HOPKINTON, MA – Hopkinton voters have some big choices to make in Monday’s town election.
Two-term Select Board member Brendan Tredstone has decided not to seek reelection, creating an open seat. Mary Jo LaFreniere is running for reelection to a second term. There are two challengers in the race: Planning Board member and longtime volunteer Shahidul Mannan and former Select Board member John Coutinho.
To help voters get to know each candidate, the Hopkinton Patch sent all candidates a questionnaire to probe their thoughts on the issues. Here’s what Mannan had to say.
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Age as of Election Day: 52
Position Wanted: Member, Select Board
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Party Affiliation: Democratic
Wife: Nasiba Mannan
They are: Ryann Mannan (Student, Kelly School of Business, IUB)
Daughter: Rayna Mannan (7th Grader, Hopkinton Middle School)
Does anyone in your family work in politics or government?
Wife Nasiba, former member of Board of Health, Current Board Member MassNOW, Member of Cultural Committee and Veteran’s Celebration Committee
MBA (Finance), Bachelor’s (Engineering), Executive Education (MIT and Tuck School of Business)
I am a Technology, Data Analytics, and AI Innovation Executive with 20 years of product and organization leadership experience. Currently I am leading as Head of Data Engineering and Innovation at Mass General Brigham. I was in a similar role at Dell EMC. My undergraduate is in Engineering, and I have an MBA in Finance.
Previous or Current Elected or Appointed Office:
Member, Appropriations Committee (7 Years), Growth Study Committee (~2 Years),
Current Member, Planning Board and Community Preservation Committee
Why are you seeking an elective office?
I moved with my wife and two children to Hopkinton in 2012, to raise our kids in a
peaceful, friendly, and beautiful town with great schools. As we enjoy the resources from the community, we believe in giving back.
My dad, who’s my biggest inspiration, was in public service all his life. I have been engaged with Town volunteer services for 8+ years: 7 years with Appropriations Committee, 2 years with Growth Study Committee and now with Planning Board and CPC. I also think that I have unique experience and expertise that will help our town face current and future challenges.
The single most pressing issue facing our board is _______, and this is what I intend to do about it.
I believe we are at a great inflection point for our town. As we approach post Covid era, new downtown, new marathon museum; we are also challenged with growth, keeping up with budget and service levels along with it. This is the most pressing issue facing our town.
However, I believe with proper planning and execution we have a great future for our town. I will focus on managing growth, and especially continuing our school success and ensuring all service levels; and doing all this with balanced budget and taxes in check; and preserving our natural resources and Town character.
To manage growth, we need to focus on controlling residential growth in a balanced way and promote needed growth in business. We need to invest in our schools to achieve enough capacity and continue high quality to match future projected 700+ students increase in the coming decade.
We should consider our analysis and recommendations from the Growth Study committee, which I was part of – starting with building an Economic Development Office, to promote suitable business. It will help diversify and increase our town revenue stream to help invest in growth related services. Currently we get only 11% from commercial and industrial properties; we need to increase it to reduce the risk of greater tax burden on our residents to keep service levels in future.
We need to listen to our experts – financial, school and other areas – and work together to develop a comprehensive vision and plan for our future. I am certain and a firm believer, that it is all doable and manageable to our advantage with the right vision, proper strategic planning, matching with proper execution of our road map for future. That is exactly what I intended to do.
What are the critical differences between you and the other candidates seeking this post?
I have substantial experience with town activities and major committees – I spent 7 years on the Appropriations Committee, 2 years on the Growth Study Committee, and I am currently on the Planning Board and CPC.
In my professional career, I have an undergraduate in engineering and an MBA in Finance, currently working at Mass General Brigham as head of Data Engineering and Innovation.
I believe there are two great value areas that I will bring:
1) With my town and corporate leadership experience, I will be a great addition to the current board bringing in my municipal budget experience and vision development, strategic planning, thought leadership.
2) I also bring diversity and fresh perspectives and will focus on collaboration and building a common platform for our town, regardless of party or background, being new or old in town, my goal is to work with everyone as one Hopkinton focused on the future .
If you are a challenger, in what way has the current board or officeholder failed the community?
I think it’s about doing more on our opportunities and managing challenges ahead of us. I believe this is a great time to work on our future. We have great schools, a safe town with solid financial footing. And with the downtown corridor in progress and marathon museum coming, we have a great future to work on, of course with challenges along with.
The biggest challenge is managing the tremendous growth we have been experiencing and will continue to experience for the decade to come. My unique experience in budget while supporting school and police, fire, DPW at service levels during this growth time uniquely prepared me to help manage this growth at policy thought leadership at the town’s highest leadership level.
Describe the other issues that define your campaign platform.
Some of the other issues and focus areas among many others, that I will work on are:
a) building vision and future for a vibrant downtown; building business back post Covid era
b) finding a methodical way to plan and solve for our water issue – long term
c) help plan for our trails and natural resource preservation and improvement
d) improve affordable housing focusing on veterans and first responders
e) more support for Sr. citizens’ transportation and various health screening services
f) mental health for our youth and residents as a whole in post Covid era
g) enhancing our diverse recreation landscape, from football, baseball, soccer, basketball to pickle ball, cricket etc.
h) promoting our diversity and equity as our Town grows. I believe in one Hopkinton and that we are always stronger together.
What accomplishments in your past would you cite as evidence you can handle this job?
I think simply put, my biggest accomplishment would be managing and overseeing a town budget in a balanced way with taxes in check and ensuring quality service levels in school, police, fire, DPW among others; in collaboration with a wonderful group of volunteers and town employees for 7 years, while population grew from 11,000 to 18,000, and spending changed from $70 million to $104 million.
This is never an easy task. Many may not be aware of how much effort in hours and engagement, collaboration with all town services and committees over several months this requires. It also requires analytical thought leadership, critical analysis, due diligence and negotiation with every department to finally come up with something that works for the best of the town. I have done it passionately and with demonstrable success along with my peers for a long time.
The best advice ever shared with me was:
Never go alone!
Especially in public service – collaboration, negotiation and clear communication to build actionable consensus is so important.
What else would you like voters to know about yourself and your positions?
I am running based on my experience, expertise, ideas and love for the town – as a candidate who happens to be a person of color and has much to offer to promote diversity. Through my work for the town, I got the opportunity to work with every department of our town, with every major issue from financial, growth and long-term environmental aspects. I learned to collaborate across committees and Town administration while listening to our residents. I believe with focus on our opportunities and challenges – with my leadership, budgetary expertise and collaboration – I can work with you all to make our bright future a reality.
Please vote for me as your next select board member on this Monday May 16th.