Biotech founder-CEO chosen to fill Marblehead School Committee vacancy

For the next five months, resident Thomas Mathers will serve as an interim member of the Marblehead School Committee.

The Marblehead School Committee and the Select Board picked Mathers in a joint meeting on Monday night, interviewing a half-dozen candidates in Abbot Hall over a two-hour period. Mathers will serve out the remaining months of Emily Barron’s three-year term on the School Committee.

Tom Mathers, far right, during his interview in Abbot Hall on Monday, Jan. 23. CURRENT PHOTO / WILLIAM J. DOWD

In the second round of voting, Alison Taylor and Erin Noonan switched their votes from candidate Don Dewitt to Mathers, giving him the five votes he needed to secure the seat. The pair joined Select Board members Alexa Singer and Moses Grader and School Committee Chair Sarah Fox in giving Mathers the appointment. Paul Baker (three votes) came in second after tying with Mathers in the first voting round. In both rounds of voting, Select Board member Jim Nye cast a lone vote for Raymond A. Hansen.

Mathers will serve until the municipal election in June, but he said he will not pull nomination papers in March.

Aside from paying property taxes, Mathers said he has no strings attached to the Marblehead Public Schools.

“My kids are 27 and 25. They did not go to school in Marblehead, so I have no institutional bias,” he told officials. “I don’t come in here with any fixed view on any member of the administration.”

From 2013 to 2016, Mathers served as an elected official on the School Committee of the Masconomet Regional School System, sitting on its finance and negotiating committees. He also served as a Butler University board of trustee for an unspecified time.

“From my perspective, I really enjoyed the policy subcommittee when I served,” he said. “I think that you can have a tremendous amount of input and impact on long-term kind of policy formation within the school system.”

He firmly stated that he takes seriously the separation of powers between the School Committee and the superintendent.

“Understanding your role as a school committee member is really important. You’re here to hire and fire the superintendent and evaluate their performance,” he said. “You’re here to approve, develop and formulate a budget. And you’re here to really provide governance on policy formation and implementation.”

He said he’s learned that micromanaging doesn’t bring out the best in him or other people.

“I’m not a good micromanager. I’ve tried in my career to micromanage, [and it] always backfires,” he said. “But I think if you trust in people, you hire the right people. You empower those people and get out of the way. Typically, it works out well. That’s my experience.”

Fox and Singer said Mathers prior School Committee experience sold them.

“I think qualifications is important and understanding the intricacies that are involved with the town versus the schools and what that looks like,” said Singer, explaining her rationale before she cast her Mathers vote. “The importance of this short-term appointment, leading to then a situation where the decision is then led back to the voters.”

Mathers’ resume notes he is the founder, president and chief executive officer of Allievex Corporation. He has experience in the biotechnology, biopharmaceutical and healthcare industries.

The Marblehead resident graduated from West Point and is a former captain in the U.S. Army. Mathers flew Apache attack helicopters in the 1991 Gulf War, earning an Air Medal.

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