Candidate for three-year term on the Charlton Board of Selectmen
Karen Spiewak, 55, is running for the Charlton Board of Selectmen. The principal of Spiewak Consultants has previously served on the Dudley-Charlton Regional School Committee and as a Charlton Public Library Trustee. Mrs. Spiewak has twice run for State Representative, seeking the Democratic nomination in 2006 and then as her party’s candidate for in 2014, falling to incumbent Peter Durant (R-Spencer).
The Citizen Chronicle: What prior experience do you have that makes you qualified to serve?
Karen Spiewak: Principal of Spiewak Consultants for 13 years, the developer and proprietor of “Prepared Not Scared” for Life, a series of customized, personal safety, personal growth and health seminars. I was honored to be selected to present at the Nichols College Empowering Women in Business Conference, 2017; Attitude to Gain Attitude. For many years, I also wrote grants and provided fundraising counsel for non-profit organizations.
Harrington Healthcare System Director of Development, September 2016 to December 2017, responsible for the strategic planning, execution and management of a comprehensive hospital philanthropy program. Master’s degree in health education, a bachelor’s degree in health studies/counseling.
President of Woman in Business, 2014-2016, 2017, member since 2012. Economic Empowerment, Woman in Business, Inc., is a non-profit organization that supports women by fostering networking, sharing information and experiences and providing education opportunities.
Charlton Government Study Committee from May 2014 to May 2015. The Annual Town Meeting authorized the Board of Selectmen to create this committee. Seven members were appointed. Our task is to do extensive research and to report back to the Town Meeting with any recommendations for possible improvements to the current form and processes of the Charlton town government.
Dudley-Charlton Education Foundation, Inc., board member from 2009 to 2011.
Charlton Master Plan Committee in 2008. A master plan is a comprehensive long-term plan to guide growth and development.
Central Massachusetts Regional Library System Executive Board’s Revenue Enhancement Subcommittee, 2007-2009.
Charlton Public Library Capital Campaign Committee Co-Chairman from 2002 to 2005. Spearheaded volunteer efforts which raised over $1 million for the library expansion project.
Harrington HealthCare Board of Directors from 2013 to 2016. I, along with the other volunteer board members, promoted and supported the mission, strategy and management for all of Harrington HealthCare System.
Old Sturbridge Village Overseer since 2016. Overseers share an interest in the preservation and interpretation of our nation’s early history. We serve as advisors and ambassadors for Old Sturbridge Village.
The Citizen Chronicle: What do you think makes a good selectman?
Karen Spiewak: Honesty, integrity, accessibility; time to devote to research; leadership experience, knowledge; the ability to listen — to work with others regardless of their opinion/stance on an issue and remain focused on finding a solution rather than assigning blame; doing what’s best for the town; It’s crucial one understands the full responsibilities of the position as well as its limitations.
The Citizen Chronicle: What are the main issues in town that you’d like to address?
Karen Spiewak: Economic development. Our town must continue to work to become a more viable and attractive place to run a business by continuing our efforts to improve our infrastructure: public water, roads, technology and transportation.
Education. Good schools lead to healthy and thriving communities, safeguard property values, and provide access to opportunity and self-sufficiency. Employers demand an educated workforce, and a stable workforce spurs industry and job growth. Its imperative children have access to a high-quality education, including specialized skills training, so they are able to compete and succeed in a global marketplace.
Public health and the environment. We must preserve the health of our residents by addressing pollution. We need to continue to work on cleaning up the areas in town that are polluted and ensure those found responsible continue to be held accountable. We must change from reacting and cleaning up pollution, to proactively addressing and preventing pollutants from affecting our residents in the future.
Solar arrays. Residents have been voicing concerns over the 20+ large, ground mounted solar arrays especially those that clear cut woodlands. Many abutters are faced with small buffer zones, magnified noise from nearby highways, unsightly views, worries of groundwater runoff and contamination issues and reductions property values. I believe these are legitimate concerns that threaten our quality of life and more needs to be done to protect us.
Traffic safety. Work with State officials, recently appointed traffic commission and stakeholders to address traffic concerns in Charlton particularly along the Route 20 corridor.
The Citizen Chronicle: The town currently has a deal for water from Southbridge and there has been recent talk about acquiring water from Oxford. How should Charlton proceed in dealing with its water problems?
Karen Spiewak: The scope of the water quality problems in Charlton are quite significant and unfortunately, there is no single solution which will address all of the challenges. The Inter Municipal Agreement (IMA) with Southbridge provides a sufficient quantity of water to deal with the pollution issues from the Sturbridge line (west) to the intersection of Old Worcester Road and Route 20 (east). For problems beyond that (to the east) the best solution for Charlton would be to acquire water from Oxford while working to develop our own water source. I would encourage the BOS to work with the Water & Sewer Commission to ensure the search continues for a long term self-developed water source for the town.
The Citizen Chronicle: What is your point of view on the status of the public school district?
Karen Spiewak: The Dudley-Charlton Regional School District, comprised of seven schools, and Bay Path Regional Vocational High School have good reputations and sound leadership.
The Citizen Chronicle: What is your point of view on the reputation of the town and its leadership?
Karen Spiewak: I believe the current five selectmen are professional and the town has a good reputation.
The Citizen Chronicle: What is your point of view on the future of Town Administrator Robin Craver?
Karen Spiewak: Selectmen serve as a town’s chief executive body. Among other things, they develop policies as directed by town meeting and are responsible for selecting, reviewing and working closely with the Town Administrator. I look forward to working with our Town Administrator in the future.
The Citizen Chronicle: The landfill in Southbridge will be closing sooner than later. Charlton residents have received some benefits from that landfill. Does its closure pose any concerns?
Karen Spiewak: While some residents in Charlton will eventually have to pay for curbside pick-up rather than a weekly trip to the landfill in Southbridge, I think it’s safe to say most are celebrating its closure. Grass-roots efforts to combat Casella by folks from Charlton, Southbridge and Sturbridge have lasted more than 10 years and they have been pushing for its closure from the very beginning siting contaminated wells, wetlands and odors so bad they couldn’t open their windows all year. Casella has agreed to fulfill its contractual obligations, which includes payment of up to $5 million for a water line in Charlton where wells are contaminated.
The Citizen Chronicle: What is your stance on any possibility of commercial recreational marijuana establishments being permitted in Charlton?
Karen Spiewak: That door has been opened. The town’s first medical marijuana dispensary is set to open this summer. It received site plan approval from the Planning Board in January.Plans are now underway to allow HealthWise Foundation Inc. a permit to sell ‘recreational adult-use marijuana’ at its 3,300-square-foot retail store located at 46 Worcester Road (Route 20), Charlton. There [was] a public forum hosted by the town’s Marijuana Advisory Committee on Thursday, April 5, 5:30 p.m. at the Town Hall in the selectmen’s meeting room. This outreach meeting is required by the state before HealthWise can apply for a permit to sell recreational adult-use Marijuana at its Charlton location. Legally our actions as a town are limited however, at the very least, we can decide (through zoning) where these establishments can locate.
The Citizen Chronicle: What is Charlton’s greatest asset?
Karen Spiewak: It’s residents and sense of community.
The Citizen Chronicle: What is Charlton’s greatest problem?
Karen Spiewak: Lack of infrastructure.
The Citizen Chronicle has published interviews with the candidates for Seat No. 1 on the Charlton Board of Selectmen. This year there will be two seats on the general election ballot on May 5. Karen Spiewak and Lucas Stevens are each running for Seat No. 1, while incumbent David Singer is running unopposed for Seat No. 2.