Candidate profile: Brenda Eckstrom for Select Board
Everyone always says finances are one of the biggest challenges facing Wareham, but Select Board candidate Brenda Eckstrom pointed out, it's the use of those finances that can prove more the challenge.
“We need to use that in responsible ways,” she said, adding that residents must understand what the town does and doesn’t prioritize in its funding.
One solution to widen that understanding, she said, is transparency, showing citizens where the town is and isn’t spending its funds.
“I think that if we, or if the town, say ‘Open the books,’” Eckstrom said, “I think there’d be a growing call to shift (the budget).”
During Monday night’s Candidates’ Night, Eckstrom emphasized her desire to reevaluate the town’s budget.
“We have the money to give our administration department heads 10 percent raises,” she said, “but we don’t have enough to put another police officer on. I think that’s a disgrace.”
Eckstrom said she isn’t working right now, but she’s spent years in municipal government as a member of several town boards and committees. She’s served on the Board of Selectmen, Board of Assessors, Onset Board of Water Commissioners and the School Council for the former Hammond School.
Another big issue facing the town, she said, is affordable housing — which is why she authored a citizen’s petition on that very topic last fall that was later approved by Attorney General Maura Healey.
The citizen’s petition aimed to promote the development of affordable housing through the conversion of existing in-law and illegal apartments and allowing the subdivision of lots in some neighborhoods.
Attorney General Maura Healey approved the bylaw, but it didn’t guarantee that all units created through the bylaw would count toward the town’s affordable housing stock because of a technicality.
A new citizen’s petition, also submitted by Eckstrom, hopes to rectify that.
She has also authored other citizen’s petitions that will be voted on at Spring Town Meeting: one that would move Town Meetings to Saturday mornings, one that would make Town Meeting agenda items voted on in order, and one that would make Town Clerk an elected position rather than an appointed one.
Eckstrom said she’s in favor of the proposal to turn the former Decas School into a community center.
“That could be a very positive thing for the majority of the people in town,” she said, “because of all of the opportunities that are possible there.”
Since Eckstrom has already served on the Select Board for a few years in the late 2000s, she comes to the table with a breadth of knowledge of how the position works, she said.
“I already have the background and I already have the knowledge and the experience,” Eckstrom said.
When it’s done right, being a Select Board member is a time-consuming job, she said. Her past experience as a member would give her a jump-start, Eckstrom said.
Residents can find more information about Eckstrom on her campaign website, www.brendaeckstrom.com.