Marblehead buttresses fair housing

At their meeting last week, the Fair Housing Committee formally moved forward with a reorganization proposed by Select Board Chair Moses Grader that the board subsequently approved, installing Town Administrator Thatcher Kezer as chair of the committee and shuffling its membership in an effort to fast-track affordable housing projects.

The committee will now be comprised of Kezer, serving as chair, Town Planner Becky Cutting, Select Board member Erin Noonan, Teri McDonough, a representative from the Housing Authority, Deacon John Whipple, a representative from the Task Force against Discrimination, Katie Farrell, a representative from the Marblehead Disabilities Commission, and three other members, who Kezer said he couldn’t recall.

Grader, at the Select Board meeting, said the reorganization of the committee was an effort to “augment” it, and to “place it in the position to more effectively execute its mandate.”

“The explanation that we offer is that we need more operational heft on the Fair Housing Committee, bring the Fair Housing Committee closer to the ear of the Select Board,” he said. “It would be chaired by the town administrator so that we could kind of optimize the coordination between the Fair Housing Committee, the Housing Production Committee, and the Fair Housing Trust. The town planner is also crucially involved especially when it comes to finding grants.”

In an interview Tuesday, Kezer said he was unlikely to make major changes immediately, opting instead to get a better sense of what the town needs from the committee and taking the time to understand the ins and outs of his new role.

“I try not to change things drastically when I come into a new role, because I like to assess first how things are being done currently because I’m a big believer if it’s going well don’t change it,” he said. “If there are parts that need to be improved, okay. Get that awareness, get that knowledge, understanding before implementing any kind of big changes. I don’t see a lot of big changes being done at the beginning. It’s more of … me getting familiar.”

Kezer, who became Town Administrator in June, said the meeting last week was the first he had attended, and as such he had little perspective on how the reorganization might alter the way the committee had worked previously. He added that the first thing he intends to do is to develop an understanding of the entirety of the goals of the committee.

“My first step in the process is getting a clearer picture of what the agenda items are. Meaning what are all the efforts that Marblehead has been working on relative to housing and try to organize it in a way that we can better articulate the specific goals of what it is we want to be, what are the things that need to be done to achieve those goals, what are the resources that we need to bring to bear to bring it together?” he said. “It’s better coordination on organizing all the resources to move the agenda. The first step is for me to get my arms around, what is it that Marblehead … wants to get done? I’m the layperson coming in, so I’m coming in with a fresh eye, and that’s what I’m going to try to achieve.”