MEET A MANSFIELD BOARD CANDIDATE: Walter Wilk

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Incumbents Steve Schoonveld and Michael Trowbridge Sr. and challengers Diana Bren and Walter Wilk are vying for two open seats on the Mansfield Select Board. Elections will take place on May 10 and polls will be open at Mansfield High School.

Walter Wilck

EDUCATION: Bachelor of Arts, University of Rhode Island and commissioned as an infantry officer in the URI US Army Reserve. I also hold several professional titles.

OCCUPATION: CEO of a $2 billion financial services company.

CIVIC EXPERIENCE: Coach and Member of the Mansfield Youth Soccer Council; Board of Trustees, Fields of Green Committee to raise funds for the synthetic turf pitch at Plymouth Street Football Grounds. Led efforts to obtain bank financing for the project; Board of Directors and Coach Mansfield Youth Softball; Chairman of the Mansfield Town Center Committee; chairman and member of Mansfield’s budget subcommittee; member of the capital improvement committee; chairman, vice-chairman and member of the finance committee of Mansfield; Member, New DPW/Public Safety Complex Committee.

Why are you running?

Everyone should give back to the community they live in, and my previous civic experience is testament that I believe in Mansfield and want to continue to support our shared success. I show up because I know I can make a difference by bringing different ideas, a different approach and a different experience to the board, combined with a cooperative spirit. Some council members should be independent and have a Mansfield first mentality, be transparent and open, and strive to engage residents and encourage participation.

How do you think the board has handled the pandemic? What would you do differently? How should the board approach the pandemic going forward?

I think the board has handled the pandemic reasonably well. The work that the finance committee has done with the support of the select committee to achieve fiscal discipline in the budget and balance the budget without any tricks has allowed us to place over 3 million dollars in reserve funds. This allowed us to take out a loan from ourselves when the pandemic hit and revenues quickly declined, without having to resort to layoffs or waivers. A strong financial background enables the city to handle issues from a position of strength rather than being tied to what is happening in the financial market. This must be our main objective for the future.

What I would have done differently – and what should we do in the future, including this year – is to take a multi-year view of our budget. This becomes important as we emerge from the pandemic; our revenues are stabilizing and services are returning to normal. We need to understand next year’s impact on the budget if we decide to use state and federal funds this year to balance the budget. The Select Board needs to be transparent and clearly explain how we will replace these one-time state and federal funds in one, two and three years. Although the pandemic is fading, the daily impacts are still being felt. Incomes continue to recover, businesses rebound to pre-pandemic levels, new services are needed in schools or town hall – COVID will be with us for a while and we will have to learn how to deal with it.

If elected, I would demand that we do more to develop multi-year forecasts and budget perspectives, even if we only adopt an annual budget. Residents and city leaders should understand what the next two years will look like so that we become less reactive and more proactive. We do it with the PIC and other capital projects and we should do it with our budget process. We can do better.

Do you support projects to build a new center for the elderly?

I do, and in my previous campaign I tried to push the Select Board to act quickly when interest rates and building costs were low. Similar to the sale of the Main Street Fire Station, no committee, timeline or vision was ever developed by the board until several years of inactivity.

Being realistic, we missed the first opportunity to act. Unless we are prepared to pay much higher construction costs and deal with potential construction delays, we may have to think about going ahead and designing and building a new senior center .

As an example of proper planning, I would refer residents to the work we have done on the DPW/Public Safety complex. The development and execution of this project took a team approach, supported by the Finance Committee, Board of Directors, City Manager and Department Heads. It took several years of community input and a solid financial model to make it work. We did not hesitate once we identified the desired outcome and sought to capitalize on the fiscal environment. But we are missing some of these factors in coordinating leadership in the current senior center model.

If elected, I will set up the committees, solicit community feedback, and initiate the process so that we are ready when the economy improves. We can do better.

Name the one goal you would like to address if elected?

Restore the transparency of the small council and the confidence of the residents in the decisions of the council.

Managing Editor Donna Whitehead can be reached by email at [email protected]. You can also friend on Facebook.

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