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Ostroff, Jennett compete for Natick selectman's seat

Posted by Jaclyn Reiss  March 19, 2012 05:47 PM

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As incumbent Natick selectman Joshua Ostroff's second term expires this year, he will run against former Finance Committee Chairman Rick Jennett for a seat on the board in a town-wide election March 27.

With the upcoming three-year term being Ostroff's potential last - he said he set a personal maximum of three terms - the 2010 board chair said he was not finished with his community work.

"I love this community and everything it has offered me and my family," Ostroff said. "I'd like to serve three more years, and then have another volunteer run for the position."

Jennett has served on the Finance Committee for 10 years, spending the past four as chairman before resigning in June. After that, he said citizens urged him to run for the Board of Selectmen.

"I continued to be asked, so I thought about it long and hard, and decided I need to do more for the community," said Jennett, who owns a printing business in Holliston.

While Ostroff vowed to advocate for Natick's funding rights at the state level and continue to help draft a balanced budget in a down economy, Jennett said he would concentrate on local issues like parking in Natick Center and reducing bus and sports fees in school extra-curriculars.

"Those fees make sports not available to many individuals who would like to play," Jennett said. "It's public education, and it needs to be supported by the public. Sports shouldn't just be for families who can afford to pay extra fees."

Although Jennett said he has not been actively involved with analyzing next year's budget due to campaigning, committee members have told him spending is on par with income.

"I'm thrilled to see people working together to come to a balanced budget," Jennett said. "It's very close, if not already there."

Jennett said he would not cut services in Natick, a town where he said people historically vote for tax override increases to keep them.

"I don't like to see cuts, I like to see adjustments," Jennett said. "I'd rather discuss and review improved management of the departments to better manage their budgets."

Ostroff said he would prefer to see town money fund extra employees, such as in the Department of Public Works and the police department, and adding more health board inspectors.

Ostroff also said he wanted to grow public safety, support public schools, keep investing in public works, and use technology to inform citizens about decisions made in Town Hall.

He also said, however, that he was prepared to make necessary cuts to save the town money.

"Being a selectman is also about making difficult choices, and we have to live within our means," Ostroff said.

Ostroff, who was president of the Massachusetts Municipal Association in 2011 and currently serves as president of the organization's Selectmen's Association, also touted his success in working with state legislators in past years on laws beneficial for Natick.

"I have been able to advocate successfully for the community at the state level, and I will keep doing that," Ostroff said. "Many challenges we face originate outside Natick, so many of the solutions will come from outside Natick as well."

Jennett, however, said he felt uncomfortable with Ostroff's state-level experience.

"I myself am more involved locally," Jennett said. "I want to sit at the table, have a public discussion, and if we need state support, I would request it from the state Legislature, because that's their job."

Jennett said if elected, he would also look harder at creating parking in downtown Natick, where the municipal garage collapsed in 2006.

At a debate between the two candidates in early March, Jennett said he would prefer to use funds from reserve accounts to fund a new parking garage on Middlesex Avenue.

"A lot of people ask why taxes are so high - the town is putting millions into reserve accounts," Jennett said. "Why can't we use reserves, or subsidize budgets with all kinds of moneys?"

Ostroff said it was important to keep some money saved up, in case of another economic downturn.

"We have an operating stabilization fund because there will be another downturn and we want to continue to provide services," he said at the debate.

Ostroff also said in an interview that the economy was one of the biggest issues local residents would have to follow in the coming term.

"The national economic outook should concern Natick, because we're dependent on federal and state funds for many projects and programs," Ostroff said, adding that he would continue advocating to legislators to ensure Natick received their cut.

Both candidates are Natick residents. Ostroff has lived on Erlandson Road since buying his home in1 988, and co-owns Virtual Media Resources, a research company in Natick Center. He graduated from Brandeis University in 1980 with a bachelor's degree.

Jennett said he has decades-old ties to Natick: his father started a print shop there in 1968, and Jennett himself bought a Natick home also in 1988, after he took college classes at Bryant University and Northeastern University.

Jimmy Brown, the chairman of local political action committee Natick Forever, urged local residents to vote for the candidates after seeing low voter turnout in previous years.

"The members of these boards represent our top elected officials," Brown wrote in an email. "Their many roles include looking after our safety, welfare and our children."
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