Whitman Hanson Community Access (WHCA) is hereby inviting any and all candidates seeking election in the upcoming Nov. 3 general election to reach out to our staff and setup time for an appearance on WHCA cable and online distribution platforms. While candidates have likely already been contacted personally by now, WHCA wants to ensure that every candidate gets an opportunity to be heard. Reach out to the WHCA staff by email at info@WHCA.tv or by phone at (781) 447-4175. All interviews must be filmed by Wednesday, Oct. 28.
Life is always sweeter with cake. For Hanson native Abby Burke, owner of “Cake Art by Abby,” a thriving business as a cake decorator six months into a pandemic is not the scenario for success she would have imagined.
Guidelines on properly celebrating while still being socially distant has taken some of the pizzazz out of special occasions but Burke — who has a strong social media presence and has begun to raffle off her cakes — has reinserted some of that birthday joy.
She is discovering that families are looking for unique cakes to make their loved ones feel extra special during this unsettled time.
Burke is a 2010 graduate of Whitman Hanson, ironically her maiden name was Mixer, with a passion for confection.
She met and married her husband who is originally from Whitman. They now live in East Bridgewater with their two young children. She is also a financial planning associate. Her strong point is remaining structured and organized as a key to balance in her busy life.
She always had an artistic eye and tried different mediums but realized watching cake decorating videos gave her a strong sense of satisfaction.
After her first attempt at making her daughter a unicorn cake she gave herself a harsh critique.
“I made one…I wasn’t happy with it – it wasn’t that good,” she said. “So I began to make more, finding a flaw in each one and figured out how to perfect it for the next one.”
She began to put in the work as she continues to educating herself. Her cakes are not of a cookie cutter variety.
Nearly all her communication for orders is through social media platforms, direct messenger and her website. During the peak months of COVID lockdown, it provided a solid platform through which her clients could easily continue to reach her. Her clientele normally has a birthday theme, which they communicate to her. She then asks if they are OK with her artistic spin and her magic production begins.
She has heard from clients that they have had virtual birthdays, driveway visits and other creative ways to make memories. As new norms are formed in ways of celebrations she has noticed families want to have a unique cake adding extraordinary cheer.
She is a 2013 graduate from Bentley, which helped her launch her cake design business. Burke also credits her high school days describing herself as a girl who “had her hand in countless activity and was wildly involved” in both public speaking and the business foundation of DECA (formerly known as Distributive Education Clubs of America).
In the start up for her confections she raffled off all of her cakes for free to people within the South Shore. The unique cakes were out there for all to see and taste and she did not waste a sweet drop of the icing.
“I didn’t want to throw it away,” she said.
Burke connected on Facebook with a local family who were down on their luck during COVID.
She was thrilled to be able to donate a cake to them, she said.
Belonging to several ‘mom groups’ with women, who help network and support one another, she always chooses to shop local and small when she can.
Burke says her social media presence and growth has allowed a wider age demographic especially with children’s birthdays. She uses TikTok and Snapchat and her videos have over 300,000 views. Connecting with all ages from the teen bracket through retirement she was hired to make a retirement cake for a knitting group and reconnected with one of her most influential teachers, Lydia Nelson of Whitman Hanson.
One of the most unforgettable cakes she “set up” was during the height of quarantine when her sister Becca Feldmann of Halifax was celebrating her baby’s first birthday. Feldman was caring for her new baby — who at birth had a severe gastrointestinal condition and after so many milestones the first birthday was extra special for their family.
“It was a big deal for me,” said Burke. The next best thing she could do in celebrating her niece’s health and birthday milestone was to construct a cake kit with step by step instructions. Her sister could construct the baby’s first cake with the decorative design Burke created.
Happily her niece is doing well and still remains in strict quarantine. They are looking forward to days ahead when they can spend time celebrating all together.
With a family and running her own business Burke calls time management the key to her growth. She recently launched a six-month, beginner’s subscription goodie box, which arrives every month. It also comes along with an instructional, virtual class with Abby who enjoys teaching others about her craft. There are also frosting recipes with helpful hints.
To view and order cakes and for information on her products visit her website cakeartbyabby.com
WHITMAN — The town is seeing an increase in COVID-19, according to interim Town Administrator Lisa Green, who reported 17-related cases of COVID in Whitman as of Monday, Oct. 19.
Some are in quarantine and some have been tested, but results are not available yet, Green said.
“The numbers are slowly climbing,” she told Selectmen Tuesday, Oct. 20. “Right now, Whitman is still in the yellow, but we are surrounded by towns in red. It’s speculated that we could go to red any day now.”
If that happens, Green cautioned that Whitman would have to return to more restrictive protocols.
“That would be up to the Board of Health and fire chief if the numbers continue increasing the way they are,” she said.
Selectmen also reviewed the status of the Budget Override Review Committee in the wake of Town Administrator Frank Lynam’s retirement and an agenda item to name Green to committees and projects in which he was involved.
Selectman Randy LaMattina said, while he doesn’t see an override happening this year, an override is not out of the question in the future. The strategic plan, combined with the Collins Center capital report, means the committee could reconvene to reassess the town’s position.
“I don’t foresee it meeting before the first of the year,” he said.
“I would vote to keep it on the docket, as well, to look over the progress it had made last year,” said Selectmen Chairman Dr. Carl Kowalski said. He said he anticipates a discussion at the next Selectmen’s meeting regarding the hiring of a consultant to look at the strategic plan.
“That needs to be on the road,” Kowalski said. “You have to know what the town values before you discuss goals and objectives.”
Selectman Dan Salvucci agreed that the budget committee’s work is still needed.
If we take a step back, we may find ourselves with possible issues again.” Salvucci said.
Kowalski also advocated keeping the name, because an override may still be needed, and advocated a regular report to the board from the schools liaison.
Selectmen approved the common victualler’s license application for Restoration Coffee to move his business to the site of the former Mary Lou’s coffee shop at 564 Washington St., in Whitman center.
“I’m looking forward to opening the shop back up in Whitman,” said owner Matt Wood, who had operated the shop on South Avenue for two years, encountering issues when COVID hit. “We’re looking to have our own space now.”
HANSON — Town officials were awarded a $34,280.75 CARES Act check from Plymouth County Commissioners on Thursday, Oct. 14 during a brief ceremony at Hanson Town Hall.
It was the first of what state Rep. Josh Cutler, D-Pembroke, described as the first of several checks the town stands to receive as reimbursement for COVID-19-related expenses this year, including personal protective equipment (PPE) for first responders, town government and school personnel.
“It’s been a challenging year, but we’re doing everything we can to lighten that burden,” Cutler said.
Cutler also credited the Hanson Board of Selectmen, represented at the check-awarding ceremony by Selectman Matt Dyer, and Town Administrator John Stanbrook for their work, which will bring more checks to Hanson.
“In these times when it doesn’t seem that politics works, this shows it does work and we can come together — and we can come serve our constituents — to better serve them, not here in Town Hall, but all throughout the town and all throughout the region,” Dyer said, thanking the town’s partners on the Plymouth County Commissioners and on Beacon Hill. He said the funds awarded also will go toward town infrastructure such as new servers so town employees could work from home, if another shut-down made that necessary.
Dyer also thanked town officials, who have worked overtime to get the applications completed properly. County officials have been presenting the initial checks to communities in-person across the county, O’Brien said after the ceremony.
“It’s a nice day for us to see the sweat equity pay off tangibly,” said Plymouth County Commissioner Gregory M. Hanley said, thanking Hanson officials for turning in such an easy application to process. “The only delay we would have would be an incomplete application.”
Hanley said taking on the administration of the CARES Act was not an easy one for commissioners to make. The $3 trillion federal aid package known as the Cares Act was passed in March.
“There’s a lot of sentiment very high up that we shouldn’t take this money, but we knew that we had an educated workforce and we had the only certified county treasurer in the Commonwealth,” he said. “We were trying to help the governor at the time and take a little bit off his plate.”
Hanley also thanked Cutler for helping with the process while the Commissioners were receiving pressure from the executive branch as to their ability to do it.
“If it wasn’t for Josh Cutler, we wouldn’t have this program,” Hanley said. “This was not an easy decision, but aren’t we so glad to have pulled this off? It’s such a resounding success.”
He said no one knew how to deal with the pandemic, but Plymouth County has “delivered the goods” for its member communities.
“This doesn’t happen unless we have that partnership we need,” Plymouth County Treasurer Thomas J. O’Brien said of the county’s legislative delegation, including Cutler and state Sen. Mike Brady, D-Brockton. “What was relayed to us is the county understands the needs of our community. This pandemic isn’t going to be short-lived, and we are the best resource to provide financial assistance to our communities.”
O’Brien echoed Hanley’s assessment that Cutler is a leader on Beacon Hill who understands what communities need and has the county’s back as Commissioners try to help communities deal with the pandemic and other financial challenges.
“I can tell you, as someone who sits on the Ways & Means Committee, if we had sent all that money back to the state, we would not have seen it come back from the State House,” Cutler said. “It’s the right decision for Plymouth County, for the town of Hanson, for the towns that I represent.”
O’Brien and Commissioner Sandra M. Wright also presented town officials with a framed print of an updated map of Plymouth County, including newer railroad tracks and highways.
“This could be a dress rehearsal for the HEROES Act,” Hanley said after the ceremony of the next round of funding the federal government is considering to being lost tax revenue, due to the pandemic, back to states and potentially to communities.
Cutler said the funds brought back to the region through the CARES Act includes $400,000 for remote learning and PPE expenses for the Whitman-Hanson Regional School District.
“We’re doing everything we can to get as many dollars [as possible] back to our cities and towns,” he said. Current state budget shortfall estimates are between $1billion and $5 billion, Cutler said, noting that while a lot of money, it is significantly lower than the $6 billion to $8 billion deficit previously forecast.
He expects to see another one-month temporary budget passed before the state’s budget figures are finalized to complete the fiscal year.
WHITMAN — Selectmen on Tuesday, Oct. 20 approved a Dollars For Scholars request to hold a new kind of holiday fundraiser — Decorate For Dollars — a holiday tree-lighting in Whitman Park.
“We’re trying to make something exciting for the town to look forward to,” said DFS volunteer Michelle LaMattina. “Nice, a little bit competitive, but also socially distanced. … We’re looking for it to be a nice event to brighten everybody’s holidays a little.”
The hope is that the project can be continued year-to-year.
LaMattina has already presented her idea to Bruce Martin of the DPW, who supports it, she said. No details on participation have been released to the public, yet until DFS receives the permission and support of town officials.
“I can’t wait to see what the park looks like with a lot of decorated trees on it,” Selectmen Chairman Dr. Carl Kowalski said, noting Whitman has not had that kind of spirit in the town for a while since WinterFest was discontinued.
“Every year we raise a lot of money for the seniors in Whitman and Hanson through fundraising and door-to-door,” LaMattina said. “Obviously, this year it’s going to be very tough to fundraise because of COVID, so we’ve been trying to come up with some new ideas.”
LaMattina said COVID restrictions have meant it will be a tough year to raise funds for scholarships as many fundraiser events had to be cancelled.
Decorate For Dollars will allow individuals, families, neighborhoods, clubs, organizations or companies to sponsor a tree for $100. DFS will provide the trees and lights, setting them up right after Thanksgiving. Sign-up times will be allotted to tree sponsors to come and decorate the tree to their liking, LaMattina said.
To make it interesting, DFS will be making the display competitive, with the committee voting on which trees display the best holiday spirit. The winners will be able to award a scholarship in their name to a graduating senior at the May awards night ceremonies.
DFS would limit decorating crews to four people within each group, which will be timed, required to wear masks and observe social distancing guidelines.
Over the first two weekends in December, from 5 to 8 p.m., Friday to Sunday, the trees will be illuminated for the public to view.
“Whether you want to drive around, if you want to get out of your car — but we will have DFS volunteers making sure there aren’t groups of people congregating,” she said.
WHITMAN — Donald and Tracey Enos were dealing with cleanup on Thursday, Oct. 8, following a severe storm that felled a tree — that crushed the front left side of their residence.
She was home with the kids, ages 10 and 8 years old, and received an alert on her phone that a thunderstorm was in the area.
She brought the dog in the house and shut the door behind her when moments later a tree crashed down on their 39 Loring Ave. home.
At first Enos said she thought it was a back tree that fell by the deck but realized she heard water running. The rain was coming through her son’s front bedroom and creating its own path through the bathroom was another branch approximately 18 inches long daggered through the ceiling.
“The ceiling and branches were across his bed and water was pouring inside,” she said when she looked at the damage left behind.
She ran down to the kids who were safe and unhurt and had been playing in the basement.
The neighbor across the street called 911 and checked on her. She stayed inside unsure if wires were across the house.
The kids study from home and Donald Enos said they were at their grandparents where they could study online since they were unable to enter the house.
A car was covered in tree limbs on Temple Street at the Alegro home where a man could be seen checking out the damage in his yard. Following the quick moving wind storm on Oct.7 power was also knocked out to parts of Whitman and Hanson for approximately 24 hours.
WHITMAN — As part of National Crime Prevention Month, Chief Timothy Hanlon and the Whitman Police Department wish to warn the public about common types of scams.
October is National Crime Prevention Month. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reports that in 2019 consumers lost more than $1.9 billion to fraud with nearly $667 million lost to imposter scams alone.
Chief Hanlon warns that residents should NEVER give personal information, social security numbers or credit card numbers to people through social media, or to people who call their homes or cell phones unsolicited.
“It is important for residents to be able to identify the various types of scams that are out there,” Chief Hanlon said. “For example, residents should always verify the legitimacy of a caller before giving out any personal information, and should never pay for an item with a gift card.”
Common scams that target residents – specifically senior citizens – include:
• Social Security Scams: Scammers pretend to be from the U.S. Social Security Administration and try to get your Social Security Number or money.
• IRS Scams: Scammers call, pretending to be from the IRS, and say they’re filing a lawsuit against your back taxes.
• Phishing Scams: Scammers use email or text messages to trick you into giving them your personal information.
• Fake Check Scams: Scammers ask you to deposit a check for more than you are owed and send some of the money to another person.
• Utility Scams: Scammers pose as bill collectors from utility companies and threaten to shut off service if you do not pay.
• Sweepstakes: Someone calls to notify you that you have won a contest or sweepstakes and must send money to collect any winnings.
Often, the scammer will demand payment via electronic money order or pre-paid debit card. This should be an immediate red flag. No legitimate vendor will ever demand money via these means.
To prevent similar scams, the FTC recommends the following:
• Do not take calls from unknown numbers. Caller ID is not always accurate. A call from a “local” number might not be coming from a local person or organization.
• Do not share personal, identifying information like your Social Security Number, account numbers, or your mother’s maiden name.
• If a caller claims to represent an organization and you are doubtful, hang up and contact that agency to verify whether the call was truly from a representative.
• Never pay a caller with a gift card.
• Telemarketers are required by law to state that they are making a sales call. They are mandated to say the name of the seller and the product before pitching their sale. If this does not happen, hang up.
• Be wary of callers who talk quickly and pressure you to make a decision quickly.
• Do not buy a product or service because of a “free gift.”
• Get all information in writing before making a purchase.
• Verify the legitimacy of a charity before donating.
• Before making an investment that a caller or emailer is offering, check with your state securities regulator to make sure the offer is properly registered.
• Do not send cash by messenger, overnight mail, or money transfer. If you pay for a product or service with cash or a money transfer, you run the risk of losing the right to dispute fraudulent charges.
• Do not accept an offer that requires a registration or shipping fee to get a prize or gift.
• Beware of offers to “help” recover money that you already have lost. Scammers sometimes pose as law enforcement officers who will help get money back for a fee.
• Report rude or abusive callers, even if you already sent them money, by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP or by visiting ftc.gov/complaint.
If anyone has any questions or feels that they have been victimized, they are encouraged to call the Whitman Police Department.
HANSON — Two new officers were appointed, and Lt. Michael Casey was appointed deputy police chief effective immediately on the Hanson Police Department during the Tuesday, Oct. 13 meeting of the Board of Selectmen.
Police Chief Michael Miksch said the department had been functioning with a lieutenant as second in command for several years.
“What’s been happening in the area … is departments are renaming their number two officer,” Miksch said. “Their executive officer is the deputy chief.”
Besides the history of that position having been a lieutenant, Miksch said he hadn’t had the right person in the position to necessarily fill the title.
“I’m impressed with the amount [of knowledge] he has picked up, I’m impressed with his enthusiasm, he has a great way of dealing with the officers … he’s just been doing an outstanding job,” Miksch said.
He also noted that Casey has been doing the job, including working on policies and procedures in the department.
“If he’s doing the job, I think he deserves the title,” Miksch said. “That’s all it is right now, is a title. No one is asking for more money.”
The move is a title change to better reflect the job Casey is doing and the responsibility of the job. It also allows better interaction with other police agencies.
“I’m not going to put another person in the lieutenant’s position,” Miksch said in anticipation of that question from Selectmen. “There’s no funding for that. Those badges and the name plate will go on a shelf somewhere.”
But, it would be a good placeholder for future discussion if the right person became evident, he said.
“One of goals, if I leave, is to make sure that you have some choices as to whose going to be the next chief,” Miksch said. “I think it’s the sign of a very successful organization if they can promote from within.”
Selectmen Chairman Kenny Mitchell said a succession plan is a good idea, and Selectman Laura FitzGerald-Kemmett agreed, but expressed concern about potential issues the town’s labor counsel should advise them about.
“Not being a Civil Service community, we’re not bound by any of those laws,” Miksch said, but added he does not have a problem with selectmen consulting labor counsel, if that makes them more comfortable.
FitzGerald-Kemmett argued for either postponing a vote for two weeks for an opinion, or approve it on condition of approval by labor counsel. Selectmen voted to approve it subject to labor counsel OK.
Regarding the new officers Miksch said that, when the 911 communications — which encompassed five civilian positions —were transferred to the regional communications center in Duxbury, he sought an additional four officers to keep the station open.
“[It] still brought me in with less of a budget than I had before [the dispatchers] left,” he said.
One candidate, who was supposed to attend the academy in January, did not meet the requirements and left another position open. He decided to seek a trained officer in another department willing to make a lateral move to Hanson.
“As you know from the news, there aren’t a lot of people banging down the door to become cops anymore, but we got about 30 applicants,” Miksch said. Out of those, only five or six met the requirement of having completed a full-time academy.
They also brought in 10 part-time officers for interviews. One of those, Robert Mansfield, stood out, according to Miksch.
“He grew up in Whitman, he’s a W-H graduate, he worked on the Yarmouth Police Department,” Miksch said. After a short time, he transferred to Oak Bluffs when his wife started a job on Martha’s Vineyard. He attended the Randolph full-time academy and as five years’ experience on the job and can be appointed Nov. 1.
Mansfield is a graduate of UMass, Boston and attended the Mass. Maritime Academy where he majored in emergency management.
Appointed to begin service on completion of police academy were: part-time officers Nick Kanarski and Kyle Barsani.
Kanarski has been a part-time officer in Hanson for more than 10 years, Miksch said.
“He’s another local kid,” he said. “He worked in IT for WHRSD when the previous police chief appointed him as a part-time officer.”
Kanarski has done details, “hanging around to do the training he needs to do every year to keep up” and has been willing to work emergency night details despite also holding down a full-time job, the chief said.
“Nick would be a great full-time and he wants a career change,” Miksch said, noting he would begin the Plymouth Academy Feb. 1. Kanarski has worked for the Secret Service is also a personal trainer and his IT background will be helpful.
“My guys’ idea of fixing the printer is smacking it with something and hoping the paper fits,” Miksch said.
Barsani became a part-time officer in Hanson about six months ago, has been an auxiliary officer in Whitman for the past year and is finishing college, working on a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. He is also a personal trainer and fitness instructor, at the Old Colony YMCA. He is expected to start the Cape Cod academy Jan. 4.
In other business, Selectmen voted Halloween activities in town.
Mitchell said it should go on as usual, with safety guidelines such as putting candy in bags to hand out.
“I really don’t see cancelling Halloween as a positive,” he said.
“It’s huge,” FitzGerald-Kemmett agreed. “I think people know that they need to be safe. … We’ve got little people who have had a pretty abysmal year, which is the understatement of the year, and this is some little amount of joy they can get before we’re all shut in for the winter.”
“Cancelling Halloween is out of the question,” said Selectman Jim Hickey, who has spoken with younger parents in town, who plan to accompanying their children to ensure social distancing.
“My house is going to be ready,” he said. “So, if somebody comes at 2 in the afternoon, I’m going to be ready. If somebody comes at 8 o’clock, my light’s out.”
Hickey and FitzGerald-Kemmett suggested touching base with the school district to reinforce safety issues with middle school students.
“If you’re at home handing out candy, wear a mask,” Selectman Matt Dyer said. “If you’re out trick-or-treating, wear a mask.”
Election season begins in Massachusetts on Saturday, Oct 17 with early voting hours at state polling places.
This year, voters have more voting options due to the COVID-19 pandemic. You can vote early at any early voting location in your community, by mail, or at your polling place on Election Day.
The deadline for mail-in ballots is Oct. 28 — but Whitman Town Clerk Dawn Varley said there was a delay in receiving them from the state.
“I’ve had about 30 emails asking about them, but I didn’t get them until Oct. 9,” Varley said, noting they are now in the process of being mailed to Whitman voters.
Early voting ends Oct. 30, but absentee voters have until noon, Monday, Nov. 2 to vote.
Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 3.
When early voting in person at an early voting location for your municipality, the election officials will check you in, similar to the process used on Election Day, according to the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s office. After voting, you will enclose your ballot into an envelope to be counted on Election Day.
To vote by mail, download the Early Ballot Application and mail it to your local election official.
In-person early voting hours are held in Whitman Town Hall from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Friday to Sunday; 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays and from 8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Tuesdays until Friday, Oct. 30.
In and Hanson Town Hall, early voting takes place from 8 a.m. to noon Saturdays and Sundays; 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays; 8 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Tuesdays; and 8:30 to 11:30 a.m., on Fridays until Oct. 30.
Voters are asked to follow signs directing them through the buildings and remain socially distant.
Hanson Town Clerk Elizabeth Sloan said she expects a lot of Hanson voters to take advantage of early voting, for convenience, among other reasons.
“They feel more comfortable as far as social distancing, instead of having the crowds,” Sloan said. “They’re coming in the front door — we’re probably only going to let four people in at a time — and then they’re going out the side door.”
Varley said early voters in Whitman must enter the Town Hall by the handicapped entrance and exit via the side entrances, but there are no limits to the number of people permitted in the building at once so long as social distancing is maintained.
There will be a poll worker serving as a sort of “hall monitor” to ensure that is the case, Varley said.
Early voting ballots are run through tally machines on Election Day, as are mail-in ballots, according to Sloan.
Vote by mail has already started, and voters who wish to vote that way, but have not yet received an application in the mail, can download a link from their town clerk’s page and return it as soon as possible.
More information can also be obtained by visiting sec.state.ma.us/earlyvotingweb or at iwillvote.com.
Public safety reform, economic recovery in the wake of COVID and the accompanying public health concerns surrounding it, as well constituent services were the focus of a recent 6th Plymouth District candidates’ forum at the Plymouth Area Community Television cable access studio.
State Rep. Josh Cutler, D-Pembroke, and challenger Republican Tatyana Semyrog faced off in the session moderated by PACTV Executive Director Julie Thompson. The broadcast touched on political divisiveness, the immediate pressing issues facing the state – including policing, legislation they would back to benefit constituents, committee preferences and what they have learned about each other.
“This will not be a debate per se, but rather an opportunity for the candidates to let voters know who they are and where they stand on certain issues,” Thompson said.
The candidates were introduced in alphabetical order and had three minutes for an introductory statement before Thompson began her questions on state and local issues.
Formatted in a similar fashion to the presidential debate on Tuesday, Sept. 29, responses to each question were followed by a point-counterpoint opportunity to ask questions of each other. Candidates had three minutes to make closing remarks.
There was no audience or campaign staff present in the studio.
“I really love my job,” said Cutler, who is now serving his fourth term. “I believe in public service. This has been certainly the most challenging, but also the most rewarding term that I’ve served because a lot of people need help.”
Noting his pride in the fact that Massachusetts leads the nation in education, health care, biotech, energy efficiency, marriage equality and veterans’ benefits, Cutler said there is still more work to be done, especially with the public health and economic challenges posed by COVID-19. He serves on the Ways and Means Committee, Telecommunications and Energy Committee and the Higher Education Committee as well as the House Chair of the Coastal Caucus and is leading an initiative on workforce development for persons with disabilities.
An inventor and entrepreneur, Semyrog is also a mother, a widow and cancer survivor.
“All these tragedies that happened to me truly made me a survivor and inspiration to many,” she said of losing her husband in a car crash four years ago as well as her battle against breast cancer. “My family also survived severe persecution in the former Soviet Union for many generations.”
She said an independent district such as the 6th Plymouth should have all political viewpoints represented in the State House.
On the political polarization in the state as well as the nation, Semyrog said it breaks her heart, but repeatedly characterized a July vote Cutler cast for police reform as defunding the police.
“It is painful to watch us being ripped apart — by the media, truly — that is, dividing us up into classes, labeling us certain names that are unfair and I am here to address that and say, ‘This has to stop,’” she said. Semyrog claimed she has been ostracized and criticized by Cutler’s supporters on social media. “If we’re going to say that everyone’s lives matter, then let’s include everyone, including our police, who are being marginalized right now — attacked, dishonored and mocked. That has to stop.”
Cutler said the situation is a tale of two cities with division in Washington, D.C., specifically the White House, with both parties contributing to it; and Boston, where the legislature is Democratic and Gov. Charlie Baker is Republican.
“And yet, we found a way to work together and to build consensus,” he said. “We don’t always agree on every issue, but we work together to try to solve problems. The nation could learn from what we’re doing in Massachusetts, where we have Democrats and Republicans working together to solve issues.”
On the regional level, Cutler said he has worked with Republican colleagues to provide paratransit ride services for the disabled, North River issues and 40B projects in Hanover, and worked with the Republican leader in the House on the Energy Save Act.
“Fundamentally, I believe, in politics this job should be about addition and not division,” Cutler said.
Semyrog replied that, in knocking on 5,500 doors across the district, she has heard residents say they feel “betrayed” and that his record is “lacking in bringing people together.” She did not offer specific examples, other than claiming his vote to defund police has divided the community.
Cutler countered that the chairman of the W-H School Committee, who is a lifelong Republican, supports him, as do GOP members of the Duxbury Planning Board and that people understand that he works across party aisles.
Asked to list three issues they see as most pressing in the state, Cutler termed his the “Three Es” — education, economic development and energy/climate issues.
“I’ve been fighting for school funding and changes in our school funding formula,” he said.
Special education funding and financial assistance to districts struggling with the challenges surrounding COVID-19 resulted in a pledge by Ways and Means that cities and towns would see no cuts to local aid.
Semyrog said her number one issue is public safety, economic recovery was also mentioned.
“I know my opponent doesn’t like to call it ‘defund the police,’ but really, [a bill passed in July] is a bill that will hurt our police officers by taking away their qualified immunity,” she said.
She said raising the gas tax at this time is also “despicable.”
“She’s certainly entitled to her own opinions on this, but she’s not entitled to her own facts,” Cutler responded. He said he voted for an additional revenue source dedicated to police training as well as other bills funding needs of local departments.
“There’s a broader issue at play here,” he said of national debates surrounding policing. “I would agree in one respect, I think our law enforcement does a fantastic job here. … I think there’s also a need to look at policing reform and accountability.”
He noted that Massachusetts is one of only four states lacking a licensing certification for police officers and the legislation sought to address that. Cutler said he does not favor defunding the police nor ending qualified immunity and is “disappointed that my positions are, frankly, being misconstrued.”
Semyrog said she has been unanimously endorsed by police unions in Pembroke and Hanson, as well as the Mass Cops union and asked if the vote wasn’t for defunding, why do police officers feel that it is.
“I feel this is a very important matter that you need to own,” she said.
On legislative goals to help constituents, Semyrog said the next two years must focus on economic recovery, vowing to introduce bills to help small business and expanding Chapter 70 funds for schools and to help first responders.
Cutler said he would continue to do just those things, as he said he has done since being elected to the seat, as well as fighting for local aid and leading on issues of climate, preventing abuse of the disabled and again stressed he supports the police and also has a string of union endorsements, as well as one representing nurses.
“Everything you’ve accomplished is your job,” Semyrog replied.
Cutler also said continuing to serve on Ways and Means, which works on crafting a state budget, remains his priority. He stressed that the committee, even amid COVID, has committed to hold harmless to any cuts in Chapter 70 and lottery aid, protecting local aid to cities and towns. He also hosted a Ways and Means hearing in the district for the first time.
Semyrog also said she has an eye on the Ways and Means Committee, asserting she would “do more.” She also has an eye on the Public Safety Committee and the Community Development and Small Businesses Committee. Cutler said those were good committees to aspire to and that he has served on the Community Development and Small Businesses Committee and has been endorsed by the chairman of the Public Safety Committee.
Semyrog said she knew nothing about Cutler before running, and her canvassing has led her to feel constituents want new representation.
Cutler said he does not know Semyrog well, but looks forward to get to know her better and was dismayed that she chose to take such a divisive position.
About the candidates
Cuter grew up in Duxbury and now lives in Hanson. The Skidmore College and Suffolk Law School graduate owns a small business in Hanson and is the former owner of Clipper Press, which published the Duxbury Clipper and Whitman-Hanson Express before those newspapers were sold in 2013 before he ran for office. He also earned a master’s degree in environmental policy from UMass, Dartmouth.
His previous governmental experience includes three years as a Selectman in Hull, four years on the Duxbury Planning Board and on that town’s Alternative Energy Committee for 10 years. He currently serves on civic or business associations in all three district communities.
Semyrog’s family emigrated to the United States when she was a little girl in 1988. She has seven siblings settling in Springfield to start a new life. Her family’s Christian faith made them a target for persecution in the USSR, she said, explaining that her grandfather served 28 years in a labor camp and two of his brothers were summarily executed for possessing bibles.
“I was reborn in this country,” she said.
She said she graduated with a degree in political science and has worked for a few members of Congress, including U.S. Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass.
To watch the complete broadcast visit: https://youtu.be/06kyACQvVcA.