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Seven candidates running for leading roles in Brookline’s town government

Brookline Town Hall. Photo by Clare Ong
April 26, 2023  Updated May 9, 2023 at 5:43 p.m.

It’s yard sign season in Brookline.

In addition to fiercely contested ballot questions, there are a number of names and faces dotting porches and yards across town, as candidates compete for open seats on the Select Board, School Committee and Brookline Housing Authority Board.

Select Board

The highest-profile race is for the Select Board, the town’s executive branch, where three candidates are vying for two open seats. The five-member board is responsible for everything from appointing municipal leaders like the police chief to implementing policies voted on by Town Meeting.

Since the resignation of Heather Hamilton in February, the board has been operating with four members. The election will bring it back to its full complement of five.

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John VanScoyoc

Incumbent John VanScoyoc, a former journalist, has served on the board since 2020 and is touting his experience.

He says he helped manage the town through the Covid pandemic, negotiate crises in the Police Department, and take action on the growing climate crisis.

He’s particularly proud of helping create the Zero Emissions Advisory Board.

“Instead of waiting around to see if any energetic Town Meeting member comes up with an idea for something you can do that’s effective on the climate front, why aren’t we taking charge of this and creating those initiatives and taking them to Town Meeting?”

Like his competitors, VanScoyoc says he wants to improve the town’s overall fiscal management.

“How do we go about changing operations to get more out of our dollars?” VanScoyoc asks. “I don’t feel like that’s going on with the advisory committees or with us. There’s a lot of work still to be done. It’s one of the hardest areas to bring about change.”

VanScoyoc hasn’t been afraid to buck the rest of the Select Board; he’s the only member who opposes the controversial ballot Question 1, which asks voters to approve raising taxes to pay the town’s share of rebuilding the Pierce School.

Paul Warren

Town Meeting member Paul Warren is also running for a seat on the Select Board.

The first-time candidate says his unusual background makes him uniquely qualified. Married at 17 and a father at 18, he says he was only able to survive because of social services such as food stamps and Section 8 subsidized housing.

“I understand what it means to be housing insecure, food insecure, healthcare insecure. I’ve lived that. And I don’t think there’s anybody on the Select Board who’s had that experience,” Warren said.

Warren went on to have a successful business career before getting involved in town politics, where he claims he’s built a strong track record.

“There’s one thing that people know me well for: I get stuff done,” Warren says. “I find a way to do it and the reason why I’ve been able to be successful is I can bring the resources and the people together.”

Warren points to examples like helping secure a new grocery store, H Mart, to take over the space on Beacon Street vacated by Whole Foods and working on a complicated housing development project on Monmouth Street, which involved working with officials in both Brookline and Boston.

He says housing affordability is one of the biggest issues he hopes to tackle, arguing that town employees, such as police officers, should be able to afford to live in Brookline.

“Otherwise, we’re going to hollow out the middle class and lower class and we’re going to be a community of rich and poor. We’re heading that way,” he says.

Other priorities that Warren says he’ll emphasize include expanding the town’s commercial tax base, working on “effective, sustainable and community-supported” climate policies, and supporting Brookline’s growing senior population.

Arden Reamer

Town Meeting member Arden Reamer, another first-time candidate for Select Board, was born and raised in Brookline and worked for the state Executive Office of Administration and Finance after earning an MBA.

Her involvement in town politics focused first on the schools, and grew into a broader interest in municipal policy when she successfully ran for Town Meeting in 2021.

In her current campaign for townwide office, Reamer pitches herself as the progressive alternative.

“I want to help be a part of the solution for Brookline because I think we are currently experiencing an affordability crisis,” she says. “It is too expensive for many of the folks who already live here, and it’s also inaccessible for many of the families who want to move here and can’t afford to.”

Reamer is also worried about the town’s fiscal management, and says she wants to work on expanding Brookline’s commercial tax base and building more efficiency in municipal budgets.

“We havent had a new auditor in many, many years,” she says. “We should bring in a different auditor and look at some of our financial risk management and long-term planning.”

With state law largely limiting annual property tax increases to 2.5 percent, she says the need for periodic overrides will likely continue and raises the possibility of scheduling them.

“It’s sort of a dirty word to think about planning out our overrides for the next few years, but obviously, property taxes make up a significant part of our revenues,” she says.

Reamer is the only woman on the ballot, which isn’t a new experience for her. She says part of what motivated her to run for Town Meeting was seeing a slate in her precinct that included only men.

In addition to now being the only woman running for the board, she says there are ideological differences, too.

She has been endorsed by Brookline for Everyone, a group that advocates for a faster and broader housing buildup in Brookline, while VanScoyoc and Warren have been endorsed by Brookline by Design, a group advocating for more planning and “predictable and appropriate” housing growth.

Brookline Housing Authority Board of Commissioners

Two women with deep knowledge about affordable housing are competing for one five-year term on the Brookline Housing Authority Board of Commissioners.

The five-member board oversees much of the work of Brookline’s public housing, including approving policy decisions, contract awards and budgets.

Susan Cohen

Susan Cohen, an experienced affordable housing lawyer, is running for a second term.

Cohen has worked in affordable housing for more than 40 years, and is currently the general counsel at the Cambridge Housing Authority. She previously headed a law firm representing housing authorities nationwide.

“I have day in and day out interaction with public housing residents and voucher holders and the people that represent them. And it’s really been just a lifelong commitment,” Cohen said.

During her time at BHA, she says the organization renovated two of its older developments and is working on two more. She also claims the response time for residents with maintenance issues has improved.

Cohen also cited a recent decision by the board which she supported to shut down a police monitoring program which made residents feel like they were being surveilled.

But she acknowledges the BHA has a way to go on several fronts, including unmet maintenance needs and increased state funding.

“I think we have to keep putting pressure on the legislature. We have to raise the issue as loud as we can,” she said.

Kimberley Richardson

Kimberley Richardson, a social worker, Town Meeting member and long-time tenant of public housing in Brookline is running against her.

Her opponent, Richardson, is a licensed social worker and judicial secretary at the Boston Municipal Court in Roxbury. She says the board needs stronger representation from people who actually live in public housing.

Clogged plumbing, holes in walls, and mice infiltrating houses are among the maintenance issues Richardson says have gone unaddressed.

“I get it, that we’re underfunded. I get it that the state has not given us money. The federal government has not given us money. I get all of that. But I’m saying that we live in one of the wealthiest countries in the world. And there are resources everywhere. And I say, allow me to have a seat at the table and help you find resources and money to help our residents.”

Richardson says she would bring lived experience to the board as an affordable housing resident and the only Black board member.

“I have been living the life of someone who’s lived in affordable housing. I’ve been homeless, I’ve been in Section 8. I think I just bring something drastically different than Susan,” she said.

Richardson was recognized as one of the 2022 Women of the Year by the Brookline Commission for Women.

School Committee

Two candidates are running to be the ninth member of the Brookline School Committee and serve a one-year term, addressing hotly-debated school issues including infrastructure, curriculum and labor management.

The two candidates, Natalia Linos and Christopher Mutty, are both parents of children in Brookline’s schools, but bring different experience to their campaigns.

Natalia Linos

Natalia Linos, a Town Meeting member and chair of Brookline’s Advisory Committee on Public Health, is an epidemiologist and the executive director of Harvard’s Center for Health and Human Rights.

Linos ran for Congress in 2020, finishing fourth in a crowded primary won by Jake Auchincloss. She says the experience and conversations she had during that campaign encouraged her to stay involved in politics.

“I have three kids in the school system, and I’m invested in this town,” Linos said. “The school committee is kind of undervalued in terms of the impact it can have. I care about impact, and I care about service.”

Linos says that she would focus on mental health, inclusion and equity, as well as climate issues. She acknowledges that she could only make limited changes in a one-year term but she believes that she can help make progress on challenges remaining from the Covid pandemic and from the teacher’s strike. “My hope is to be seen as someone who is helping to rebuild trust across teachers, parents and the union,” Linos said.

Christopher Mutty

Photo by Clare Ong

Christopher Mutty is a rugby coach, former substitute teacher and stay-at-home parent of two, including a Florida Ruffin Ridley student.

Mutty says his experiences growing up in an under-resourced school district in Winooski, VT, motivated him to get involved in Brookline’s public schools.

“Brookline’s known for its educational system. And I want to make sure it stays that way,” Mutty said.

His highest priority would be to expand the Brookline Early Education Program (BEEP), which his child recently attended.

“It’s a great program, but I think it could be better,” he said. “Kids should have access to a full-day program for pre-K, and I think that it should be free. It shouldn’t come at a $12,000 price tag in order to send your kid to a public school.”

Mutty says he wants to work to expand mental health services and improve diversity in the schools. He’d also push for an expansion of the METCO program, which enrolls Boston students in predominantly white, suburban school districts.

“Empty seats, I’d love to see them filled by kids that could really benefit from a Brookline education,” Mutty said.

Mutty is also running for Town Meeting in Precinct 17 and has been endorsed by the local advocacy group Brookline PAX.

Linos has been endorsed by all eight sitting members of the current School Committee.

Three sitting School Committee members, Suzanne Federspiel, Andy Liu, and Mariah Nobrega, are running unopposed for reelection to new three-year terms.