With the May 18 Town Election approaching, positions on Harvard’s four elected boards—School Committee, Select Board, and boards of trustees for Warner Free Lectures and Harvard Public Library—are opening as the terms of the currently serving members come to a close. Town Moderator Bill Barton’s one-year elected position is also up in May. Although any resident can run for a seat on one of the elected boards, most current committee members are running for reelection and hope to continue serving the community.
But one long-serving Select Board member will not be among them. After serving seven three-year terms, Lucy Wallace will be stepping down.
“The decision not to run was very hard,” Wallace told the Press, saying that she began considering whether she wanted to serve another term on the board almost a full year ago. While the job could be difficult, Wallace said she “got a lot of satisfaction” out of serving the community in this way. “I really felt that I was contributing to the board. There were things that I wanted to be a part of and navigate the town through,” she said.
Wallace believes that having new voices on the Select Board is important. She said her presence on the board has provided a useful perspective as a long-term Harvard resident and long-standing member of both the Select Board and other town committees through the years. However, an open candidate position allows the opportunity for younger members or more recent Harvard residents to offer a “fresher perspective,” Wallace said.
Throughout her time on the Select Board, Wallace said her experiences working with residents and colleagues of differing backgrounds in town were valuable, “bridging different opinions and finding common ground to move forward. It was always a learning experience … [and] it was always gratifying if I was successful at that,” she said. The projects Wallace enjoyed most were ones where the town came together to solve an important issue. These included preparations for the digital transition at the turn of the century and dealing with the ice storm emergency in 2008.
Wallace shared some words of advice for new Select Board members, reflecting on her own experience. “As much time as you can give [the position], it will take,” she said. Members of the board devote a lot of time to other duties beyond the biweekly meetings of the board, including attending other committees’ meetings as liaisons and representatives of the board. Wallace, for instance, is a liaison for the Council on Aging and a representative for the Harvard-Devens Jurisdiction and Devens Jurisdictional Framework committees. “Time can get swallowed up with committee meetings … but it’s very gratifying,” she said, “It’s an incredible opportunity for service.” The most important advice Wallace has, however, is to “be respectful.” “We need to treasure diverse opinions in the community because that’s what makes it work better,” she said.
Wallace hopes she can continue to work on her ongoing projects after she has left the Select Board, such as the Devens projects as well as the climate projects within the Community Resiliency Working Group. She also plans to devote more time to other groups she participates in, such as the Nashua River Watershed Association, of which she is the current president.
Molloy, Cronin to run again for School Committee
As for those who are newer to service on town committees and looking to continue this work, Sharlene Cronin and Shannon Molloy are both running for reelection to the School Committee. Cronin originally ran for the committee because of the value she sees in education. She explained that she greatly appreciated the public education she had growing up in Lexington: “It gave me the opportunity to go on to be successful in my career,” she said. Upon leaving a job on Wall Street and moving to Harvard to settle her family, Cronin wanted to get engaged with the school district and the community.
Cronin said she enjoys working with the other members of the School Committee and solving issues, particularly budgetary concerns. “There’s a saying that your budget reflects your values,” she said, explaining that she has helped rework the school district’s budget to better align with what the district would like to fund.
Looking ahead, Cronin hopes to strategically plan for the future of the school district. “It’s clear that we have some structural issues in the town and the district that we need to figure out,” she said. Thinking about the future of technology, the school lunch programs, and the athletic programs will be important. “The district needs to be responsive to changes,” Cronin said, adding that the schools will need to adapt to changes in community, culture, society, and education.
Molloy shared similar sentiments about her experience on the School Committee. “I knew when my son entered [kindergarten] that I wanted to serve the schools in some way. I started attending [School Committee] meetings in Town Hall as a member of the public in December 2017 and it stuck,” she wrote to the Press. Molloy ran and was elected to the committee the following year, wanting to be a member because of the connection she felt to the committee and its values. “I knew I wanted to serve in a place where I could make a difference,” she wrote.
Molloy said she values the community’s trust in the School Committee to “lead the district” and the opportunities the committee offers to student leaders. Some of the projects Molloy has worked on during her last term include reestablishing the Special Education Parent Advisory Council, advocating for the passing of the 2018 ballot question that upheld the protection of transgender rights, helping to create the COVID-19 testing program for the district before state-level testing, and a current proposal to cancel this year’s MCAS requirements. Should she be reelected, Molloy said she hopes to continue this type of work and “strengthen our ties and advocacy in the wider community.”
Library trustee Manell will run for reelection; plans for second library trustee, Warner Free trustees unknown
Jen Manell, a member of the Harvard Public Library board of trustees, is also running for a second term. When she ran for the first time, Manell said, “I thought [the board] would be a good match, even without fully understanding what it involved.” Now knowing the ins and outs of supporting the library through this board, she hopes to be reelected so she can continue her service with the added confidence of being a more experienced board member.
The board’s mission, Manell explained, aligns with her own values of “life-long learning.” “I love the idea of supporting the library as an organization that supports everyone in the community, from infants to seniors,” she said. Manell hopes to continue working on projects that help the library to better serve its patrons. For instance, the board has been discussing how to increase diversity, equity, and inclusion, thinking about “how to bring more people and voices into the library,” Manell said. “We’re taking some actionable steps here,” she added, noting that the board has brought in students from the library’s teen advisory board to help as well. From the most mundane tasks like replacing soap dispensers to discussing inclusion, Manell said that she has enjoyed her term on the board and would be “excited to keep serving.”
Another trustee position on the library’s board—currently held by Davida Bagatelle––and two positions on the Warner Free Lecture board of trustees––currently held by Jeffrey Boudreau and Jennifer Malloy Combs––are also expiring this spring. The Press reached out to all three candidates about their plans, but they did not respond in time for this edition of the paper. Bill Barton, incumbent for the position of town moderator, will be interviewed in a future edition of the Press.