A BETTER AMHERST: On Tuesday, I’m voting for four women: Mindy, Jo, Mandi Jo and Alisa
Most of us are tired of reading lists of candidates’ strengths and recitations of their resumes. So I’m going to tell personal stories about four women I’m voting for on Tuesday, and maybe these stories will illustrate why they deserve your votes, too.
I met Mindy Domb’s daughter Tess before I met her. Tess had done innovative anti-bullying work at the high school, and I wrote a newspaper story about her. I met Mindy after a ceremony in which Tess was given an award for her work.
A few years later, Mindy became director of the Amherst Survival Center, where I’ve been a receptionist and occasional meal server since I retired in early 2013. I was impressed that she personally performed every volunteer task, to learn how every facet of the Center operated, and also walked around the building listening to people.
When Mindy heard that there was no bus stop near the Center, restricting access for people without cars, she carried grocery bags filled with food to the nearest bus stop to get a personal understanding of the problem. She then convinced the PVTA to add a bus stop near the Center.
Running the Center involves supervising staff and raising money, and for Mindy it also meant expanding services. For example, she initiated a program to collect donations of diapers and distribute them to parents who have trouble affording them. The Survival Center is one of the gems of Amherst, providing community as well as free food, clothes and health care. It even gets some of its electricity from solar panels. Is there another program anywhere quite like it?
My favorite quote about Mindy, written by a younger interviewer, is that she “projects the relaxed mien of a friend’s cool mom.”
Jo Comerford and I had known each other’s names for many years but had never met. I had seen all the “Jo” signs and was unsure who to vote for to succeed the beloved Stan Rosenberg in the State Senate, so I went to a meet-and-greet for her two weeks ago.
When we spoke, it was as if we had been longtime co-workers. Jo was clear and passionate in laying out her priorities when she later spoke to the small group in the private residence. Like Mindy, she excels at relating to people, and that can have a major impact on a representative’s effectiveness in Boston. Personal skills matter, a lot.
And, also like Mindy, she’s a little to the left of where I’m at on some issues, but that doesn’t concern me. I vote on the basis of character, experience, dedication and ability to connect, more than on ideology.
I’m showing my prejudices here, but when I first saw that someone named Mandi Jo was a candidate for the Charter Commission, I imagined that she was a lightweight. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Mandi’s astounding ability to research and understand complex issues, and to work well with others, were so obvious from the beginning that we made her vice chair of the commission, even though she was the youngest member and had gotten the fewest votes. By the end of our 18 trying months of research, debate, negotiation and recommendation, even the members who disagreed with her support of the new charter were singing her praises.
For the six months before the charter vote March 27, Mandi was my partner on this blog. She demonstrated her grasp of the minute details of the new form of government and was an effective advocate for it, both on the blog and in debates. After the vote, Mandi surprised me by presenting me with a book she and her husband had created from our 80 blog posts.
Mandi is very good at building bridges and listening sincerely to all voices, and on the Town Council she will help bring Amherst together after the bruising charter battle.
Alisa Brewer has more relevant experience than most of the Town Council candidates, having served for many years on the School Committee and Select Board. She’s also developed a tart tongue, and I’ve occasionally been the recipient of her barbs.
When I attended last week’s candidates forum, it was clear to me how valuable her forthrightness and institutional memory will be on the Town Council. And she got off some well-placed zingers, too. When one candidate said that Amherst should prioritize repairing all roads and sidewalks, Alisa said, “We’ll never catch up on road repair, no matter how much we raise taxes.”
Two days ago, I was in a quandary. Someone wrote a comment on this blog that included a provocative quote by Alisa about college students peeing on her lawn, but didn’t put it in context. I couldn’t let that stand a few days before the election, but what to do about it?
I considered just deleting it, but that would have made the writer angry. So I tried to negotiate a slightly expanded quote, seeking approval from both Alisa and the writer. Alisa came up with the ideal alternative: let the writer use the clipped quote, then add the entire quote. It was a think-outside-the-box idea, and it was the right thing to do. To me, it demonstrated her problem-solving ability.
Since it was the best line of the evening, let me repeat the full quote here: “I love students, even when they’re peeing in my yard, which they do on a regular basis, because that’s what Amherst is about. We are about our educational — not about peeing, though we could use public restrooms – it is about the students. I think it’s fine for them to live downtown and in fact this will help educate them on the future of having fewer cars, using public transportation to get around, being practical at the formative stage of their development. So I’m fine with that, although I also embrace a public/private partnership, which we have been pushing for for over 20 years, with UMass in Boston, but the President’s office is having a little trouble comprehending how we might do public/private dormitories here.”