematically. We need a leader who hears the concerns and needs of people from every part of Newton, finds common goals, builds consensus, and makes tough decisions. We need a Mayor who can take charge of Newton’s future.
My training, skills and experience from over thirty years in the government, business, and non-profit sectors make me uniquely qualified to be just that Mayor of Newton. Like many women in the workforce, my career path has been anything but traditional. This diverse range of experiences has prepared me to think big within our means, to manage a $460 million budget, and to lead a workforce of 3,000 people. I have the professional expertise to prioritize investments in our schools, expand services to our seniors, renew our streets and sidewalks, and modernize our infrastructure – all while maintaining Newton’s Triple-A bond rating to minimize our borrowing costs. I have a vision for Newton’s future and the experience to deliver.
I started my career with a company that analyzed the future. In 1979, after graduating magna cum laude from Brown University with a degree in history, I took a full-time position as Manager of Education for Data Resources, Inc., an economic forecasting company in Lexington, MA. I supervised our regional education coordinators, designed and conducted professional development courses and client seminars on econometrics and computer programming, and built econometric models for clients in the consumer goods industry.
After working at Data Resources, Inc., for two-and-a-half years, I returned to school to pursue my MBA at Harvard Business School. After graduating with distinction in 1983, I took a full-time position as Management Consultant for Temple, Barker, and Sloane in Lexington. In this role, I specialized in strategic planning, industry and market analysis, and organizational design. I worked extensively with companies in the automotive, telecommunications, health care and professional services industries. I led diverse teams that included our internal consultants and employees at all levels from our clients. From turning around Volvo North America’s declining customer service ratings, to helping companies decide where to grow in new U.S. locations, I worked with multi-billion dollar budgets and complex, heavily matrixed organizations. I plan to tap this results-oriented experience, to make City Hall more efficient and more responsive to the needs of our residents. As Mayor, I will make Newton more welcoming to businesses, especially to the independently owned companies that our residents cherish. I served as a Management Consultant for Temple, Barker, and Sloane for four years — until November 1987 when I went on maternity leave with my identical twins, Mark and Chris.
Creating WGBH’s First Master Plan
As a first-time parent juggling twins, I was fortunate that I could decide to care for the boys full-time in their first two years. These were not only some of the most meaningful years of my life, but often taught me more about management than my MBA!
In 1989, I returned to work in the non-profit sector, as the first ever Manager for Strategic Planning at WGBH. I was tasked with creating the first strategic master plan for one of the country’s leading public broadcasting stations. By developing the first strategic plan for WGBH, I had an incredible opportunity to help shape an organization whose mission I believe in so passionately. I met with employees in each and every department to get a sense of what was working well and what needed to be improved, developed a deep understanding of our consumers, analyzed our finances, and then used these assessments to develop a strategic plan. I created a comprehensive plan for WGBH as a whole and individual master plans for television, radio, production, etc. Leading teams from all parts of WGBH, I worked at this position in both a full-time and then part time capacity (our third son, David was born in 1991) until 1997, helping WGBH thrive even as technology began evolving toward video and the internet.
During these years, I also served as a Board member and Treasurer of Kehillath Israel Nursery School (1992-1993), and then as a Board member and Treasurer of Temple Israel Pre-School (1994-1995). These experiences gave me first-hand knowledge of the power of early childhood education and the complexities of educational funding, cornerstones of my vision for Newton.
During that period, as a mom of three young kids, I decided that serving in the non-profit sector provided the flexibility to work non-traditional hours as a volunteer, helping organizations make a difference in people’s lives, while spending more time with my children. So, with WGBH’s initial strategic master plan complete, I transitioned to the organization’s Board of Overseers. From 1997-2004, I also served on various committees with the United Way of Massachusetts Bay, analyzing the effectiveness of local service organizations, such as those supplementing city services by helping seniors, special needs students, and low-income families. In 1998, I started serving on the National Board of Trustees (and later Board of Directors) for Facing History and Ourselves (FHAO), which brings students from diverse backgrounds together to examine racism, prejudice, and anti-Semitism, and promote acceptance and learning. I contributed to the strategic initiatives that expanded the FHAO’S effectiveness and involvement in local public schools. This experience impressed upon me, the importance of creating results-oriented programs that support a welcoming, tolerant public school environment. In 1999, I began serving on the Boston Advisory Board of City Year, a national youth service organization. In this role, I helped shape City Year’s impact on Boston’s youth, particularly its after-school programs.
Getting Involved with my Neighborhood
Simultaneously, while living in Brookline in the 1990’s, I helped make the schools more financially sustainable as Vice Chair of the School Financial Practices and Procedures Committee (1992-1993), and the town more financially sustainable as Co-Chair of the Town’s Financial Planning Advisory Committee (1993-1994). I led teams of residents and encouraged input from all stakeholders as we agreed on goals, analyzed alternative strategies, and forged a consensus. I helped implement this vision as a member of Brookline’s Finance Committee and Chair of its Strategic Planning Sub-Committee in 1994. In Brookline, I learned how to plan proactively for financial sustainability and how to use best practices of municipal management and citizen input, to get consensus on goals and get plans translated into action. I resolved to tap these lessons when we bought our home in Newton in 1994.
In Newton, I joined my local civic association (the Chestnut Hill Association), where I worked with residents, businesses, and the aldermen and city bodies like the conservation commission and the community preservation committee to provide connections among our neighbors and preserve our neighborhood. As President from 2004-2010, I helped shape projects along Route 9 at both the lower and upper areas of the Chestnut Hill Mall, and at Boston College to create traffic and parking plans that worked for residents, businesses, and BC’s, employees and students. I worked with our state representative, Ruth Balser, and community groups to improve the health of Hammond Pond. We knit our neighborhood together through block parties and community events.
I also served, as a strong voice, for the neighborhood in a Commonwealth Avenue project initiated by B’nai B’rith, a non-profit developer of affordable housing. My efforts reduced the project from the initial ten-story plan to four stories, while creating affordable and modestly priced housing. My work involved negotiating with the neighbors and developer to redesign the project to fit the scale of the local neighborhood while also making the economics work for the non-profit developer. This experience — contributing to affordable and moderately priced housing while preserving the scale of our local neighborhood — has convinced me that Newton can experience a win-win for affordable and middle-income housing through a genuine and robust community input process, and a zoning ordinance that is finely tuned to the appropriate scale for the specific location.
In 2006, I was tasked with serving on the City’s Blue Ribbon Commission to review all aspects of Newton’s projected financial revenues and expenses. Then, in 2008, I was appointed to Vice Chair of the Newton Citizen’s Advisory Group (CAG) – defining choices about municipal and educational service levels, improving the city’s operational efficiency and effectiveness, and developing new or enhanced sources of funding. While a volunteer position, I worked full time as we studied Newton’s projected financial resources and expenses, and created a plan to fix our structural deficit. After thoroughly analyzing Newton’s budget and assessing ramifications- five, ten, and twenty years down the road- I played an integral role to the development of a financial analysis of the city, with recommendations to improve Newton’s fiscal standing and budget management. The final work product of the CAG remains one of my proudest achievements. Our fiscal and management recommendations subsequently formed the blueprint for many of Mayor Setti Warren’s fiscal and management reforms, which have significantly improved the City’s financial standing.
Since I was passionate about the challenges facing Newton, and I wanted to ensure that the City followed through on these important policy initiatives, in 2009 I successfully ran for an at-large seat on Newton’s Board of Aldermen.
Here’s some of the ways I’ve leveraged my strategic analysis and leadership skills during my eight-year tenure on the City Council:
- I’ve made investing in our public schools a top priority as the only City Councilor to serve on all three working groups to plan new facilities for the aging Angier, Zervas and Cabot elementary schools. I know how to get buildings done that fit within the scale and style of our neighborhoods while coming in on budget and on schedule.
- I’ve spearheaded long-term investment plans for our deteriorating water, sewer, and storm water systems – ensuring delivery of safer and more reliable underground systems, while saving taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars. Working with city councilors and staff in Newton’s Department of Utilities, our work led to a 40-year plan, accounting for a variety of complex factors: the state of our infrastructure, the daily needs of residents, the costs of repair, the policies of the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority and unpredictable weather patterns. I’m ready to take these skills, and use them to roll out a fully developed transportation plan; updating and maintaining our roads and sidewalks so they work for drivers, bicyclists, and pedestrians.
- I’ve improved Newton’s fiscal accountability, helping to increase cash reserves and maintain our Triple-A bond rating as Vice Chair of the Finance Committee and Chair of the Financial Audit Advisory Committee. I crafted our financial policies. I led the charge for an audit committee, developed the ordinance and have chaired it continuously. I spotlighted the $1 billion of unfunded retiree benefits by initiating and writing an 80- page white paper on this inconvenient truth. I also served on a committee of the Pension Reserves Investment Management Board from 2011-2013, giving me a deep understanding of retiree benefits across the Commonwealth.
Newton needs a strategic leader to meet our challenges and address what we must do, in order to improve and maintain the Garden City. I’ve demonstrated that strategic ability – as someone who doesn’t just react, or manage, or administrate — but proactively analyzes key issues and thinks ahead five, ten, twenty years down the road. I not only build consensus around shared goals, but devise and deliver on realistic plans. My professional background gives me a unique perspective on management and strategic leadership, forming the crux of my ability to think ahead and get results to make a better Newton.