PUBLISHED MAY 3, 2023
Stow Select Board candidates Matthew Sonnichsen and John “JT” Toole, both running for a single 3-year seat, were asked a series of questions regarding their views on being a member of the Stow Select Board. Their answers appear below, UNEDITED. Megan Birch-McMichael is also running for re-election to the Select Board in a separate, uncontested race.
My name is Matt Sonnichsen, I’m a lifelong Stow resident, artist/engineer, and hobby farmer. I served on the board of MassCANN for 4 years and as it chaiman for 2.
My name is John “JT” Toole and I came to Stow with Alyson, a life long resident of this wonderful community 24 years ago. I have always taken a keen interest in our town and have served on several boards and commissions in my tenure of 24 years. Whether serving on the Community Preservation Committee, Housing Authority Board, Lake Boon Commission, Stow Friends of the Council On Aging, or other working groups, or just talking with my fellow neighbors I found that working in a transparent, ethical collaborative way always resulted in moving Stow forward in our shared vision of what we want our town to be.
In addition to my service in town I have held executive positions in my working roles which has afforded me the valuable insights into what it takes to oversee the multi faceted demands of effective, efficient, operations while coming up with out of the box solutions to complex situations.
It is because of these experiences and abilities that I feel I can be a valued member of the Select Board.
Question 1: Why did you choose to run for this position?
Matt Sonnichsen: Having become increasingly concerned about water quality issues in Stow, when a position became available I thought now is the time.
JT Toole: As mentioned in my introduction I feel I can be an asset to The Select Board and offer my varying levels of expertise to work on the issues which face our community in the coming months. Giving back to my fellow neighbors means listening to the concerns and ideas brought forth, examining the value and validity of those thoughts and working together in an environment of cooperation, not adversarially to come to a positive end result benefiting all of us.
Question 2: The town government runs on volunteers, many of whom interface with the Select Board (also volunteers) at various times. What can you do, as a Select Board member, to encourage and support fellow volunteers and bring in new faces.
Sonnichsen: I think the first step will be to rejuvinate springfest now that the pandemic is behind us to get more Stow residents engaging with the volunteer based organizations in town.
Toole: Part of the responsibilities of being a Select Person is to be willing to work collaboratively with other boards and their respective members. Through an atmosphere of transparency, cooperation, and mutual respect, accompanied with the acknowledgment of the great, hard work being done by the volunteer board members on an ongoing basis will not only help to encourage those in service of our town, but can also offer unique education and information to the constituency at large who might be considering serving on one of the town boards. Further, as I have talked with folks in town I see many talents that can be offered to the boards in an associate position which could alleviate the somewhat perceived notion of overwhelming time commitments. Also, setting up an evening of meet and greet with the boards which could allow residents to come and find out what, where, and to what level of involvement they are comfortable getting involved.
Question 3: What is your opinion of the proposed Lower Village bylaw changes and the proposed petition to allow drive-through food service in the business districts?
Sonnichsen: Because of the pre-existing water issues at the shopping center I cannot see how adding more housing with the required septic systems can work, as for drive throughs my opinion is that anything we can do to ecourage buisnesses to rent out empty store fronts is a good thing.
Toole: I have always been in favor of expanding any opportunities to attract new businesses as long as the positive and negative impacts are carefully examined to maximize the benefit to our town and neighbors. We need to attempt to broaden our tax base while keeping the character of our town intact. To this end I am intrigued with the new proposals to the Lower Village Possibilities and possible drive through entities, all of which need to be looked into further.
Question 4: Do you support the funding of a new Nashoba High School building?
Sonnichsen: 222million seems like a lot. Before we go down that road I think we should explore other options like deregionalizing and each town building a smaller high school.
Toole: I have always valued the education of our children, and when deemed appropriate to spend hard earned tax dollars to achieve the educational goals we all know are crucial for our younger folks. It is early in the process of the new high school construction project, so to make a definitive response one way or another wouldn’t be appropriate or prudent at this time.
I will say that my decision whether to support a project of this magnitude, knowing the taxable impact to each household will be done in the most thoughtful, forthright, and transparent methodology. Whether the proposal truly advances the direct service to student benefit in the most cost effective, efficient manner, is one point I look forward to seeing come to light. Examining what aspects of the project will bring down ongoing costs i.e. solar, energy efficiencies, and the like will also come into my decision. What outside funding sources are being pursued, i.e. grants etc. to alleviate the tax burden to the fullest extent possible. These examples are what we all need to look at, as well as many others to ensure we are not causing a disservice to ourselves, and our children.
Question 5: Why should voters choose you for the position?
Sonnichsen: While bringing a new perspective to the board I will always appreciate stows unique character and history.
Toole: I am asking for the honor of your vote because of my belief that with my experience serving this great community in various capacities in the past, coupled with my real life knowledge and acquired abilities I can and will achieve the forward progress of what we all want: A GREAT COMMUNITY we all can be proud to say we are from. I ask for your faith in me because I will commit to serving you in the most honest, moral, ethical, and hard working manner as I have always done in the past, and will continue to do so into the future. I take to heart that we are all in this together, and I would carry the burden of doing all I can for the common good of all of us.
It is because of all I have mentioned that I again ask for the privilege of your vote, and thank you for allowing me the possibility to represent you.