Helaine Hazlett - Candidate for Board of Health
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 and how has your background prepared you to serve on the Board of Health?
I am Helaine Hazlett, candidate for re-election to the Board of Health. I would like to welcome the Beacon, Marblehead’s new digital news site, and wish its writers and producers much success.
I have lived in and been a public servant in Marblehead most of my adult life. I am running for re-election to the Board of Health because of the passion I have for this wonderful community. As an experienced public health official, I am qualified to continue to serve the Town. Ever since receiving degrees in health-related fields from the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia University, I have been dedicated to public health education. I have taught health education and worked for the Newton Health Department. In addition to a strong public health background, I have a working knowledge of the Town's government. Through the numerous boards in Marblehead I have served, I have experience in Town budgets, legal matters and personnel issues.
If you are currently serving on the Board of Health, 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 Board of Health over the past year?
My #1 accomplishment has been the management of COVID 19 as the Board of Health led Marblehead through this ongoing pandemic. At my recommendation, the Board went from meeting monthly to holding meetings weekly for several months and then went to biweekly through 2021 in order to address the myriad of concerns from our citizens.
During the height of the pandemic the Board responded to the dire need for mental health services for our students and others. It was through my suggestion that the ongoing Mental Health Task Force was formed. Members of the community with expertise in mental health were appointed to serve. As a former president of the Marblehead Counseling Center, I am pleased that the Board of Health budget has allocated $60,000 each year to the Center for town employees and those who may need financial assistance.
I am most proud of the landfill closure and the stunning meadow and open space the Board has developed. Our transfer station is and will continue to be the gem of the North Shore with commercial vehicles coming from several towns away to use our facility.
Other accomplishments throughout my tenure have been prohibiting smoking in public places even before the Commonwealth and banning flavored e-cigarettes to discourage young adult use. Increasing recycling town-wide and offering for a fee residential collection of garbage waste. The ban on single use plastic bags and styrofoam trays in the schools all contribute to a cleaner, healthier environment and protects our oceans, streams, fish and birds.
What are your top three priorities to accomplish this year if elected or re-elected to the Board of Health?
And now it is time to get back to the goals and the typical and regular duties of the Board of Health which have been put on hold during the pandemic. The completion of the transfer station project and continuing to assist residents receive vaccinations and interpret case reports, as the country and the world emerge out of the pandemic, continue to be priorities. The most critical issue is to continue to advocate for our children, their families, our seniors and all citizens of Marblehead while addressing the serious increase in mental health issues. I will continue to address and work closely with the schools and police around drug and alcohol awareness and lowering opioid addiction. Additionally, I am committed to work with the Green Community Committee to reach the Town’s goal to be carbon-free by 2040.
Has the Board of Health done a good job communicating with and inviting feedback from the community? Would you make any changes?
Although it has been a challenging couple of years, I am proud of my desire for transparency and the fact that I listen and bring people together. The Board of Health has been open and has communicated with the community through Zoom on a weekly basis during the height of the pandemic with the Director giving a weekly COVID report from the Commonwealth. There was and is always time for questions from the audience where numerous times there were over 100 people in attendance. Both the Director and his staff were available 5 days a week answering a myriad of phone calls and emails. The Board solicited community input in forming the Mental Health Task Force, worked closely with the school department where I was the representative from the Board of Health at the superintendent’s weekly Advisory Team meetings. The Director and his staff kept the Board informed around issues surrounding the schools, the restaurants, the transfer station, the vaccination clinics among other town situations. Board members visited the transfer station and met with the employees on several occasions. Hopefully, it won’t be long before the Board can get back to conducting business in person and to a more normal cadence.
What criteria would you use, if any, in considering restoration of a mask mandate in Marblehead?
As more and more people get vaccinated, I do not envision a mask mandate in Marblehead. I would like to express my appreciation and gratitude to all levels of the community- the students, their teachers and the superintendent, the shop keepers and the restaurants, the physicians and all health providers, the town employees and most of all, the citizens of this magnificent Town for their cooperation and understanding during this most difficult time.
How do you expect to enforce the summer leaf blower ban recently approved at Town Meeting, and how much will it cost?
The leaf blower ban was proposed at the 2022 Town Meeting by private citizens. It is not under the Board of Health purview so there will be no fees involved as far as the Board is concerned.
Please comment on the current status of the Transfer Station project. How would you evaluate the Board of Health’s handling of this project? What do you propose to do going forward with regard to the Transfer Station?
The Board of Health met to discuss the two options in completing the transfer station. One option (A) would require the Board to request additional funding where with the second option (B) there was enough money left over from the capping project along with approved Revolving Fund money to finish the project. I was the member who asked for a delay of the Board vote and recommended holding an Open Forum to get input from the residents. A traffic study is currently being done and a Town committee has been appointed all of which came out of suggestions from the community at the Forum.
I am definitely not a single-issue person. I care about the total health of our residents as well as each and every individual being accepted for who they are and what they believe. I have studied public health as a science and dedicated my entire life to promoting healthy behavior and preventing disease. This is clearly where my passion lies.