Winchester Select Board Candidates Discuss Vision for the Town
Feb 25, 2019 10:43PM
● By Katie Lovett
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– As the town is poised to address significant issues from building an affordable housing stock, to reinvigorating the town center and boosting
commercial growth, three candidates running for the Select Board want to help
the town tackle these challenges and each say they have the skills to do it.
Below are profiles of the three candidates seeking the two open seats on the board.
While a first-time candidate for the Select Board, Dixon, 67, is no stranger to public service. A native of Allston, Dixon has spent much of his life working and volunteering around the Boston and Cambridge area.
He volunteered for his first campaign as a 14-year-old, assisting anti-war candidate Thomas Boylston Adams in his race for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate in 1966. At age 16, Dixon joined the “children’s crusade” – the high number of youth and young adults working on Sen. Eugene McCarthy’s campaign for president.
Dixon views public service as an opportunity to address grievances and to try and improve the lives of others.
After receiving a home school education, Dixon attended Harvard University where he earned an associate degree and bachelor degree, with honors. He later earned a master of education from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. In his professional career, Dixon has worked in various capacities, including as a business and political consultant, teaching ESL (English as a Second Language), and stints in radio and television.
He is also a familiar face on Beacon Hill where he has drafted several bills over the years that have been filed with the state Legislature. He moved to Winchester 7 years ago.
Dixon is currently serving on the Finance Committee and says he hopes to bring those skills in finance and strategic planning to a seat on the Select Board.
“I think I can do more to help with the bigger issues,” he said.
The town’s growing population will have an impact on services, school enrollment, and public safety, he said, and the community will need the additional funds through the proposed $10 million override.
If elected, Dixon said he will also advocate for the hiring of an economic development director to help draw businesses into the community, and a purchasing agent to help streamline and develop savings in the town budget.
Dixon said he would like to see Winchester create an endowment reserve fund that could be used to produce an additional revenue source, if needed.
Dixon said the town also needs to re-examine areas that could be consolidated into regional services with other communities, such as transportation.
“I bring a depth of experience and knowledge that can be adapted to the changes that are here,” he said. “I’ve always tried to solve or improve a situation and not just say, ‘I have a problem.’”
Currently serving on the School Committee, Verdicchio says she wants to now bring what she’s learned to the Select Board.
Verdicchio, who is also a Town Meeting member, first became active in the town as a parent volunteer when her children were in elementary school. That commitment to serving the community continued to grow as her children grew.
She first ran for office in 2013. Town government is mainly made up of residents volunteering their time, she added. “If you want to see it improve, run,” she said.
As chair of the School Committee in 2017-2018, Verdicchio steered the group as they oversaw the implementation of all-day kindergarten, changing school start time, expanding McCall Middle School, and adding solar panels on Vinson-Owen and the high school.
Having served on the School Committee for several years, Verdicchio said, she believes it’s important to allow for new faces to join boards and committees and bring with them a new energy and outlook.
“I hope to bring a more collaborative approach to decision-making,” she said. Verdicchio said she sees the Select Board’s role as “the hub” of town government and that they need to connect all the boards, committees and advisory groups together by sharing information and hearing from all.
“The town’s done a lot of good planning and it’s at a point where we need to start implementing some of it,” she said.
Verdicchio said she supports the override and that the funds will be used over time to address issues currently on the back burner. She wants to see the town thoughtfully address its shortfall of affordable housing options and reach a “safe harbor status,” which requires 10 percent of the total housing units in town meet the state affordable housing regulations.
“I would love to see us preserve the diversity of the housing in town,” she added.
Verdicchio, 61, said she also hopes to see the revitalization of the town center and a growth in the commercial base, as well as the completion of repairs to the commuter rail station by the MBTA.
Verdicchio and her husband have three adult children and have lived in Winchester for more than 25 years. She has a bachelor of arts in American Civilization from Brown University and a J.D. from Boston College law school. Prior to raising her children, Verdicchio practiced real estate law.
If elected to the Select Board, she said, she will be a good listener and seek collaboration among all town officials.
“I have a lot of experience, and I think I bring a collaborative, thoughtful decision-making process to the board,” she added.
A mother to three young children attending Winchester schools, Shapiro, 40, says she would bring a diverse outlook to the Select Board.
After moving to town in 2012, Shapiro was motivated to get involved in the community by her love for the town and how happy her family has been here.
“I feel strongly that Winchester is a special community, and has been unbelievably welcoming to my family,” she said. “For that reason, I'm looking forward to getting more involved in the important issues, to hear from my neighbors about the concerns and opportunities that affect them and to develop creative, innovative solutions to make Winchester a town for all.”
Shapiro has a B.A. in American History from Middlebury College and a master’s in sports marketing from The George Washington University. Her career has included positions at ESPN and New Balance, where she developed consumer-facing donation programs to support nonprofits. She has also worked for the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, and helped build their corporate partnership program.
She currently serves as director of strategic accounts at Linkage, Inc., a leadership development company.
If elected to the board, Shapiro said she will work to address the complex issues facing the town, including affordable housing, the schools, new growth, as well as sidewalks and road safety.
Town officials must look at creative and innovative ways to increase revenue, she added, and support local businesses and economic development.
By increasing affordable housing options, the town will continue to provide access to low-income families and become a community of different experiences and perspectives, Shapiro added.
“I feel strongly that Winchester should be a place where everyone can thrive,” she said.
Shapiro and her husband, Josh, have three kids, Ben, Sophie and Evan.
On Sunday, March 3, the Winchester League of Women Voters, will sponsor a forum for candidates from 1 to 3:30 p.m. at the Jenks Center, 109 Skillings Road.
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