PEPPERELL -- The four-way race for Town Clerk dominated the debate at Pepperell's annual candidates' night forum Tuesday, as candidates Debra Durno, Lisa Ferolito, Jennifer Hardy and Anna MacDonald fielded questions on their qualifications.
Durno, whose background is primarily in human resources, said that 11 years of experience with the town's newly implemented software program would make her an asset, as she could help train other employees who were unfamiliar with it.
"I am hoping to be a tremendous help to everybody who is learning it and training on it at this time," Durno said.
Ferolito works as a paralegal and volunteers with the Pepperell Aid From Community to Home Food Pantry. She said her work experience and volunteer record in town make her a strong candidate.
"I've got a paralegal degree, I've worked with Mass General Law, I've been on the Charter Commission for the last two years, I've been the Clerk for the Charter Comisison, so I pretty much have a very strong grip on what's going on," Ferolito said.
Hardy stressed her technological prowess and love for Pepperell, as well as her management experience at a marketing firm.
"The town clerk position in this day and age is one that requires professional technology experience, as well as a dedicated service orientation and the personal drive to learn everything required to make sure that the town stays in compliance," Hardy said.
MacDonald said her wealth of municipal experience would be her strongest asset. She works as Planning Administrator for the town of Shirley and is also a current member of the Pepperell Planning Board.
"It's very important to have worked in a municipality if you want to be able to come in and hit the ground running in the town clerk's position. It's a tough, tough pair of shoes to fill," MacDonald said.
All four candidates said they had prepared for the job by shadowing current Town Clerk Jeff Sauer, who is resigning after the election because his family is moving to New York.
Additionally, Durno said she had spoken with town clerks in other towns, as well as most employees in Pepperell's Town Hall. Ferolito also spoke with and shadowed clerks from neighboring towns and brushed up on some computer skills. Hardy said she had looked into the laws the clerk needs to abide by, including attending a seminar on the Open Meeting Law.
MacDonald said her municipal experience as well as her training with Sauer had prepared her well.
The candidates also voiced their ideas for improving the town clerk's office.
Durno joked that she would start by cleaning out Sauer's office, and also said she would work to instate passport service in Town Hall.
Ferolito said she would like to become Massachusetts Town Clerk certified, bring notary service to the clerk's office and make welcome packages for new residents.
By partnering with businesses, Ferolito said she could do this at a low cost in order to help new residents become acquainted with the town.
Hardy said she would look into electronic storage where possible in order to organize the office and make things more efficient.
MacDonald said her priority would be using the town's website, which is in the process of an overhaul, to streamline the posting of agendas and hearings.
The town's only other contested race is for the Tax Collector and Treasurer position. Debbie Nutter, who currently holds the position, answered some audience questions, while challenger Laura Angle did not attend. According to Senior Center Director Marcia Zaniboni, Angle's invitation had been returned by the post office.
Nutter said her track record as Pepperell's treasurer and collector was her strongest qualification.
"I've implemented several changes in the office. I reduced the number of staff to two people, I expanded the use of the lock box collection method to collect all taxes and I instituted an aggressive collection procedure for collecting past due taxes, which has resulted in the collection of $588,595 in past due taxes," Nutter said.
Co-sponsored by the Pepperell Senior Center and the Pepperell Business Association, the forum also allowed non-contested candidates to address voters.
Selectmen Chairman Stephen Themelis is running uncontested for re-election. Also uncontested and in attendance were Phil Durno for the Board of Health, M. Alise Herrera for the Recreation Commission and Carol Case, Robert Kowalski and Frederick Kobs for the Lawrence Library Board of Trustees.
The town election will be held April 28.
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