Watkins for Selectman

I am David Watkins, a current member of the Finance Committee, and candidate for Board of Selectmen. Twenty-six years ago, my wife, Lilly, and I moved to Wayland. We raised our four children here and proudly call Wayland home. We appreciate our small-town charm, proximity to Boston, and fine schools.

I have been a volunteer in Wayland for the past nine years – six years on the Finance Committee and three years on the Economic Development Committee – I gained significant insight into better ways to address the Town’s financial, legal, and operational issues now and in the future. My top priorities as a Selectman are to:

  1. Deliver well-managed town operations within a sustainable and planned financial model;
  2. Establish a year over year plan for a well-maintained infrastructure for school and town facilities;
  3. Spearhead an overall comprehensive strategic plan for the future that considers needs, setting priorities and timing – and includes processes for reviewing progress and getting there; and
  4. Update the multi-year information technology plan for infrastructure, hardware, software, and management structure to increase efficiency of operations, save on manpower, and protect data.

With a degree in finance, I started my career at Accenture and then joined Ernst & Young before building a $30 million international human resource management software company headquartered in Wayland. I credit my success in business and effectiveness on town boards to being open, engaged, collaborative and, most of all, goal oriented. I roll up my sleeves and do the heavy lifting to achieve results. As a board member I insist on open, engaged and collaborative decision making, and I strongly support open discussion on town issues.

I am concerned that Wayland town government is still being run without a long-range strategic plan. Unlike comparable Aaa-rated towns, Wayland lacks a process for anticipating needs, managing timing for expensive capital projects, systematizing priorities, and planning for funding large, new initiatives.

It is time to acknowledge the importance of a prudently managed financial game plan for municipal projects, facilities and services for ALL segments of our population. A multi-year strategic plan will stop pitting townspeople against each other and stop forcing them to choose sides.  A multi-year plan emphasizing projects that are in the Town’s best interest will aid voter decision-making.

Over the past ten years, the taxes we paid to Wayland increased by 30%, on average, while total inflation in the United States was only 19%. Local taxes will continue this upward trajectory until we manage year-over-year spending increases according to a long-range plan.

The Board of Selectmen must lead this implementation of a multi-year strategic planning process and include opportunities for residents to provide input on priorities and the outlay of tax dollars. As Selectman, I will collaborate in adopting standard evaluation criteria for determining needs across all departments and town functions. Additionally, I will support using professional negotiators on a trial basis when entering into our next multi-year labor contracts. Taxes aren’t going away, but with good planning, we can make the best use of our tax dollars and control how rapidly taxes escalate.

Several years ago, Wayland was saddled with multiple financial management issues and poor budget practices. We were losing our Moody’s Aaa bond rating. I worked collaboratively with the other members of the Finance Committee to correct years of mismanagement. Our new strategy defined and implemented sound financial practices that saved our Aaa rating and its benefit of being able to borrow at the lowest possible interest rate.

While Finance Committee Chair, I insisted on conducting all the committee’s business openly and encouraged robust public debate to ensure that decisions were made in public view rather than behind the scenes. My persistence set a new standard for public transparency.

As a member of the Finance Committee, and your representative in overseeing preparation of the Omnibus Budget, I asked the hard questions necessary to thoroughly assess the merits of each item that came before us, supported well thought out initiatives, and deferred requests that were incomplete or had inadequate detail. Additionally, my knowledge of financial analytics helped the Finance Committee present a more thorough and clear explanation of the budget for residents. As a result, time spent on the Omnibus Budget at Town Meeting went from five hours down to just one hour.

My finance background, decades of business leadership experience, and fresh perspective uniquely qualify me for a seat on the Board of Selectmen. I will collaborate with town officials and residents to build a long-term, strategic plan. Together we will identify a common set of goals, objectives and milestones to measure our achievement. Through multi-year, strategic planning and with input from all segments of the community, we can moderate expenses.

I will drive towards best practices for town governance. For instance, the Board of Selectmen announced a long list of “goals”. Many key items on the current list were on lists from prior years. As Selectman, I would include an articulated plan for the desired results and how to achieve them. Setting goals is a limited exercise and nothing happens until each goal is associated with the name of someone who will be responsible for oversight, written project plans, status updates and successful completion. Moreover, to be successful, there has to be general community buy-in and not just a top-down approach.

I support transparency when governing, professional presentation of the facts and issues, prudent decision-making and respect for our neighbors. I know that the best results are obtained from encouraging vigorous discussion of issues and listening to diverse opinions.

The Board of Selectmen must adopt a strategic plan that moderates the tax burden and preserves Wayland’s character, educational superiority, and town services. I bring fresh ideas, professional business management experience and analytical skills necessary to support those efforts.

I am committed to being the leader who gets results. Please visit my website at Watkins4Wayland.com.

I ask for your vote on or before June 9, 2020.