Candidate Q & A: David Becker, Board of Health

The following represents the candidate’s responses to the Current’s Board of Health-specific questions. Jump back to Election Guide

Years in Marblehead: Grew up in Marblehead since 1955

Occupation/education: Marblehead Public Schools, senior class president in 1968; Harvard School of Dental Medicine, D.M.D., Cum Laude; and Harvard School of Public Health, M.P.H. 

Appointed positions and/or elected offices: Elected to Marblehead Board of Health, 1990-2009; editor-in-chief, Journal of the Massachusetts Dental Society 2004-present; and trustee, Massachusetts Dental Society 2006-2013. 

What are the three reasons/issues motivating your decision to run for election?

  1.  I want to be in the front lines to try to reduce the problem of mental health issues.
  2.  I want to embrace the opportunity to be a part of the Transfer Station project’s completion.
  3.  I want to initiate a program that would help families to navigate resources to mitigate stress.  

Some would say that the Board of Health has lacked transparency in recent years. Is this criticism valid? Fair or unfair, how do you dispel this perception? 

Transparency is the focus of discussions in all aspects of government. From what I see, the Board of Health fulfills that obligation with the fact that all meetings are open and hybrid. The Board members and administration are available for access to the public. I have always been open, honest and accessible. Decisions that affect the health and welfare of our town have to be publicized. It is important to educate the public by such means as the website, by holding forums and through the media. 

What are the most significant issues facing the Board of Health, and how would you address them if elected?

People move to Marblehead because of its history of providing services to benefit our neighbors. The Board of Health’s main purpose is to protect the health and safety of Marbleheaders, and during the pandemic, we should all be grateful that its policies saved so many lives. As a Board, we should always be vigilant and prepared for the next pandemic because viruses do mutate. It is better to be prepared and hope that it does not occur.

When we think of “public health,” we tend to think about disease and other impacts on our physical condition, but awareness has been growing about the importance of our psychological well-being as well. How can the Board of Health be a force for improving the collective mental health of Marblehead?

 Our town has seen a major increase in anxiety and mental health issues of our residents (especially our children). I am sure it can be traced back to the pandemic, but it should now continue to be a focus of the Board. We have a wonderful facility in our Marblehead Counseling Center, but they are overwhelmed. So I propose that we advocate and search for the availability of more grants over and above the ARPA money that has already been allocated.

I am sure that these anxiety and mental health issues have also contributed to the deterioration 

in how we relate to each other. We should work to find what solutions and help we can access.

I think it would be beneficial to have seminars on the way we all should use social media to benefit each other’s interactions.

There seems to be a bit of public distrust around the Transfer Station project. What would you do to address that?

We need to educate the public about the history and evolution of the project. In order to serve the town properly, leadership has to be able to adapt to whatever is thrown at them. I was on the Board when we were mandated by the DEP to cap the landfill. After Town Meeting and the voters approved an override to cover state mandates, remediation costs skyrocketed when our engineering contractor discovered greater than expected contamination on the site and in abutting properties, including conservation land.  Because of the due diligence of the Board of Health, the additions had to be addressed and had to be covered by the approved funds. An attempt was made to get more funds so that the project could go on with the original design, but this subsequent override was not passed by the voters. I admire how well the Board and its administrator have been able to devise a recovery plan with existing funds that will still be able to provide a functioning facility and a modern building for the employees. Marblehead will still have a modern Transfer Station that provides great service for its residents and still will provide service for local commercial use. It is and will be the envy of many communities that do not have this kind of facility. I know this will be a facility that makes the community proud. Being a Board member, your purpose is not to find fault for everything, your responsibility is to find solutions.

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