UPDATED, March 20: Among three races in this year's town election, the contest for treasurer stands out -- in part because the office has been an incumbents’ shoo-in since 1993.
That was the last year the treasurer had opposition, and it wasn't much of a race by Election Day. Then-Treasurer John J. Bilafer, in office since 1972, defeated Bruce Wright, 5,272 votes to 1,683.
Before that, you have to go back to 1978, when Joseph G. Ondish ran against Bilafer, who received 6,385 votes. Ondish got 50.
The race this spring pitting Treasurer Stephen J. Gilligan and School Department employee Julie Dunn has an edge to it, as eight-year incumbent faces a fight. Consider:
-- Gilligan has the backing of school and selectmen candidates as well as a long list of residents; and
-- Four of five selectmen support the relative newcomer, according to her website.
Cable debate, guide show contrast
In a debate available on ACMi, Arlington's cable-TV station, the candidates draw sharp contrasts: Gilligan emphasizes governmental expertise and broader experience; Dunn pushes for modernization and collaboration. Watch the debate on your TV or computer >>
In a preview of the League of Women Voters' Candidates' Night, March 20, the league voters' guide also portrays the contrast.
The league ask: "The Treasurer’s Office maintains a software package that is not compatible with other packages in other departments. Do you favor keeping the current software package or converting to a commercially available package that would be compatible?"
Gilligan's response: "First, I must correct the League’s misstatement that the Treasurer’s collection software package is not compatible with other software packages in other departments. Let me state unequivocally that the Treasurer’s ICS collection system is fully integrated with the Comptroller’s MUNIS system and the Assessor's Patriot system and sends and receives information from those systems on a daily basis.
"I have stated in written and verbal statements, on many occasions, to the IT Director, Town Manager and the Capital Planning Committee, that I’m in favor of replacing the Treasurer’s ICS with a new financial application. As early as February 2012, I sent a memo to the Town Manager recommending a detailed plan: to review current capabilities of the Town’s financial applications, analyze future needs of the Assessors, Comptroller and Treasurer to determine whether one or all of the Town’s financial applications can be combined, and whether that combination would be a new software application, or whether upgrades would be appropriate.
"My professional experience as a systems engineer and as Arlington’s Treasurer will guarantee the voters of Arlington that I have the necessary skills to not only objectively determine the best replacement for the Treasurer’s financial application, but also the best process."
Julie Dunn, a grant writer/coordinator and cost-containment manager for the Arlington public schools since 2007 who had a 14-year career at BankBoston, responded to the same question:
"I would convert the Treasurer’s office to the accounting software used in the rest of the Town. The Town of Arlington will benefit from modernizing and streamlining the accounting system used for the Treasurer’s collections. The Treasurer’s office is the only Town department using home-built accounting software. As this collections software is used only in Arlington, Arlington bears all the costs of developing and maintaining it.
"When the system developed problems some years ago, the original developer was unavailable and it cost the Town a significant amount of money to get it working correctly. This is a financial and operational risk; we cannot afford a single point of failure. Relying on home-built software probably made sense when it was first developed for the Treasurer’s office; outside vendors had not yet developed accounting software for the municipal marketplace. This is no longer the case today. Converting to compatible accounting software, as hundreds of other Massachusetts municipalities have done, will help reduce costs, streamline internal communication about revenues, and support transparency in Town government. The Capital Planning Committee has planned for the funding of this project; we need a leader to make it happen."
Gilligan declined to be interviewed to clarify this difference in viewpoint.
Both candidates have been asked to comment about the support they are receiving.
Dunn wrote March 19: "I am working hard to earn the confidence of all of Arlington’s voters. I am happy have the support of many of them already. I hope they support me because they connect with my message of efficiency, teamwork and modernization in the Treasurer’s office."
Polls of some officials, candidates
In an effort to find out who is supporting each candidate -- and why -- YourArlington asked all current selectmen, the selectmen candidate and all current School Committee candidates. Here is a summary:
Supporting Gilligan are selectmen candidate Robert Tosi Jr., School Committee incumbent William Hayner and School Committee candidate Michael Buckley.
Supporting Julie Dunn are Selectmen Kevin Greeley, Joseph A. Curro Jr. and Steve Byrne.
Incumbent School Committee candidate Paul Schlichtman and School Committee candidate Jennifer Susse declined to endorse.
Here are the responses:
"Arlington is fortunate to have a qualified Town Treasurer in Stephen Gilligan. Stephen’s professional ethics are beyond reproach. People talk about due diligence, but Stephen goes above and beyond in regards to investing our money and savings on borrowing costs. Although not required to do so, Stephen has provided a Treasurers Report at each annual Town Meeting.
"We have a very high bond rating, saving the town money on interest due to the vigilance of many, especially the Town Treasurer. This position should be voted based on the ability to properly run the office of town treasurer and Stephen has proven that he can do this.
"As a candidate myself for Board of Selectman, I support the current checks and balances with both the Town Treasurer and the Town Comptroller having their own fiduciary responsibilities. I would like to see more cooperation in general and movement towards systems that make it easier to compare budgeted-vs.-actual expenditures and other useful financial information. I know Stephen is committed to work toward these and other financial transparency initiatives.
"The level of dedication by Stephen to Arlington is evident through his years of service with the Boy Scouts, Town Meeting, Conservation Committee and Board of Selectman. For all the reasons stated above and more I am publicly endorsing Stephen Gilligan for Town Treasurer."
"For the first time in decades, Arlington's voters have a choice for the office of Treasurer. I have worked with both candidates, each of whom has a long record of public and community service.
"On April 5th, I am supporting Julie Dunn, whom I came to know during my four years on the Arlington School Committee and my time as a liaison to the Arlington Schools Foundation (a forerunner of the Arlington Education Foundation), of which Julie was a co-founder.
"In Julie Dunn, Arlington has a woman who knows the Town’s financial systems well, is committed to modernizing and better integrating those systems, and who a brings a long record of relevant corporate finance experience, making her eminently qualified for the role of Treasurer.
"Julie is a key member of the Arlington Public Schools administrative team, with responsibility for millions of dollars in grant revenue, enriching the education of our students and supplementing taxpayer funding. Her analysis on a range of questions -- including elimination of full-day kindergarten fees -- helped Arlington to tap into State funding and to relieve families of significant financial burdens.
"I have personally seen Julie Dunn 'lean in' to tackle tough problems time and time again -- always in a positive, professional manner -- and I would be most pleased for the opportunity to work more closely with her once again as Treasurer."
"I am replying to you as Bill Hayner who happens to also be a member of the Arlington School Committee. I make this distinction because no one member may speak for the committee unless so directed to do so after a formal vote ...."
"I am supporting Stephen Gilligan for Arlington Town Treasurer for the following reasons:
"• Stephen grew up in Arlington and graduated from Arlington High (where he also has a daughter attending; and where his sister taught for over 25 years)
"• Stephen has been a Town Meeting member for over 30 years
"• His first job out of college was working for Don Marquis as an analyst in the Town’s planning department
"• He served as Chair of the Conservation Commission where he balanced the Town’s environmental interests vs. the need for development
"• As a member of the Board of Selectmen, he advocated for wine & beer licenses to be introduced to Arlington to bring business into the Town
"• As Treasurer, Stephen has contributed immensely to Arlington’s fiscal stability
"• He was instrumental in attaining and retaining Arlington’s AAA bond rating
"• He obtained $5.2M in Dallin school reimbursements which avoided the need to borrow
"• Accelerated and audited school reimbursements-doubling scheduled payments
"• Regained $1,115,000 for Arlington by initiating no-cost litigation against a national financial institution for its malfeasance
"• He has consistently collected 100% of the taxes and revenues owed to the Town each year
"• Initiated online bill paying capabilities for Arlington’s taxpayers utilizing electronic checks
"• He is recognized as a municipal finance expert by colleagues and the Town’s long-time prior Town Manager who has endorsed him
"• Stephen has over 25 years of technical experience in the telecommunications industry. He understands how to design and implement big data systems
"• Stephen’s MBA in Finance and BA in Economics provide the foundation for his extensive knowledge and understanding of municipal finance
"It is my hope that people will look at both candidates, and vote for the most qualified person."
"I am excited that again, in this year's election; all the major offices are being contested. I'm especially pleased that there is a race for treasurer for the first time in eight years.
"We have two very qualified yet different candidates for the office. I'm voting for Julie Dunn because I believe her philosophy is more in line with mine and my colleagues. She believes, and has demonstrated, the importance of teamwork in running a town as large as Arlington. She wants to work with the town and schools to create a seamless financial management structure and vision. It hasn't been seamless for far too long."
"With his experience and proven track record in providing financial stability during uncertain times, Stephen Gilligan has earned my trust, my support, and my vote on April 5th.
"As a candidate for School Committee, I believe that all relationships are vital. In particular, the relationship between the School Committee and the Treasurer and how this influences the schools and ultimately our children. Mr. Gilligan has been instrumental in creating and fostering that relationship and I know that he will continue to do so if re-elected.
"In large part, Arlington's success is linked directly to its bond rating being maintained at a AAA rating during these difficult times. His pledge to save Arlington taxpayers money has been realized concerning several key issues since 2008, successes he will claim were not his own but were due to the efforts of many. His motives are rooted in the belief that in preserving Arlington's financial security today, we will be proving a brighter, more stable future for our town.
"Having said this, I wish to recognized Ms. Dunn's accomplishments and initiatives. As I have said many times, everyone has a piece of the wisdom and Ms. Dunn's specific initiatives for modernizing and improving online services, her desire to streamline accounting practices, and her commitment to lead the Treasurer's Office by working in greater conjunction with other departments to move the Town forward are all excellent ideas and I commend her for proposing them.
"If elected to the School Committee, I want to make clear to the citizens of Arlington that in that capacity I will hold either Mr. Gilligan or Ms. Dunn to their campaigns commitments in order to ensure that Arlington remains strong and moves forward."
"I am excited to cast my vote for Julie Dunn for Treasurer on Saturday, April 5th. Julie’s focus on Modernization, Efficiency, Transparency, and, most importantly, Teamwork will bring our Treasurer’s office into the 21st Century.
"Julie’s professional experience at Bank Boston and as a Grant Writer for Arlington’s Public Schools, where she has secured over $2 million in grants, coupled with her devotion for Arlington will allow her to excel as our Treasurer.
"I am most impressed by Julie’s temperament and ability to effectively communicate complicated financial matters in a manner that everyone can understand. This will go a long way to ensure all residents receive excellent customer service every time they interact with the Treasurer’s office.
"I hope that you will join me in voting for Julie on April 5th!"
"I am in a contested race for re-election to the school committee, so I am not making endorsements in the treasurer's race. I am asking the voters to return me to the School Committee, and I hope to have the honor to serve with Bill Hayner and Jennifer Susse after the April election."
"I'm focused on my own campaign right now and am not endorsing anyone for the treasurer race."
ACMi schedule for profiles, debates, election
2014 town election calendar | Past elections
This story was published Wednesday, March 19, 2014, and updated the next day.
FACEBOOK BOX: To see all images, click the PHOTOS link just below