Housing authority, assessors races top Montague Town Election

By JULIAN MENDOZA

Staff Writer

Published: 05-15-2023 10:32 AM

MONTAGUE — A four-way race for a three-year seat on the Board of Assessors and three-way race for a five-year seat on the Housing Authority highlight this year’s annual Town Election ballot, set to come before voters on Tuesday.

Incumbent Assessor Rebecca Sabelawski will be challenged by Brendan Kuntz, Christopher Pinardi and Diane Sumrall in her bid for reelection. Incumbent Housing Authority member Karen Casey-Chretien will be challenged by Linda Ackerman and Kuntz.

Board of Assessors

Sabelawski, 69, was appointed to the Board of Assessors in August after Assessor Paul Emery moved out of Montague. After a sudden retirement as purchasing manager at Disston Company, Sabelawski looks to use her management, budgeting and decision-making skills to give back to the town she’s lived in all her life. She is also the clerk of the Montague Center Water District and previously served as a committee member of the Montague Center Light District. During her short term on the board, she has become a “diplomatic liaison between the town and the people.”

“It’s just enriching to just make sure that you really understand where the landowner is coming from, and maybe there is something that you can learn that isn’t on the form,” Sabelawski said. 

Pinardi, 55, is a lifelong Montague resident who managed Ford of Greenfield, formerly Sweeney Ford, for 25 years. This experience, paired with his current role as an auditor for Ford and Toyota, gives Pinardi a “unique view of tax assessment and property values and how they’re intertwined,” the candidate said.

“I’m interested in giving my time back for the community,” Pinardi said of his motivation to run. “I think over the years, the community has given a lot to me and I think now, I’m in a position where I can give something back.”

Sumrall, 60, has served as assistant to the Gill Board of Assessors for two years. The Montague native said that during this time, she has taken seven to eight different 40-hour classes to train as an assessor. She aims to become a state-accredited assessor in June.

“I know more than a lot of people coming off the street,” Sumrall stressed, noting that assessing requires “way more” savvy than many might think.

Montague Housing Authority

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Casey-Chretien, 65, has lived in Montague since 1989 and served on the Montague Housing Authority for 10 years. The incumbent candidate said she “loves doing the work” she does with the Housing Authority, which she said is comprised of “wonderful” members and a “very professional” director.

“We’ve done a lot of wonderful things up there for people who live in the Montague housing,” Casey-Chretien expressed, highlighting the group’s work refinishing housing units and installing minisplits.

Casey-Chretien also serves as the clerk for the Zoning Board of Appeals and as an administrative assistant to the Building Department.

Ackerman, 75, has 31 years of experience as a mortgage loan originator at Greenfield Savings Bank. She donates time to her lifelong community as a Town Meeting and Montague Economic Development and Industrial Corporation member, delivery person for Meals on Wheels, and volunteer for LifePath’s Money Management Program. Ackerman aims to learn more about housing authorities through this position and combine this information with her expertise in mortgages and having “folks sometimes come in and ask questions” that she doesn’t know the answer to.

Kuntz, who could not be reached directly, submitted a letter to the Recorder elaborating on his motivation to run for positions on both the Board of Assessors and Housing Authority. In his letter, the Montague resident advocates for adding subsidized housing to meet state requirements. He explained that Montague needs 50-unit housing developments, using either new projects or refurbishing old buildings to delegate 500 units to affordable housing and meet the needs of both elderly townsfolk and young new homeowners. He expresses that he hopes to keep these projects small, publicly-owned and inclusive.

“Montague needs to value its land and encourage developers with financing to make multi-family units both profitable to construct and affordably sustainable for the future generations of residents,” Kuntz wrote.

Other positions

Uncontested positions on Tuesday’s ballot:

■Selectboard, three-year term — Matthew Lord, incumbent

■Board of Health, three-year term — Michael Nelson, incumbent

■Public Library Trustee, three-year term — Lydia Ievins, incumbent; Miryam Vesset; David Detmold

■Public Library Trustee, one-year term — Louisa Rachel Khettab

■Parks and Recreation Commission, three-year term — vacant

■Trustee, Soldiers Memorial (Veteran), three-year term — Lori Lee Adams, incumbent

■Trustee, Soldiers Memorial (Non-veteran), three-year term — Christopher Boutwell, incumbent

■Gill-Montague Regional School District School Committee Member (Gill representative), three-year term — William Tomb, incumbent

■Gill-Montague Regional School District School Committee Member (Gill representative), one-year term — Cristina Marie Marcalow

■Gill-Montague Regional School District School Committee Member (Montague representative), three-year term — John Frederick Irminger, incumbent; vacant

Ballot questions

The ballot’s two questions involve transitioning Montague’s Town Clerk and Treasurer/Tax Collector positions to be appointed rather than elected. Town officials have argued that both positions are procedural rather than political, with both requiring a highly-trained candidate appointed more commonly through selection by a hiring committee than a public election.

Additionally, during Montague’s Special Town Meeting in March, Town Clerk Deb Bourbeau argued that the transition from an elected Town Clerk position to an appointed one has been necessitated by the job becoming “increasingly complex.” Having to follow different sets of laws unique to voting by mail, in-person early voting, accessible voting and voting for those serving in the military is what most significantly contributed to the job’s increased complexity, she said.

Polling for the 2023 Annual Town Election will take place from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. in all six precincts. Polling locations for each precinct are as follows:

■Precinct 1: The Montague Center Fire Station, 28 Old Sunderland Road, Montague Center

■Precinct 2: Franklin County Technical School Gym, 82 Industrial Blvd., Turners Falls

■Precinct 3: Franklin County Technical School Gym, 82 Industrial Blvd., Turners Falls

■Precinct 4: Franklin County Technical School Gym, 82 Industrial Blvd., Turners Falls

■Precinct 5: The Senior Center, 62 Fifth St, Turners Falls

■Precinct 6: Franklin County Technical School Gym, 82 Industrial Blvd, Turners Falls

Reach Julian Mendoza at 413-930-4231 or jmendoza@recorder.com. Intern Emilee Klein contributed to this story.

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