Bret Murray - Candidate for Select Board
Marblehead Beacon is presenting these candidate profiles in advance of our June 21 town elections with the goal of helping the community learn more about all of the individuals volunteering their time to run for public office. Please note that the answers included here are printed exactly as provided by each candidate, with only minor typographical edits. Marblehead Beacon does not endorse any candidate or validate any responses. All candidates for the Select Board, Town Moderator, Board of Health, Light Department, and School Committee who had available contact information were given the opportunity to respond to a set of questions specific to the office for which they are running.
What is your professional experience, including handling budgets, and how has your background prepared you to serve on the Select Board?
I have worked in the insurance industry professionally for over twenty years, primarily in risk management. As a risk manager, my role is to ensure my organizations’ longevity by identifying and addressing risks that could impact its financial health, legal compliance and reputation. As the Director of Risk Management in two organizations, I managed an annual departmental budget of over $3 million dollars. I also served on the Select Board from 2011 to 2017 where I worked with the other board members, town employees and appointed officials on our annual town budget. My risk management background, managing large departmental budgets and six years’ experience with our own town budget makes me an excellent candidate for the Select Board.
If you are currently serving on the Select Board, what do you believe are your most significant accomplishments thus far? If you are not currently serving, how would you evaluate the efforts of the Select Board over the past year?
Our town officials and employees deserve credit for all the work they did during the pandemic. Managing a town is not an easy feat to begin with, let alone doing so for a second year under a virtual and hybrid model. However, the Select Board should have put more effort into addressing the town’s looming financial crisis. Had the current Select Board been more proactive and initiated work on a comprehensive plan, we would be much further along in this process.
What are your top priorities to accomplish this year if elected or re-elected to the Select Board?
The three main things I would like to accomplish if elected is to create a strategic plan, improve our town communications and increase transparency.
Strategic Plan: Our town has great initiatives currently underway, but there is no overall strategic plan tying them altogether. A strategic plan is important to ensure our town officials, employees and citizens know where we want to go and how we are going to get there. It holds everyone accountable.
Communication: Marblehead lacks a formalized communication process. Our town’s website, social media and outreach needs to be overhauled and improved to meet today’s standard of communicating
Transparency: Our citizens have the right to know how our town operates and conducts its business. The CliftonLarsonAllan report, issued December 7, 2021, found that few departments have formal written procedure manuals, and for those that do, the procedures are outdated.
Has the Select Board done a good job communicating with and inviting feedback from the community? What needs improvement in this arena?
The Select Board has primarily relied on the same communication mechanisms as it did pre-COVID: occasional email, website updates and CodeRED calls. It lacks a formal communication strategy that leverages various social medial channels and other mechanisms that could reach a broader audience. Communication is also done differently across departments, further fragmentating information being sent out and received.
Has the Select Board done a good job with hiring and appointing members to serve our community? What needs improvement in this arena?
The Select Board has done a good job hiring new employees. They leverage a good mix of elected and appointed officials to be part of the search committees, as well as involving citizens and recruiting firms for some senior positions. However, I think the appointment process for various boards and commissions can be improved. First, candidates who previously served should not be automatically reappointed when their term is up. Anyone who is interested in serving on that board or commission should be interviewed and then the Select Board should make its decision. Second, the Select Board needs to advertise these positions better and leverage the various social media and media outlets, such as the Marblehead Beacon, to reach those who might be interested in giving back to the town.
Do you believe that override questions should be presented to the community as a menu of spending choices with the options to prioritize, or should all items be combined to pass or fail together?
In general, I support override questions that are combined to pass or fail together, such as the upcoming 2022 School override that mixes ongoing and one-time expenses. Because override questions go through an extensive vetting process that includes public participation, I think an override should generally succeed or fail on a standalone basis. However, the override process is being overused because we do not have a strategic plan that appropriately funds future obligations and addresses the goals of the community. We need to prioritize our spending based on our planning—prioritizing overrides will not accomplish this.
Do you believe the members of the Select Board should serve for one-year terms or should the terms be longer? Should there be term limits for this role?
All elected boards and committees should have three-year staggered terms, including the Select Board. There should be a three-term or nine-year limit, whichever is greater, for all elected boards and committees, requiring at least one year off before running for the same board or committee again. The one exception I would make is for Town Clerk who is the only elected department head. Longer terms will allow Select Board members to establish long-term goals and see them through. However, requiring incumbents to step away for at least a year after nine years of service should encourage more citizens to get involved and participate in town government, creating space for new ideas and leadership for Marblehead.