Lifelong Montague resident wants back on Selectboard

  • FAIRBROTHER

Staff Writer
Published: 9/15/2021 4:34:04 PM

Editor’s Note: This is the second in four profiles of the candidates running for election to the Montague Selectboard. The election will be held Tuesday, Sept. 21. Polls will be open from noon to 7 p.m. at the Franklin County Technical School, the Gill-Montague Senior Center and the Montague Center Fire Station.

MONTAGUE — Born, raised and having lived in Montague for 63 years, Selectboard candidate Mark Fairbrother said his campaign is a matter of “unfinished business.”

Fairbrother served on the Selectboard from 2009 to 2015, and said he’s ready to return to fill the seat opened by member Michael Nelson’s resignation. The Montague Center resident hopes his longtime involvement with the town can compliment what he sees as a “revitalization” of the area.

In 2015, Fairbrother lost re-election to the Selectboard after a six-year tenure. He recalled a rocky conclusion to his term, saying he’d sometimes get angrier than he should have during meetings. Looking back, Fairbrother said he is grateful that he was not re-elected at the time, framing it as a reality check.

“It was probably the best thing that could’ve happened to me at that time,” Fairbrother said. “I was just burnt out and I didn’t realize how burnt out I was.”

Fairbrother said he’s been encouraged by the direction the town and Selectboard have been heading in. Having served on various committees, including the Airport Commission, search committees (including one to hire Town Administrator Steve Ellis), and now the Conservation Commission, Fairbrother said he believes he is a fitting candidate to keep this momentum going. Still, Fairbrother noted he doesn’t want the board to make any drastic changes of course.

“The idea is to get the ship moving in the right direction, and a crew to get the ship moving in the right direction,” Fairbrother said.

While he doesn’t want to make drastic shifts in the Selectboard’s focus, Fairbrother said he does have specific topics on his mind that are of particular importance to him. Specifically, if elected, he said he would want to hone in on the Strathmore mill’s redevelopment and the recent review of the Police Department by two committees — one that focused on the department’s community engagement, and one on its policies and practices on use of force.

Fairbrother said redevelopment of the Strathmore mill property is a glaring example of something due to be handled by the town.

“Something still needs to be done with that,” he said. “I mean, that’s a 900-pound elephant in the room.”

Regarding the Police Department review, which began in the summer of 2020 amid heightened national concern over police brutality and racial inequity, Fairbrother said “there really ought to be a follow-up.”

“It sounds to me that the ‘use of force’ board was informative for a lot of people,” Fairbrother said, adding that he thinks there may be “a lot of racism” within the department.

When the review was finished, the facilitators of the two committees said their findings were largely positive, and that they did not find systemic racism or abuses in the Montague Police Department. However, in a public forum with the Selectboard and the two committees in May, several residents criticized the committees’ ability to address communities that are most likely to be marginalized, such as people of color or people who don’t speak English as their first language.

Fairbrother said other topics that concern him include environmental issues. He credits his interest and background in environmental science as catalysts for joining the Conservation Commission in the mid-1990s and his eventual recruitment to the Airport Commission.

This care for the environment and nature branches out into Fairbrother’s personal life. He is an avid birdwatcher who has led birdwatching trips, a butterfly enthusiast and a vegetable gardener. Aside from nature-related hobbies, Fairbrother participated in an adult softball league for 25 years.

Reach Julian Mendoza at 413-772-0261, ext. 261 or jmendoza@recorder.com.

An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated Mark Fairbrother’s village of residence. He lives in Montague Center.




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