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Walpole’s MPIC faces uncertain future

August 18, 2015

The Walpole Master Plan Implementation Committee, at one time held out as a key player in revitalizing Walpole’s economic development hopes, now must either re-calibrate itself, or face potential irrelevance, or worse, as it contends with a shifting political current at Town Hall and increasing internal challenges.

Town Hall sources who spoke to 180 on the condition of anonymity paint a picture of an MPIC that is now searching for direction, with some internal problems that emerged before the June town election but have hastened with the re-election defeats of the committee’s two most prominent political supporters, Selectwoman Nancy Mackenzie and Planning Board member Ed Forsberg.

Forsberg and Mackenzie were on the Planning Board at the time the MPIC was formed, as an advisory committee to the Planning Board, in 2004. During their stints on the Planning Board, and during Mackenzie’s subsequent tenure on the Board of Selectmen, both individuals were integral to keeping the MPIC active at Town Hall.

As the Planning Board’s appointed representative on the committee, Forsberg had served as the MPIC Chairman since 2009. He replaced Mackenzie, who had held the chairmanship since the committee’s creation.

Mackenzie lost her bid for a third Selectman term in the June election to political newcomer David Salvatore. Forsberg lost his own bid for re-election in an upset to Elizabeth Gaffey. Their departures from the political scene essentially means that there are no current elected town officeholders with the combined institutional knowledge of the committee’s work, and the drive to actually see the MPIC’s work come to fruition.

In an indication of the leadership void that has now emerged, the first MPIC meeting after the election, earlier this summer, saw a dispute occur over who should succeed Forsberg as chairman. Even though the committee’s charter requires that the Planning Board’s representative serve as chairman, at least one other member wanted to take over the chairmanship themselves.

The MPIC was formed in 2004 with great promise, armed with what appeared to be a solid blueprint for the future – the much-acclaimed 2004 Walpole Master Plan.

The Master Plan, initiated by the Planning Board with involvement by the Board of Selectmen and a private consultant, outlined the town’s hopes and dreams, on everything from revitalizing downtown to creating more open space and affordable housing.

The MPIC, as its name suggests, was intended to oversee the implementation of the plan, and is composed of representatives from the Conservation Commission, Historical Commission, Board of Selectmen, School Committee, Walpole Chamber of Commerce, and several town departments, along with residents at-large appointed by Selectmen.

The MPIC’s charter requires that the Master Plan be reviewed and updated every ten years, and that public meetings be organized every five years to review and modify the Master Plan.

Under state law, every community must have a Master Plan, updated every ten years.

Although the MPIC made important strides in a variety of categories in the Master Plan, some members now privately admit that the committee ended up sidetracked on less important projects, including, most recently, the much-derided “Bridge to Nowhere” near Town Hall.

The footbridge, built at $80,000 of taxpayer expense, was intended to link two different portions of what is now known as Spring Brook Park, and help beautify the downtown area. The surrounding park was improved through donated labor and funds.

The continued work at the Spring Brook Park, including the recent construction of a ramada there, has dominated the committee’s focus for much of the last several years, at the expense of other priorities in the Master Plan.

Business owners, in particular, have grown impatient with the MPIC’s failure to come through on revitalization of the downtown area, which the creation of the Spring Brook Park was intended to help foster.

Other MPIC critics, on both sides of the political aisle, have also argued for years that the MPIC takes too much power away from the Planning Board and Economic Development Committee, and meddles in issues it should not be involved in, such as town facility construction.

Last year, the MPIC embarked on an effort to update and revise the Master Plan’s tenets, but low meeting attendance combined with waning interest from the members never provided the momentum that the committee needed to pursue any serious updates.

Committee members interviewed by 180 say that the recent dispute over the chairmanship has now been settled, but the contention suggests that the committee is made up of divergent visions lacking unifying leadership. These members told 180 that they hope to complete the Spring Brook Park project soon, so they can move on to other pursuits, and re-engage the committee’s members and other town boards to complete the Master Plan revision process.

Brady announces new appointments

July 13, 2015

New Walpole Town Moderator Thomas F. Brady announced Friday several new appointments to the Finance Committee, Capital Budget Committee, and Personnel Board.

The appointees are:

Finance Committee (fifteen members total)

Thomas Bowen (Former Finance Committee member, current RTM)
Paul Stasiukevicius (Former Finance Committee member, current RTM)
Kenneth Guyette (Current RTM)
John Vaillancourt (Current RTM)
Ronald Mariani (Former Selectman, former Finance Committee member)

They replace Carol Lane, Michael Iwanowicz, Timothy Williams, Ann Ragosta, and Ann Walsh, whose terms expired July 1.

Lane, the longest-serving current Finance Committee member, stepped down on a medical leave of absence.

Lane has served on the Finance Committee since 1985, when she was appointed by Moderator Bernie Duffy. She has been re-appointed by every Moderator since then.

Personnel Board (five members total)

Joseph Moraski (Current RTM, former Finance Committee member, former Personnel Board member)
Ann Ragosta (Current RTM, former Finance Committee member)

They replace William Ryan, whose term expired July 1, and fill an open seat left by Mary Campbell’s resignation prior to the election.

Capital Budget Committee (six members total plus a Finance Committee representative)

Donna Donnellan (Current RTM)
Samuel Obar (Current RTM)
Timothy Hempton (Current RTM and state rep. candidate, appointed to fill the vacancy on the committee left by Selectman Eric Kraus)

They replace William Abbott and John Spillane, whose terms expired July 1, and Kraus, who resigned upon his election to the Board of Selectmen.

In a statement, Brady said he appreciated all of the work that the outgoing members on all three committees have done. He also said he expects all ten of his new appointees to serve the town well and to maintain a strong community, including good schools.

Under the town charter, the Moderator appoints all members of the Finance Committee, Capital Budget Committee, and Personnel Board. All members serve three-year terms, unless they fill unexpired terms due to resignations.

Brady was elected in the June town election in a stunning landslide – winning all eight precincts – against former Selectman Chris Timson. Brady’s campaign literature touted his independence from entrenched political ideologies, and his intent to appoint a broad range of qualified individuals to oversee the town’s finances.

Stillman to step down

July 2, 2015

Walpole Police Chief Richard Stillman will step down this month. Stillman, a Walpole native who now lives in Norfolk, has served as chief since 2002, and has been with the Walpole Police Department since 1977. He is 60 years old.

Stillman also currently serves on the town of Norfolk’s Advisory Committee, his town’s equivalent to Walpole’s Finance Committee.

Deputy Police Chief John Carmichael is seen as the Town Hall Establishment’s “heir-apparent” to the job, and at least four Selectmen seem eager to appoint him to the post. But Selectman David Salvatore called for more transparency in the hiring process at the board’s meeting Tuesday.

In recent years, the police department’s promotions have seen heavy scrutiny, as jockeying takes place within the department for positions that open up from a domino of vacancies.

Meanwhile, former Selectman candidate Robert Luce filed an explosive lawsuit against the Walpole Police Department in May, alleging political motivations in some of the department’s actions.

When a von Trapp lived in Walpole

July 1, 2015

A member of the famed Trapp Family Singers, on whom the 1965 film “The Sound of Music” is based, once lived a nondescript life as a resident of Walpole.

Eleonore “Lorli” Von Trapp Campbell lived at 519 Elm Rd. in Walpole for ten years, between 1958 and 1968. The old farmhouse they lived in, which dates to the early 1700s, was recently sold to a new owner.

Lorli herself is not portrayed in the award-winning film, because it is based only on the first seven children of her father, Austrian naval Capt. George Ritter von Trapp, and his first wife Agathe Whitehead von Trapp. Capt. Von Trapp married Maria Augusta Kutschera in 1927, and they had three more children, including Lorli.

Maria was the basis for Julie Andrews’ lead role in the film, as a nun in training who was asked to take care of the von Trapp children.

Lorli was born in 1931. In 1936, the family began touring Europe as the Trapp Family Singers. They eventually fled their home country of Austria, which had been taken over by the Nazis, and emigrated to the U.S. in the late 1930s. They settled in Vermont where they started the Trapp Family Lodge, and continued to tour the country as a singing group.

According to the 1998 book “The World of the Trapp Family,” by William Anderson and David Wade, Lorli was part of her family’s singing group from 1943 to 1953, and was the first soprano. Even after 1953, Lorli continued to sing with the group.

(1966 picture of the Trapp Family Singers in Stowe, Vermont. Lorli Campbell is at far left.)

Lorli married Hugh David Campbell in 1954. Her family performed its last concert in 1956. The Campbells originally lived in Vermont after marriage, but Walpole street listings indicate the Campbells lived in Connecticut immediately prior to moving to town in 1958. Lorli’s occupation in street listings during her entire ten-year residence in Walpole was listed as “Housewife,” while her husband was listed as a “Teacher.” Hugh apparently taught French, and coached soccer, at the Roxbury Latin School in Boston.

Lorli’s name was listed in the street listings as “Eleanor E. Campbell.” This Americanized incorrect spelling of her first name, Eleonore, appears to be accidental, as there is no record of her spelling it at any other time in any other way than her given name.

The Campbells had seven daughters, Elizabeth (“Libet”), Peggy, Jeanie, Polly, Erika, Hope and Martina. The oldest children did attend the Stone School in Walpole briefly, but eventually transferred to Beaver Country Day School.

Carol Johnson, who has lived on Elm Road most of her life and often babysat for the oldest Campbell daughters, said Lorli did not speak in a noticeable dialect, but often dressed in what appeared to be Austrian attire. Her dark brown hair was typically braided, Johnson recalled.

Johnson also recalls that Lorli’s mother, Maria, occasionally visited the family in Walpole. The Campbells frequently entertained guests.

The house occupies a large 1.67-acre property that adjoins Elm Street, that also included a large barn. The interior of the house remains largely unchanged from the time that the Von Trapps lived there. The Campbells also built an underground bomb shelter at the home, which remains to this day. Photos posted online by the home’s recent listing agent indicate that the house still possesses many of its original 1700s-era characteristics. Johnson recalls that the Campbells heated the house primarily with fireplaces, and the interior temperature could be frigid at times. Probably because Hugh’s teaching salary was the family’s only source of income, the family seemed to live a relatively frugal life.

“The Sound of Music” play, based on the family, made its debut in Broadway in 1959, and the legendary film based on that play won several Academy Awards in 1965, after its release, including an Oscar for Best Picture.

Johnson said she eagerly watched the film soon after it came out, but doesn’t recall the Campbells ever mentioning it. Although residents of the neighborhood knew of her family’s fame, the family itself never seemed to discuss it.

Outside of the immediate neighborhood, she was not particularly well known, and there do not appear to have been any reports in the local media that mentioned her during her time in Walpole.

Johnson said the family frequently visited the family lodge in Vermont.

Lorli and her family left Walpole in 1968, to move to Rhode Island, so that Hugh could take a job as headmaster of the Rocky Hill Preparatory School.

Both of the Campbells are still alive today, living in Waitsfield, Vermont. None of Lorli’s seven half-siblings, the original members of the singing group, are alive, however both of her siblings, Rosmarie and Johannes, are alive. The Campbell daughters now reside in various parts of the country.

One document available online seems to indicate that Hugh Campbell once served on the Waitsfield town Selectboard, but this could not be directly confirmed.

Snuffer elevated to chairman

June 15, 2015

Walpole Selectman Cliff Snuffer finally secured a prize he has been coveting for decades.

Snuffer became the chairman of the Board of Selectmen at the Board’s reorganizational meeting on Monday evening.

Snuffer, who is finishing up the last year of his second non-consecutive term as Selectman, has never held the board’s top post until now. However, during the 1990s, he served several eventful years as chairman of the Finance Committee, where he developed a reputation as a well-spoken budget hawk.

The Board voted unanimously to make Snuffer the chairman, with Jim Stanton making the motion, and Eric Kraus seconding it.

The Board also unanimously chose Stanton as its Vice Chair, and David Salvatore as Clerk.

With some exceptions over the years, the Clerk role traditionally goes to the newest member of the Board, while the chairmanship traditionally goes to the member with only one year left in their term.

Monday was also the first meeting for newly elected Selectmen Salvatore and Kraus. Salvatore is expected to lead on a number of significant issues, many of them budgetary in nature, during his tenure.

Shield will be Recreation Director

June 10, 2015

Former School Committee member Patrick Shield will take over as the new director of the Walpole Recreation Department.

Shield, who just ended his one term in the Saturday town election, previously worked for State Sen. Jim Timilty as a legislative aide.

The Recreation Director position has been vacant since earlier this year, when Michael Doyle departed after just a few months on the job.

The department’s Assistant Director, Chad Norton, was also let go earlier in the year. Norton was replaced by former Recreation Department staffer Brendan Croak.

Election results by precinct

June 10, 2015

Here you can download a precinct-by-precinct breakdown of the results of the town-wide races in Saturday’s election.

The document also includes results for Town Meeting races.

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