Candidate Q & A: Bret Murray, Select Board

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

Years in Marblehead: Over 35 years

Occupation: Director of risk management in higher education

Education: Bachelor of arts in history and political science from UMass Amherst, master of science in administrative studies from Boston College, Juris Doctor from New England School of Law

Appointed positions and/or elected offices: Marblehead Select Board from 2011 to 2017

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

Addressing the structural budget deficit, creating a strategic plan and increasing transparency are the three main reasons why I am running for Select Board. We need to address our structural budget deficit with a true long-term solution. It will require an “all-hands-on-deck” approach leveraging the expertise and previous experience of our Finance Director and Town Administrator. A strategic plan should help immensely. It sets the overall goals for our town and creates the plan to achieve those goals. A strategic plan creates a clear sense of direction and drives operational efficiency — laying the groundwork for longstanding success. Transparency is an important part of any democracy, and Marblehead is no exception. In addition to enacting the non-binding citizen articles from this year’s Town Meeting, we also need to create “A Citizen’s Guide to the Budget,” like other Massachusetts communities, that explains the budget process, details and impacts. 

Do you believe the $2.5 million override will pass? How are you actively persuading the town to support it? In the event that it does not pass, what alternatives do you propose?

I’m optimistic that it will. As I talk to people around town about the election, it is the topic that comes up most. In addition to discussing the override with voters, I plan on helping with the “Vote Yes” committee once events are scheduled. It is important for anyone who is in favor of the override to do what they can to spread the word and engage the public. Whether it passes or not, the next Select Board will still need to find a long-term solution to our budget deficit crisis. 

What measures would you propose to increase our town’s revenues without excessively burdening taxpayers?

Before raising fees from our taxpayers, we must first determine what cuts, consolidations and other efficiencies the town can make to drive cost savings. We cannot assume that our town government is operating in line with best practices or as efficiently as it should be. The fact that our long-term leaders knew of our structural deficit problem at least four years ago and only began addressing the issue weeks prior to the Town Meeting is proof that our town is not operating as it should. We must turn inward before looking outward to resolve our structural deficit problem.

How would you ensure the long-term financial health of our town, extending beyond the immediate deficit?

The answer to this question goes back to the three reasons why I’m running for Select Board: addressing our structural budget deficit, creating a strategic plan and improving transparency. Before we can develop a budget, we must first conduct an analysis of where we are, what we need to change and where we want to be in five years’ time. All this occurs during various phases of the strategic plan process. Once a strategic plan is agreed upon, the town will then be able to create a budget that reflects this long-term plan. Throughout the entire process, not only will our citizens be provided with the necessary information, but they will also have opportunities to add their suggestions and changes before voting on this long-term approach. If we truly want to address our long-term financial health, we need to approach it in a comprehensive and transparent manner. 

Could you share your philosophy on maintaining reserves and their significance in situations like the present budget deficit?

Stabilization and reserve funds are appropriate for any municipality to ensure that they have adequate financial resources to cover extraordinary or unforeseen expenditures. They are a critical component of sound and prudent financial management. In short, they would allow Marblehead to tap into such funds as a substitute for lost revenue during a time of economic downturn, or other emergency situations, minimizing cuts to town and educational services.  

What areas of municipal government do you think the town could give more attention to? 

Marblehead’s Finance Department should be our top priority. We must ensure our new Finance Director and Treasurer have the necessary tools, training and guidance to succeed in each of their roles.

As real estate prices continue to soar, Marblehead homes appear increasingly unaffordable for many police officers, teachers and other public servants. This also affects those who grew up in town but cannot afford to return “home.” To what extent do you consider this a problem, and what potential solutions can you propose?

As someone whose parents are retired town employees, this issue is of particular interest to me. Had my parents worked for the town now, even after adjusting their pay to today’s rate, they would not be able to afford to live here. The recent passage of the accessory dwelling unit changes at Town Meeting was certainly a step in the right direction, but more action is still needed. With the recent changes to the Fair Housing Committee, I am hopeful that long-term solutions can be found and look forward to working with that committee to explore ways of expanding our affordable housing inventory. 

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