Candidate Q & A: Tom McMahon, 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: I’m 41 years old and grew up in Marblehead. Outside of attending college in Colorado and spending short times living in Boston and Salem in my late 20s/30s, I’ve lived in Marblehead most of my life.

Occupation/education: I received my bachelor’s degree from the University of Colorado at Boulder where I double majored in economics and history and I am currently a VP in investment management data quality at Morgan Stanley. 

Appointed positions and/or elected offices: As far as town governance, this would be my first and I’m looking forward to the opportunity to serve the community I’ve loved my whole life.

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

I need to bring honesty and transparency back to the community and I believe I can do this through the Board of health. I want to complete the Transfer Station in the right away which includes full transparency from the public and letting the residents decide on the completion design after the past failures. I want to bring a new approach to handling substance abuse in town especially with our youth as the current strategies clearly aren’t working. Lastly, I want to help the Marblehead Counseling Center to alleviate the current backlog of residents currently looking for mental health assistance — a backlog which is comprised of roughly 70% local youths.

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?

It is a 100% fair criticism. It was evident during the 2022 mandates when the Board would not provide local businesses with the metrics used so they could anticipate future mandates. It’s clear every time they don’t answer the question, “Where did the transfer station money go?” It was on display last summer when the Transfer Station committee held meetings at 1 p.m. mid-week which limited public participation/knowledge. But most notably is their recent decision to change the policy during public comment to not allow any comments from the public. If perception is the reality, I plan to change that through full transparency. 

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

The most significant issues currently are the completion of the Transfer Station project, substance abuse and mental health. I can address the Transfer Station below. For substance abuse, we need to educate the youth on the tragedies we’ve seen in town. Rather than hire anonymous traveling speakers, I would establish a program where families of local victims could speak to students. I was that public school student in this town and we didn’t think these tragedies happen here. Local speakers would help amplify the message that Marblehead is not immune, would show the local pain when this happens and also keep the memory alive of those we’ve lost. This approach only works for the youth though and I’ve received enthusiasm and support from some of the families subject to these tragedies. With the older generation, they know the stakes and take the risks. I’d like to provide fentanyl test strips that could be picked up free of charge and anonymously. If we can’t stop the older generation from using at least we could stop them from dying. For mental health, the Board needs to better support the Marblehead Counseling Center by dedicating as much funds as possible but also doing a much better job of promoting and attending their fundraising events. When we can’t give money we need to find creative ways to assist, such as promoting physical health within our local facilities as we are learning more and more that a healthy body can assist with developing a healthy mind.

 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? 

As mentioned before, we need to better promote the Counseling Center, assist with fundraising and direct as much of the Board’s funds to the Counseling Center as possible until we relieve the current backlog. We also need to get creative when money isn’t an option such as promoting physical health which I believe supports mental health. I was the insecure kid growing up and when I discovered health and fitness my world changed. I have more confidence now that I ever did as a child. I don’t think I’m unique and I think people of all ages could have similar results. We also need to promote community involvement which will give residents a better feeling of belonging and importance.

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

The residents were twice promised a particular Transfer Station that would be “future proof” regarding increased regulations and keep us revenue generating. This is not theTransfer Station we are getting. We need to present the residents with the two options for completion and let the residents decide how to proceed rather than the Board. Each design comes with financial costs, consequences and benefits. It’s not fair to have a Board who failed this project with little to no transparency on what went wrong and move forward with making the decisions on how we complete it. The decision needs to be made by the residents on a ballot with full transparency.

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