Earlier this week, an innocuous Peter Carlson for Selectman Facebook post caught my eye, and stood out to me as a prime example of the difference between Peter and his two opponents in the May 21 election. That post is as follows:
The Road Stabilization Fund is a direct result of solid fundamental planning and inclusive leadership with many other boards and committees. If we did not vote on this solution in 2014, our Pavement Condition Index (PCI) would have continued to trend lower, and our infrastructure would have continued to have deteriorated at a rapid rate. I along with many other people in Grafton should be proud of this program and that we should use this as an example of how to deal with Grafton’s increasing Capital Project liabilities.
Boring, right? If you made it past “Pavement Condition Index,” congratulations, you’re one of the elite municipal voters in town. But that’s precisely why this post stands out to me. Can you even imagine either of his opponents writing the same thing and getting into the actual details of the work of town government?
Peter isn’t trying to lure voters by showing you who he’s friends with, even though everyone seems to like him. He isn’t trying to convince you to vote for him because he’s from here and his Grafton lineage goes way back, even though it does. No, he’s trying to convince you to vote for him because he’s bright, engaged, and is genuinely interested in the nuts and bolts of how your community can work best for everyone in town. Right now, he’s the only candidate for Selectman taking that approach. And, frankly, one of the few people in town who even can.
I’ve known Peter for six years. My first recollection ever meeting him was on election day, 2013, when I was running for a vacant one-year term on the Planning Board and I had come up with some humorous campaign signs. True to form, Peter loved them and commented that maybe something different like that was what it might take to get more people to turn out to vote. We got to talking and he asked if I would maybe be interested in running for school committee someday. Hard no, but thanks anyway, I said.
It’s safe to say that I liked Peter right away. Think about that interaction: here’s a guy who is from Grafton, and whose dad was a Selectman, but who was not only open to a little change and doing things differently, but was actively encouraging an outsider to get more involved in the kindest way possible. And he was interested in getting more people out to vote, not just people he was familiar and comfortable with. It is safe to say that that experience has been an outlier in my time in small town politics.
Since then, I’ve known Peter to rush head-long into this community’s most pressing, and controversial, issues which speaks to his character and commitment to his community. He was instrumental in YESGrafton, the 2014 override advocacy campaign, which got necessary funds to roads and schools, collecting all of our campaign data and doing to leg-work in our get-out-the-vote strategy. He is the only person running for Selectman this year who was active in that campaign. While his opponents may be tempted to point to our AA+ bond rating as evidence of our good fiscal health, you wouldn’t have that bond rating without the 2014 override, and you wouldn’t have that override without Peter Carlson.
He was instrumental in the latest round of teacher contract negotiations while the rest of the BoS struggled with the concept of the hows and whys of school costs. He has led the charge for a more data-driven approach to capital planning, which will save you money. He has chaired the School Committee twice, a task I would not be brave enough myself to take on even once.
And Peter has sacrificed to do it. He has a busy job, a marriage, two kids, and life issues just like everyone else. He coaches little league and makes time for his friends and extended family. And yet, he is without doubt one of the hardest working Grafton volunteers I know and, almost to a fault, never says no to anything his community asks from him without ever seeking popularity, personal gain or attention for the work that he does. Yet another way that he is an outlier.
He is Minnesota nice, but firmly from Grafton. We watch Pats games together at my house, but he calls me “Mr. Prisby” at Board of Selectman meetings because he doesn’t know how not to be professional and courteous. Contrast that with the sitting Chair of the Board who suggested in open session that I couldn’t be trusted because I’m a lawyer and I “lie for a living.”
Peter and I are very different people with very different leadership styles. He’s conservative, I’m liberal. He’s nice, I’m aggressive. He shuns the limelight and builds bridges with opposition. I have a blog. At the end of the day, though, we see eye to eye on working hard for our community. We both believe in open, honest and transparent government. We both actively seek new ideas and best practices. We both believe in investment in our community, our schools, and our infrastructure. We both live, eat, sleep and breath local municipal policy and practice. We both believe in modern, data driven processes, and that reforming how we operate in small but effective ways could benefit everyone in town.
Sadly, right now, the knock against Peter is me. The line I’ve heard used against him is that if Peter is elected, I will at long last have the votes to enact my nefarious, and thus far secret, agenda! And it’s true. All of it. If you vote for Peter, it is likely that Bruce Spinney and I will have the votes necessary to push for honest, transparent, data driven government that serves the entire community. Government that is inclusive and requires community input to set direction. Government that values its volunteers. Government that works overtime to save money while actually valuing education, children and teachers. Government that is respectful to the public. Government that is intellectually curious. Hell, government that actually takes the time to understand why schools are important, what long term projections are, why they are valuable when accurate, and where we are headed as a community.
If you’re opposed to this nefarious agenda, then yeah, you should be concerned.
There are two seats open in this election. I don’t particularly care who gets the other seat. Doreen Defazio seems nice enough and I like her resume, so if it shakes out that she gets the other seat, then fine. But Peter Carlson is getting my vote – and my only vote. If you care about any of the above, I encourage you likewise.