Selectboard candidate wants to bring more business to Orange

  • Bill Wrigley, 64, of 258 Walnut Hill Road is running for a seat on the Orange Selectboard. —Staff Photo/David McLellan

Staff Writer
Published: 3/1/2019 11:46:22 PM

ORANGE — A transparent town government that aggressively pursues economic development is the ideal town government, according to Bill Wrigley, who has decades of municipal experience and, soon, could be Orange’s fifth Selectboard member. 

Wrigley, 64, is running for the three-year seat on the Orange Selectboard in Monday’s annual town election. He lives at 258 Walnut Hill Road with his wife, Melissa, and has two children, Alicia and Walter, who live and work in Boston. 

“My entire life I’ve been genetically predisposed to governance — not politics, but government,” Wrigley said. “Political ideology in this country is pernicious. It’s corrupting, and it has nothing to do with which side you are on… At the local level, it’s not as important. There are personal and professional differences, as with anything, but it’s not so significant you can’t find something overlapping.”

Wrigley grew up in Orange, is a graduate of the Ralph C. Mahar Regional School, served as a lawyer’s assistant with the U.S. Army JAG Corps in Europe, and, since 1983, has held several different municipal-level Massachusetts government positions. He was a director of planning and development in Athol in the 1980s and a member of the Orange Selectboard in the late 1990s, when he helped create the Randall Pond Industrial Park as one of the town’s chief executives.

“Community development is my main interest,” Wrigley said. “But my feeling is that economic development drives community development, not the other way around.”

“That brings the money, which brings the jobs and the people. That’s the cycle,” he said, adding he would like to see Orange hire a community development expert.

For 27 years he has been the town administrator in Stow. Wrigley has also served on the North Quabbin Chamber of Commerce’s Board of Directors. All this experience, he said, makes him an ideal candidate to fill the fifth eat on the Selectboard, which has been vacant since Richard Sheridan’s resignation last May. Wrigley described himself as an aggressive pursuer of economic development and transparent.

The Randall Pond Industrial Park off R.W. Moore Drive is the home of businesses like Dean’s Beans Organic Coffee Company and PHA Industries Inc. Now, the industrial park Wrigley was an early proponent of is attracting marijuana manufacturers like Diem Cannabis and Fidelity Wellness Center Inc., who look to set up shop in town. The Selectboard has issued eight approvals to marijuana companies via letters of nonopposition and Host Community Agreements. 

While Wrigley is hesitant to endorse intoxicating substances, he said he does not let his personal opinions influence his economic development work, and said he would support the companies unless there were other options. 

“If it’s legal, if it creates jobs and taxes, I’m fine with it,” Wrigley said. “If we had a company of a different nature competing for the same space, it might make me make a different judgment.” 

Wrigley said he is primarily interested in bringing “higher-skill” jobs to Orange, and said, once elected, he would collaborate with entities like the Economic Development Industrial Corporation. He added the airport area right off the highway is a site for potential development.

Another issue Wrigley sees is the Fisher Hill Elementary School, which has had its principal, Maureen Donelan, inexplicably on leave since October, even though she has been cleared of allegations of abuse and neglect by the state. Meanwhile, Fisher Hill has struggled with student misbehavior, and parents and teachers want more answers. Wrigley recognizes that, and said he would push for more transparency if he is elected. 

“There are competing interests and needs, the privacy rights of employees and the right to know of the community,” Wrigley said. “After four-and-a-half months, my feeling is to talk with counsel… Find if a little more could have been shared with the public. The newspaper is editorializing about it, and that editorial reflects the thinking of so many.”

“I’ve always argued, ‘Let’s look and see if we can give (the public) something,’” he added. 

Alexandre A. Schwanz, 140 Prentiss St., will also appear on the ballot for Selectboard. However, Schwanz asks that people do not vote for him, because he will not be able to serve in the position, and he was unable to withdraw his name from the ballot by the deadline. 

With no real opponents, Wrigley is expected to take the seat, and Selectboard Chairman Ryan Mailloux and Vice Chairwoman Jane Peirce have already said they l0ok forward to someone with so much municipal experience. 

Even if Wrigley were somehow not elected, he will be still be a key decision-maker in the police chief hiring process, a Town Hall topic of discussion since Police Chief Craig Lundgren announced his resignation in January. The Selectboard appointed Wrigley to the search committee that will be screening applicants Wednesday night.

According to Wrigley, serving on both the screening committee and the Selectboard, which will ultimately interview and choose a chief from the committee’s selected finalists, is not a conflict of interest, but a benefit. 

“I think it’s critical a member of the Board serves on the search committee,” Wrigley said. “I’m saying why (is it a conflict of interest)? Everybody serves a function, and brings experience to the table.”

Wrigley has seen four police chiefs hired during his time in Stow. His philosophy is that a police chief is first and foremost a “manager,” and the search committee should prioritize budgeting skills and experience with personnel policies ahead of other law enforcement experience. 

Reach David McLellan at dmclellan@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 268. 


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