Hudson hosts candidates forum

HUDSON – Candidates for public office in Hudson had a chance to make their pitch to town voters this week.

Twelve candidates appeared Tuesday at the Candidates Night, hosted by the Hudson Junior Woman’s Club.

Each had three minutes to introduce himself or herself, followed by a question-and-answer session using written questions from the audience.

Four candidates are vying for an open seat on the School Board: incumbent Stacy Milbouer, current Budget Committee Chairman Malcolm Price, Margaret "Peggy" Huard and Gary Gasdia, who won’t appear on the ballot because he missed the registration window.

Price wasn’t in attendance because he had to work, but wrote a letter that moderator Paul Inderbitzen read to the audience.

In the letter, Price said that he would focus on implementing full-day kindergarten, early substance abuse intervention, building parent-teacher relationships and working with local businesses to develop internships.

Milbouer, who has served on the board for three years, said she has a Master’s Degree in English education and experience as a journalist and teacher.

One of the key accomplishments of the board during her time in office, she said, was its negotiation of a five-year teachers contract that increased teachers’ pay so that it was comparable to that of other districts in the region. Previously, Hudson teachers were the lowest paid in the region.

Huard touted her experience as a certified public accountant, and said she would use that knowledge to cut unnecessary spending from the school budget. She also suggested that focusing more on memorization in the classroom would improve test scores.

Huard previously served on the Budget Committee, but quit because of disagreements with other members, she said.

Gasdia, who said he’s a director of trading at Fidelity Investments, said the Hudson School District is in a "race to the bottom," and advocated for more School District spending.

"We have an obligation to our children," Gasdia said. "It’s not about the budget, it’s not about taxes, it’s about the children, and we always forget that."

The majority of the questions during the question-and-answer session were directed at the School Board candidates. One of those questions was, "What is the biggest problem facing Hudson schools, and how would you solve it?"

Milbouer said the district’s biggest challenge is behavior problems with younger students – a problem which she said the board acted upon by hiring a full-time specialist to address it.

"We’re not reacting, we’re acting," she said.

Gasdia said the biggest problem is a lack of resources for students.

"If you look at the towns around us, we are 16 percent lower for total support for our kids," he said. "We need to at least equalize the manpower in our classrooms if we’re going to have any chance of getting our school system back."

Huard said low test scores are the biggest problem, and that teaching students how to memorize could help.

"Teaching them how to take a test," she said. "A lot of them sit in class and they learn. They’re given information, but they’re not really taught how to memorize."

Huard said she was motivated to learn about memorization tools after her son came home once with a D grade.

All three candidates for the open three-year term on the Board of Selectmen were in attendance: former Chairman Richard Maddox, David Morin and Christopher Cleaver.

Maddox, who has lived in Hudson for 28 years, served 12 of those years on the Board of Selectmen and 17 on the Planning Board.

"I have an abundant knowledge of how the town of Hudson’s systems should work, and also almost 40 years working in the service business," he said.

Maddox said, if elected, he would focus on improving the town’s infrastructure – specifically, its roads.

Morin, who retired last year as a captain after 33 years on the Hudson Fire Department, said he wants to continue his service to the community as a selectman.

Cleaver didn’t give much detail about his background, but he said he wants to serve as a selectman so he can give back to the town. He said he has strong managerial and problem-solving skills.

During the question-and-answer session, all selectman candidates said they support the Lowell Road fire station and that they are against user fees in Benson Park.

They also were asked to name one investment they would make in the future of the town.

Maddox said he would develop a plan to put money into the town’s capital improvement fund.

Morin said he would invest more energy into bringing business into the town.

Cleaver said he would invest his time in getting to know the other boards and seeing where he could lend a hand.

While there are three open positions on the Budget Committee and two candidates, only one was present at Candidates Night: Joseph Fernald. The other candidate, Shawn Murray, Hudson’s former fire chief, wrote a letter that was read by the moderator.

Fernald encouraged voters to elect him for one of the two open three-year terms, and to choose Murray for a one-year term.

One of the two candidates for two open three-year terms on the Code of Ethics Committee was present: Todd Terrien. The other candidate is incumbent Jared Stevens.

Two of the candidates for the two open two-year terms as Hudson library trustees were present: incumbent Kara Roy and Barbara Blue. Incumbent Steven Middlemiss wasn’t present, but he wrote a letter that was read to the audience.

Derek Edry can be reached at 594-1243, or @Telegraph_Derek.<