After a six-year hiatus, a familiar face is once again running for a spot on the Select Board.
Bret Murray, who served on the board from 2011 to 2017, is one of six candidates running for five seats, and is the only candidate who is not currently on the board.
Murray grew up in town and graduated from Marblehead High School in 1992. Growing up, he was heavily involved with the Boy Scouts, which helped grow his passion for giving back to the community. He said that passion is what drove him to run for the Select Board 12 years ago.
“The reason why I ran is I love our town,” he said. “When I first ran 12 years ago, it was just to give back.”
Murray had two children during his time on the board and after his sixth term, he decided to step away to focus on taking care of them. Now that they are older, he is jumping back into the race because he wants to change where the town is headed.
“I just have some concerns about the direction the town is going in and that’s why I’m throwing my hat back in the ring right now,” he said.
One of those concerns involves the town budget, which Murray cited as the most pressing issue in town. He said the most important part of fixing the budget is creating a strategic plan that maps out where town finances are and where they should be going.
“Once you know where we want to go, where we want to see ourselves, then you can start to look at the budget to make sure we’re going to meet those fiscal benchmarks and we’re going to have the money and we’re going to have the resources to do that,” he said.
He added that developing the budget around in-house assessments that focus on what is or isn’t working and what needs improvements is crucial, as the town has been operating the budget without a strategic plan.
As a result, the town has relied too much on free cash spending, which is one of the reasons that an override is necessary. Murray said that the three ways to address this are to raise taxes, raise revenues, or cut spending.
“When you do the strategic plan, I think you need to look inwards first before we look outward,” said Murray.
He said that in order for the town to run properly, it needs to look into where cuts can be made to the budget as well as where more resources need to be allocated. Once all avenues have been explored and the town has done its “due diligence,” Murray said, then the override will be the “last resort.”
“What can we do to make our town more efficient or run better?” he questioned. “What other revenue sources can we tap into that we’re not?”
In regard to the rising demand for more transparency between the town government and its residents, Murray said that he supported the citizen articles at Town Meeting that would require boards and committees to “put forth their best efforts” in making meetings available online and recording meeting minutes.
“Our citizens want to understand what’s going on, what got us to this point, why this funding is needed, and how the government operates,” he said. “They don’t want to just be told to trust us from our public leaders, they want to be shown that they’re doing what they’re supposed to be doing.”
Murray said that it is encouraging to see an increasing number of citizen-sponsored articles, which he cited as a change in town government that he has seen since he last served on the board.
“I think it’s wonderful that our citizens are paying attention and if they’re not getting the answers from their leaders that they expect and deserve, they are willing to take it to that next step,” he said.
Murray also said that he is happy to see a growing interest in town government among residents since the pandemic, which made municipal meetings more accessible with hybrid formats.