District A Candidate Q&A: Michael Hanlon

Michael Hanlon is running for District A Town Councilor

Tell people about your background — family, professional background, volunteering, government, activism — and how that will help you as a Town Councilor. 

My parents immigrated to Boston from Newfoundland in the 1930’s and 40’s. I am the oldest of six children and grew up in Allston, just across the Arsenal Bridge. I earned an undergraduate and graduate degree from Harvard University, majoring in Government.

I spent my professional career in various levels of government: at the State Legislature; the Mayor’s Office in Boston; Middlesex County Treasurer’s Office and the State Treasurer’s Office. I take great pleasure in my service as a member of the Watertown Library Board of Trustees for 16 years, joining Town Officials and residents on the Library Building Committee to build our new Library, which has become the “Jewel” of Watertown.

The pandemic has created some trying and difficult times for residents and along with that for local government, and in other towns elected and hired officials have stepped down. Why during these challenging times did you decide to run for office? And with a robust group of candidates running in 2021, why do you think Watertown has so many people stepping forward to serve?

I had intended to seek another term as Library Trustee, but when our incumbent Town Councilor Angie Kounelis announced that she was not going to seek re-election, I changed my plans and announced that I would be a candidate for Town Councilor and continue my civic duty to my community. I am particularly concerned about a proposal currently circulating in the Town which advocates defunding the Police Department. I have joined with other current candidates for Town Council to pledge to provide the Police and Fire Departments with the resources they need to keep Watertown safe and secure, particularly as new development will strain even the current staffing needs.

Being a new town manager is difficult enough, but following such a long-term and successful Town Manager will be a tough task. What do you look for in the new manager and how will you, as a councilor, help the new Town Manager get established and be successful?

Mike Driscoll deserves our thanks for the outstanding financial management he has done for
Watertown. For the next Town Manager, I would like to see a candidate who has town manager experience, especially from a municipality within the Route 128 belt, who has demonstrated a similar strong financial and management skills. We should seek a candidate who has demonstrated strong personal relationships and can work well with Select Persons, City Councilors, Town Councilors and senior staff, as well as an individual with a visionary orientation who can chart out a multi-year plan to maintain Watertown’s healthy financial condition.

Do you think the voters should pass the changes to the Town Charter? Explain why you feel that way. 

No. After review, I have not uncovered any Charter sections that require revision at this time.

Police funding and the services provided by the Watertown Police have become a big topic of discussion. Should the funding be increased, decreased or is it just about right? And, would you like to see how the Police in Watertown operate (please explain your answer)? 

The Police and Fire Departments should have the resources needed to provide for the safety and
security of all town residents and businesses. Our population has increased and will continue as
companies expand and relocate to Watertown. We can anticipate that additional personnel will be needed in both Departments to address community policing, training and education. For this reason, I am opposed to any reduction to the Police and Fire Department budgets. Not everyone endeavors to be a Police Officer or Firefighter. It takes a special person and I applaud those who aspire to these professions and thank them for their dedication.

What issue in Watertown that might not be getting enough attention would you want to work on as a councilor, and how would you like the Town government to address the issue?

A number of residents have brought to my attention street resurfacing, new sidewalks and curbs, as well as tree maintenance. These are important infrastructure issues that are too often put on the back burner, but to residents in District A, they are very important. I would meet with the Department of Public Works and request that a street by street study be done in District A regarding the conditions of streets, sidewalks, curbs and trees. Additionally, Watertown is undergoing significant change, especially in East Watertown. To assure the best decisions are being made I would offer that the Office of Planning & Development be enlarged both in budget and professional staff.

Watertown has taken a lot of steps to become more green and to address climate change. Do you think the Town has done enough, or would you like more to be done — if so what would you like to see?

The Town should consider forming a consortium relationship with a local university to assist in urban planning. I would insist that the Town purchase as many electric vehicles as possible each year and that any and all new development in the Town be energy sustainable.

What is something that people may not know about you that residents would find interesting?

I have run the Boston Marathon seven times in support of the Dana Farber Cancer Institute and have raised thousands of dollars for important cancer research.