Lisa Feltner is a candidate for District B Town Councilor. The preliminary election is on Thursday, Sept. 17.
Why did you decide to run for District B Town Councilor; is there an issue that drew you in?
Concerned Citizens Group has provided a wonderful opportunity to learn about the concerns and hopes of District B residents, particularly in precincts 4 and 5 from which CCG draws its members. Even before the surge of new developments, I have focused on issues such as traffic, storm water management, curbs and sidewalks, trees, planting strips, and neighborhood preservation, block parties, garden competitions, and educational forums. My passion for community building has evolved into creating partnerships across the district. I support groups like Friends of the Watertown Riverfront, and initiatives like Safe Routes to School and Green Infrastructure. CCG has a long history of strengthening relationships not only between neighbors, but also with town officials, local business, and other grass-roots groups. It is vital that the counselor for District B understands neighborhood needs, engages with the citizens, and makes decisions that serve the constituents. I will be that councilor.
What is an issue or initiative you think is important specifically to District B?
With all of the development pressures on my neighborhood and district from Watertown Square and the Arsenal Corridor, that has been my main focus lately. Traffic and Transit issues continue to be at the top of my list. I have been a part of community discussions with State and Town officials, MassDOT, MBTA and MAPC, and I am a member of the Watertown Transit Task Force. We already experience gridlock in Watertown Square and it is crucial that steady progress is made on a Transportation Management Association (TMA) that focuses on the needs of Watertown. I am committed to keeping the long view while addressing near term priorities. I have been working tirelessly as a citizen activist to improve our public life, and I spearheaded citizen efforts that led to the hiring of David Gamble Associates to create new Design Guidelines and Standards –a first in the history of Watertown and an accomplishment that many are proud of and rightly so. But let us not forget that these would not have come about without active engagement with residents. Now we have the important work of implementing the guidelines and standards to make sure changes line up with the broad vision of the Comprehensive Plan, as well as the neighborhood vision that comes from citizens who are empowered to make a real difference.
What is your profession or main focus?
I have been serving the community as President of Concerned Citizens Group (CCG) for six years, and as Secretary and Vice President for the previous four years with CCG. My focus has been on creating and empowering vibrant citizen partnerships through my volunteer work, including within the Watertown schools while raising my son. When I first came to Watertown in 1990 to serve as Music Director and Organist for Phillips Congregational Church, I also began a career at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where I worked in grants administration, was promoted to Financial Officer, and ultimately as Administrative Officer for the new Center for Learning and Memory in the School of Science. I continue to work as a freelance musician, conductor, teacher and coach.
Do you have a family? If so, tell us about them.
My husband Dave and I purchased our home in 1998 and are raising our son Alexander in the Watertown Public school system. We began our journey with dedicated and creative parents at the Russell Cooperative Preschool, and chose to attend the Hosmer, Watertown Middle School and are now at Watertown High. We have played sports, enjoyed Recreation programs and performed in the schools and Watertown Children’s Theatre, and we have also coached, chaperoned, and volunteered in the life of the community. My parents grew up during the Depression and were well acquainted with the value of helping one’s neighbor as you would a family member. My father served in the US Navy (an active duty veteran of the Korean Conflict) and my mother was a schoolteacher and stay-at-home mom, which means she volunteered a lot! I was a Girl Scout, my brothers Boy Scouts; Alexander has grown from a Cub to Boy Scout with Watertown Troop 30. I come from modest means, but I was raised with the understanding that “to whom much is given, much is expected” and this voice helps drive me.
What town-wide issue do you feel is the most important?
Development in Watertown is happening at an unprecedented pace. My sense is that many folks are either unaware of the changes already underway, or are simply overwhelmed by them. We must focus on “smart growth”, which means how we prioritize the needs of a growing Watertown. It means we need our town officials to get out ahead of issues, and be prepared, not reactive. Part of that thoughtful planning is to be mindful of and receptive to concerns of the residents. Let’s find ways to collaborate and have residents’ ideas and talents make a real difference, so we are not just “checking the box” as part of a minimal requirement. I will bring new energy and skills to Town Council to advance this cause of increasing collaboration and finding new and more effective ways to communicate across all concerned parties.
What experience do you have that would be useful as a Town Councilor?
In my prior roles at MIT, I gained valuable experience through developing detailed 5-year and 10-year budget plans, managing all aspects of grant administration, from the applications process to awards reporting, so I also understand the importance of accountability. I coordinated efforts between Nobel-prize winning scientists, labs, and postdocs, some who needed visas, and I guided support staff, some of which did not report to me, and I worked with complicated agencies such as NASA and the National Science Foundation. I appreciate working under pressure and developing teams, which demands good communication and transparency in order to be successful. While at MIT I was also selected to participate in the campus-wide technology training and roll-out of new technology, SAP enterprise financial system, for which I am the proud recipient of a special “brass rat” service award.
While employed at MIT, I also devoted efforts to support staff issues and took a leading role in elevating the “MIT Artist Behind the Desk Series”, including music & dance performances, juried visual art, poetry & prose readings; I developed the marketing and expanded participation and communication from across campus. This relates to another significant lesson from my parents: “Leave something better than you found it.” I carried this theme into my volunteer work at Hosmer Elementary School with an annual Art and Music Extravaganza, that invited our local dance studios and instructors, which bloomed into enrichment support for faculty, and initiated other curriculum-supported activities, some of which doubled as fundraisers. The overall goal of these efforts is to create a stronger community and better place to live. Both my husband and I have served as Vestry members at All Saints Parish, Brookline. We were tasked with learning how to manage funds in a socially responsible manner, but transparent way, accountable to parishioners and the Archdiocese. In addition to my past career experience, people often note that I am naturally curious, analytical, and a good listener. I delve into issues and I want to understand them thoroughly from all sides. In addition to my already mentioned community service with CCG, as a choral conductor and musician I understand that in order to – excuse the metaphor – create beautiful harmony, you must appreciate the talents of each member and be dedicated to the group’s journey.
What is something that people may not know about you?
I love playing tour guide here at home, whether it is to make new discoveries for myself or lead others to the fun and history in town. I didn’t own a car for quite a while and used to bike to MIT, so I value the perspective gained from using different modes of transportation, which also feeds my curious nature. Thank you for your interest!