Marblehead resident Larry Simpson has never run for public office prior to his bid for a spot on the Recreation and Parks Commission. However, that doesn’t mean he is not bringing any experience to the table.
Simpson has lived in town for more than 30 years and has three kids who have gone through or are currently in the Marblehead Public Schools system. At the League of Women Voters of Marblehead Candidate Night, Simpson said in his opening statement that his children have participated in a number of activities provided by the commission, from summer camps to after school activities.
He also said that he is running because he wants to preserve the land for future generations.
“I care about the land, I care about the environment, I have three kids. I want them to have the same future that I enjoyed as a child,” Simpson said.
Simpson works as a garden designer and runs a business in town that installs and designs gardens. Before that, he worked for the Trustees of Reservations, which he said is the oldest nonprofit land-conservation group in the world.
One issue that Simpson addressed at Candidates Night was noise complaints relating to pickleball from those living near the courts that players use at Veterans Middle School.
Simpson said he had sympathy for both the pickleball players and those affected by the noise in regard to how he plans to handle the growth of the sport.
He added that he understands how addictive pickleball can be because he is passionate about another “racket” sport, but he also knows the noise is “disconcerting to the residents there.”
“I’m often required, at my business, to find noise buffers with shrubbery or screening,” he said. “Maybe there’s a way to soften or buffer that noise through vegetation.”
In regard to organic practices, Simpson said that he uses these practices consistently in his gardening work and credited Chip Osborne, who helped lead the effort to make the town’s turf fields organic.
“It’s better for wildlife, it’s better for the ecology, it’s better for our children, it’s better for all around,” he said. “I think the results speak for themselves. Our parks and our soccer fields look fabulous.”
He also gave credit to the Recreation and Parks Department for the work that they have done despite budget cuts.
“The budget keeps shrinking and yet the work does not,” he said. “How is this smaller staff supposed to do the same amount of work with less money and less help?”
In an email interview, Simpson added to his response on the department’s budget.
“At the very moment Marblehead should be investing more dollars in recreation and parks to insure residents maintain good mental and physical health,” Simpson said. “I believe many of the Recreation activities pay for themselves so the bigger challenge is with regard to the parks.”
Simpson provided a number of possible solutions to helping the department financially. The first being to “utilize the wisdom of the committee to ensure we are following best practices,” and to maximize the department’s use of money.
He also suggested that another solution could be working with volunteers in order to “recruit more community involvement.” Another, he said, could be looking into foundations or funding to help pay for programs the department may want to implement in the future.