UPDATED, Feb. 12: Eric Helmuth, a Precinct 12 Town Meeting member who is making his first run for the Select Board, aims to change traditional ways for the better by listening to all sides.
"I'm running for Select Board because I believe in the power of local government to improve people's lives," he told YourArlington on Jan. 12, "and I can bring my leadership experience in Arlington government to help the town make the best possible decisions as we face some big challenges for our community."
Helmuth spearheaded the 2014 adoption of electronic voting in Town Meeting -- introducing the idea, chairing the study committee, making the case to Town Meeting for change the necessary bylaws and then leading the implementation effort.
"This was a major change for a very old institution, and we did it by listening carefully to all the concerns raised and including all stakeholders in the process to build consensus at every step," he said. "The result was making Town Meeting more transparent and accountable to the people we represent."
Helmuth is chair of the Community Preservation Act Committee. He points to his more recent experience on that committee as another example of leadership experience he'd bring to the Select Board. The committee has directed $11 million in funds to affordable housing, open space, recreation and historic preservation projects since 2017.
"I've learned how the town budgeting process works and how to build strong support for your priorities," he said, noting the committee's success in obtaining unanimous votes of support from the Finance and Capital Planning Committees and the Select Board each year. "We also work hard to ensure that CPA projects are spread out across town so that every neighborhood sees the benefit," he said.
He says this experience would serve him well on the Select Board.
"The town is facing some big challenges. Supporting residents and local businesses hit hard by the pandemic is critical. We need to make our vital conversations about racial equity and affordable housing more inclusive, bringing more people who are directly affected to the table. We can't take our eye off the ball for local action on the climate crisis. We have to maintain strong town services, from schools to public health and safety, with responsible long-range fiscal planning that spreads out both the benefits and the sacrifices as fairly as possible."
Helmuth emphasizes that for all of these issues, good process is key. "The only way for the Select Board to make real progress is to lead a conversation where all voices are welcomed and listened to, then work hard to achieve consensus. That's how the town earns the trust of its residents," he said.
The 55-year-old has lived in Arlington with his husband, Jordan Bach, since 2007.
Helmuth is a project director for online health research and communications projects at Education Development Center, a global nonprofit based in Waltham.
Two others have taken out nomination papers to vie for two seats in the April town election. They are board Chair John V. Hurd and Jennifer Susse, former School Committee member. Joseph Curro Jr. has declined to seek reelection.
Learn more about Helmuth's campaign at www.ericforselectboard.com/
Dec. 19, 2020, to present: April town election information
This news announcement was published Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2020, and updated to a summary Jan. 13, 2021. A kickoff link was added Feb. 12.
NOTE: YourArlington requests introductory statements from the campaigns of all candidates for major offices in the April town election. Please include a current photo (head shot). These statements are expected to be updated as the campaigns progress. Send to sprague.bob at gmail.com.
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