Moses Grader - 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 am a co-founder and Managing Partner of Little Harbor Advisors, an investment management firm based in Marblehead. I have an MBA in finance and my early career experience includes big five accounting consultancy, investment banking, and venture capital. I served on the Finance Committee of the Town of Marblehead for 9 years (2008-2017), the last 6 years as its Chair. I have served as a Selectman for the past 5 years.
If you are currently serving on the Select Board, what do you believe are your most significant accomplishments thus far?
The Board’s most significant achievement has been to manage the Town’s budget within proposition 2½ without any general overrides while maintaining a Triple-A bond rating.
Because of my prior experience in finance and Fincom, my involvement on the Select Board has emphasized the finances and budget priorities of the Board. Currently, I am on the Town Budget Working Group – established over two years ago to work with the UMass Collins Center – with the mandate to raise the Town’s budget process and transparency standards to the level prescribed by the national Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA). The result is that Marblehead was awarded the GFOA Distinguished Budget Presentation Award this year, a significant achievement especially for a first-year attempt. The GFOA Presentation of the Town’s Fiscal Year 2022 Annual Budget details the list of the Select Board’s FY 20 and FY 21 achievements as well as the Board’s goals and initiatives contemplated for the FY 22 and beyond (see pages 49-65). All of the Town department achievements and goals are similarly listed within the context of the Town’s Six Strategic Goals, which are: 1) Addressing Critical Infrastructure and Facility Needs, 2) Employee Performance and Growth, 3) Financial Stewardship, 4) Economic Health and Vitality, 5) Vibrant and Inclusive community, and 6) Environmental Stewardship. The GFOA Budget Presentation is a foundational communication tool to help orient Marbleheaders to the high level of activity and innovation across all the departments and to understand the remarkable level, scope, and coordination of the Town’s excellent services. It is a multi-year working document, suitable for the facilitation of open and transparent discussion.
I am also a member of the ARPA Working Group, which has (i) assembled a very broadly inclusive list of possible projects from every possible quarter (departments, schools, commissions, and residents) of the Town, (ii) conducted a survey asking residents to rank project preferences, and (iii) promulgated the Board’s ARPA Project Selection Criteria. The goal of the Working Group is to present its findings of the top qualifying projects to the public and to demonstrate to residents that the selection of projects is to be based on quantitative measures and objective processes using criteria defined in advance of project selection. The Town has until December 2024 to commit ARPA funds and until December 2026 to spend funds, so the ARPA Working Group will continue to evaluate and rank any new project candidates as they emerge in this timeframe.
In addition, I serve on the Housing Production Implementation Committee, the Harbor Plan Working Group, and the Board of Health’s Mental Health Task Force, which reflect my other priorities of service to the Town.
A crucial staffing achievement of the Select Board has been managing the transition of the Town Administrator and attracting a truly exceptional replacement. The Board has also consolidated the DPW under the Water & Sewer Commissioner’s purview in order to unify the management and control of all street and sidewalk infrastructure under one person.
What are your top priorities to accomplish this year if elected or re-elected to the Select Board?
The top priority every year is to provide the continued high level of services Marbleheaders deserve. More specific priorities for this fiscal year are: 1) to facilitate the successful integration and engagement of the new Town Administrator, who will then have the discretion to fill the Finance Director’s role and consolidate the Town’s finance department; 2) get an early jump on the FY 23 budget with the GFOA process and GFOA Budget Presentation, including capital expenditures; 3) establish an aggressive communication campaign to inform taxpayers of the status of the budget, any structural deficits, and a plan to permanently address those deficits, if any, and 4) present the findings of the ARPA Working Group.
Has the Select Board done a good job communicating with and inviting feedback from the community?
The Select Board could always do a better job pro-actively communicating to all the residents of the Town over and above its regularly broadcast meetings and deliberations, which are now hybridized for Zoom communication and easier participation. The loss of coverage from the Marblehead Reporter is devastating and we sorely need an independent source of local editorial reporting. The Town website is an excellent source of information but can be overwhelming because of the sheer number of departments, commissions and ad hoc committees engaged in so many activities. Engagement goals for the Board in FY 22 include: the 2nd Municipal Bootcamp program, the 2nd annual Online Survey, and consideration of alternative media such as social media, resident newsletters, virtual coffee hours, and regularly scheduled email blast reminders in advance of meetings or events. Again, GFOA Budget Presentation is an important tool for putting a lot of information in perspective.
Has the Select Board done a good job with hiring and appointing members to serve our community?
Marblehead is one of the purest forms of participatory democracy and relies heavily on informed, civic-minded, patient, and engaged volunteers. Filling open appointed positions through advertising, website postings, and asking for volunteers during public Select Board meetings has worked well for many years. Although the Board naturally draws from among the most engaged volunteers, it is always looking for ways to increase the pool of qualified volunteers with comprehensively diverse skills, talents, and perspectives to serve the Town through its engagement activities outlined above.
Do you believe that override questions should be presented to the community as a menu of spending choices with the option to prioritize, or should all items be combined to pass or fail together?
Debt or capital exclusion overrides should be voted on individually. Any general overrides should answer the following questions: What is the financial condition of the Town or School with no general override given all funding sources? What is the historical source and level of the prospective deficit? Can it be addressed with cuts and where would those cuts impact services? Without cuts, what is the general override needed to address the minimal structural deficit for an indefinite period of time?
Do you believe the members of the Select Board should serve for one-year terms or should the terms be longer?
One-year terms for the Select Board members is remarkably stable, and also gives voters a yearly opportunity to evaluate candidates. I do not think there should be term limits.