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Endorsements for Selectman: Snuffer, Hamilton

May 28, 2013

This year’s town election is unique in that it pits one relatively young incumbent Selectman against two retired former Selectmen and political veterans, all vying for two seats on the Board of Selectmen. Each of the three candidates are seasoned politicos who have served in a number of elected and appointed capacities in town government. Certainly none of them will need on-the-job training if elected.

On paper, all three have remarkable resumes and each one has contributed significantly to the community.

But there are two candidates in particular who stand out this year as candidates with the wisdom, credentials, and specific plans to address our town’s biggest issues and to stand up for our taxpayers against unprecedented efforts from government at all levels to take more of our money.

The town of Walpole has credibility problems, spending problems, and long-term problems related to town facilities, just to mention a few of the prominent issues.

This year, challengers Cliff Snuffer and Bill Hamilton are the two candidates who are most able to take on these problems.

Snuffer, who served on the Board of Selectmen from 2008 to 2011, has earned respect all across the political spectrum, even from town officials, RTMs, and citizens who often don’t agree with him. That is because many of his supporters recognize that Snuffer isn’t a partisan stick in the mud blinded by ideology. Snuffer is willing to support causes when they are good for the community. He carefully researches each issue and weighs both sides. This has become his trademark style to all those who know him. He is very data-driven, and research leads him to his conclusions on the issues.

Snuffer has developed a reputation for standing up and speaking frequently during Town Meetings, while other RTMs are comfortable letting others do the talking and trusting that the town is doing the right thing. Snuffer consistently attends Finance Committee public hearings before each Town Meeting because he sees it as his obligation, both as an RTM and as a concerned citizen, to ask questions about articles on the warrant. He does his homework before each and every Town Meeting.

Snuffer has extensive experience in town government that dates back to the last century. As a Finance Committee member and Chairman during the 1980s, he was a ruthless guardian of tax dollars. During the 1990s, Snuffer was part of a group that successfully persuaded the town’s voters to raise their taxes to purchase Adams Farm so that it could be preserved as open recreational space instead of taken over for development. Since the town acquired the property, he has continued to advocate for its preservation. Snuffer also has experience on the Planning Board and is of course a longtime RTM.

Although he is now retired, Snuffer worked in sales during his working career.

Snuffer is by no means a “perfect conservative” for those, including 180, who want fiscal restraint in town government. He has supported overrides in the past, including the 2001 general override and, more recently, overrides to build a new police station and buy the Walpole Woodworkers land on East Street. He also supported a meals tax hike in 2010. But his willingness to consider each tax hike on its own merits is part of the reason why he has earned so much respect from residents. Just as he did as a member of the Finance Committee, Snuffer puts the burden on town officials to persuade him why a tax hike or more spending should be justified. He’s open-minded, but keeps in mind his fiscally conservative principles. He can also work cooperatively with those who disagree with him.

Snuffer recognizes that the fiscal problems that face Walpole today, forcing a general override last year, are symptomatic of the over-spending that is going on at all levels of government, particularly in Washington. In that regard, Snuffer’s views are in line with the town – he supported Scott Brown for U.S. Senate in last November’s election, and opposed President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign, just like a majority of the town’s voters did. As a former Finance Committee member and current RTM, Snuffer has demonstrated that he can seek out efficiencies in town government. He is willing to offer alternatives and can do so in a respectful, honest way. He is familiar with the quirks of the town budget, having dealt it with for several decades. He has publicly said he wants contract negotiations with the town’s personnel unions to be more mindful of available revenue. He also favors implementing zero-based budgeting.

Snuffer opposed last year’s override because he recognized that Town Hall had left too many potential spending cuts on the table. In the year since the override passed, Snuffer’s concerns were validated when the school district discovered extra money in their budget and town officials have continued to spend money irresponsibly.

As a Selectman, Snuffer will also bring passion to another major issue that requires immediate attention from Town Hall: town charter review. During the past year, residents have witnessed repeated reasons why a modified town charter is needed. At last summer’s Special Town Meeting, Snuffer led the charge to enforce the town charter. He will be a relentless advocate for charter review on the Board, even as most of the current Board members seem to feel the issue is taboo. The current charter has been all but rendered unenforceable by the actions of RTMs last summer.

That said, Snuffer does not favor a charter that would weaken the power of the Town Meeting body.

On the issue of town facilities, Snuffer supports new public safety facilities and a new senior center, but wants a plan that doesn’t involve building on our town’s aquifer. He favors building a police station on Robbins Road.

Snuffer’s son, Cliff III is also active in the community as a RTM and Ponds Committee member. Many of Snuffer’s children, all grown, still live in town.

Snuffer is likely a shoo-in in this election, because of his remarkably strong campaign. Despite his older age, Snuffer and his campaign have surprisingly embraced social media more than each of the other two candidates – he is the only candidate with a Facebook page, and an active one at that. Snuffer has also been highly visible on the campaign trail and was the only candidate with a booth at Walpole Day. He has high name recognition from his years of service in the community.

From the time he began this campaign, this was Snuffer’s race to lose. Barring a last-minute gaffe or scandal, Snuffer will be Selectman again.

180 also urges a second vote for Bill Hamilton for Selectman.

Hamilton, like Snuffer, is a fiscal conservative who has a demonstrated record of opposing wasteful spending. As a Selectman from 1982 to 1997, and also a Conservation Commissioner before that, Hamilton has extensive experience in town government. He also understands the ins and outs of the town budget and during his tenure fought for budget savings.

Hamilton is very inclusive in his decision-making, and wants more open forums at Selectmen meetings to give the public real input in town government. This is a serious issue considering that the Maguire Group’s facilities study was never actually brought to the public for their input. Although members of the public don’t usually attend open forums on town issues, more of them should be held in the spirit of open government. Transparency is one thing that the current Board and incumbent Mike Berry have had some issues with – Berry even chaired one roundtable discussion on town facilities in January, with Selectmen and several other town boards, that explicitly excluded residents from participating, despite the fact that a number of citizens did attend.

As a past town official, Hamilton will also bring a historical perspective to the Board. Although his continued references and allusions to past town issues during his policy discussions can get tiring at times, he does raise many good points about the mistakes the town made and how it might avoid repeating them in the future. Specifically, Hamilton opposes building on the town’s aquifer on Washington Street because the town has threatened its aquifer in the past. Hamilton also recognizes that regular turnover in the Town Administrator’s office is necessary, noting that former Town Administrator James Merriam stayed in office for well over a decade and lost sight of what his obligations to the community were during the last years of his tenure.

Check out 180 on Thursday for endorsements for School Committee and Sewer & Water Commission. 180 will also have election results on Saturday evening after the polls close, as always.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Tom Driscoll permalink
    May 28, 2013 7:37 PM

    Your assessments are 100% on target and well written

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