CHATHAM – Shareen Davis announced this week that she will seek a second three-year term on the board of selectmen.
Davis said she'd like to continue working on several initiatives that are important to her, including Chatham 365 and a new senior center. She also said she'd like to work to try to attract academic institutes to the town as a way to help focus on climate change.
“We're really set here in town as ground zero for climate change,” she said. “I'd really love to see us building up an academic institute. I think that could bring a lot of vibrancy to the community.”
Davis won her first term on the board in 2017 by defeating incumbent Seth Taylor 1,289-706. A Chatham native, she said that during the past three years she's learned a lot about the dynamics of the board of selectmen and feels she can navigate and prioritize issues in a productive manner.
Davis was instrumental in getting the Chatham 365 Task Force off the ground a year ago in response to growing concern about a loss of vibrancy and diversity in the community, especially around the inability of young families to afford to live in town. The group brought a series of recommendations to the board of selectmen recently that address “community buoyancy, economic empowerment, civic vibrancy and a health environment.” Selectmen were urged to move quickly and decisively on several, including looking at tax incentives and support for child care. Housing, economic development and “community value” also figure into the mix, she said.
“I feel that it's a really important thing for the future,” Davis said of the Chatham 365 recommendations. “I think I'm well positioned to be able to advocate for that.” The problem isn't unique to Chatham, and other towns and regions are watching what's being done here, she added.
Davis is committed to seeing a new senior center through to completion. “I was talking about that three years ago,” she said, and seniors have been waiting even longer for a facility that needs the council on aging's needs. “Our year-round senior citizens deserve something of value.”
She said she favors the 1610 Main St. site for a new senior center over the citizens' proposal to use land off Stepping Stones Road. Having a senior center in West Chatham could be an “economic engine” for the village, she added.
The airport commission's efforts to revise the airport master plan has been frustrating, she said, and she's led selectmen's attempt to help the commission understand the importance of transparency. The commission recently rejected naming a citizens advisory committee to participate in the master planning process, which selectmen had recommended. It's important that the commission understand that Chatham's airport is in a unique setting and there's value in community members' participation and input, she said.
“I think we're getting there,” she said. “I've listened to both sides. I've not put my opinion in on what we should be doing with the plan. It's all about process.”
As part of the town's commercial fishing industry for many years, Davis said she's in a good position to understand and work on dredging and other waterways issues. Shifting sands, in part due to Chatham's dynamic shoreline and inlets and exacerbated by climate change, makes ensuring the town's harbors remain navigable a challenge.
“We don't have assurance of where it's going,” she said, and dredging is getting more and more expensive. The town needs to look at public and private partnerships and work with the county to strengthen its dredging program. Chatham is currently exploring the possibility of purchasing its own dredge, as are several neighboring towns.
“I don't really know if Chatham could do it on its own,” Davis said of the town owning and operating a dredge. “I think it should partner with other towns.”
Consultants are currently working on a study of coastal resiliency and the impact of climate change, which is going to be a “big cost” in the future. The town needs to figure out how to minimize the impact in a constructive and financially viable way, she said.
A small business owner, visual artist and fisheries and community consultant, Davis is currently working as a contractor with the Chatham Harvesters Cooperative. She's been encouraged to seek a second term and said she has the support of her family. She said she'd welcome a challenge in the election to help highlight important community issues. She prefers to take a positive approach, adding it can be discouraging when people “from outside” second guess the board's decisions.
“If you're interested come run for selectman, get involved,” she said. As of Tuesday, no one else had taken out papers for the single available seat on the board. Janice O'Connell took out papers for another five-year term on the housing authority.
Nomination papers for the May 14 annual town election are available at the town clerk's office and must be filed by March 26.