On April 27, 2021

Elect David Atkins to the Westwood Select Board

For greater transparency, better communication, and improved civic engagement for all Westwood residents.

Why I'm running

For the last decade, I’ve volunteered in the community and helped share information more effectively to promote better civic engagement. As Chair of the Westwood Planning Board in 2018, I prioritized the development of our updated comprehensive plan–written by community members and adopted by the Planning Board this past fall. As a member of the Select Board, I will take what we learned from that process and work with town administration, the School Committee, the Planning Board and all departments to implement this shared vision for our community with maximum transparency and community consensus.

Why I'm different

I have a demonstrated record of listening to all perspectives, of considering alternative points of view and being willing to promote an open discussion of issues of disagreement. I don’t have all the answers, and I believe the best way to solve problems is through an open and transparent dialogue with residents. I’m also a very hands-on person; I show up and find a way to help. I see things through. I bring technology expertise from decades in software development, a data and analytics background, and legal training–a deep, diverse background of experience to serve Westwood.

Experience

Planning Board

Worked collaboratively with other board members to improve projects at University Station, the Islington redevelopment, and Westwood Lodge property. While chair, prioritized the revision of Westwood’s comprehensive plan.

2016-present

My interest in planning and economic development in Westwood began as I followed the initial Westwood Station proposals and ultimate success of University Station. As plans for redevelopment of Islington were discussed, I decided to run for Planning Board so I could work to ensure that everything within the Board’s control could be done to make it a project that would benefit the neighborhood and the town. In 2018, as I chaired the board, I prioritized the update of Westwood’s comprehensive plan through the Select Board’s creation of a Comprehensive Plan Steering Committee which met for 2 years with groups of residents to draft this plan which was adopted in December 2020. In addition to our regular review of special permit applications, I encouraged updates from our DPW on projects like the town-wide crosswalk safety study and the plans for a Gay Street sidewalk. I also encouraged the Planning Department staff to beging using a Facebook page for greater transparency and communication about upcoming projects.

 

Housing Authority

Worked to increase focus and commitment to developing affordable housing in Westwood and improving the administration of properties operated by Westwood Affordable Housing Associates. Served as Treasurer.

2014-2018

In 2013, my mother, Betty McClure had to move from her home in Virginia, and I was thrilled to be able to have her live close to me again and get to know her grandchildren. But as I helped her find a place to live, I quickly learned how difficult it is for seniors on a fixed income to find a place they can afford. I wanted to do something about that, so I ran for election to our Housing Authority and the Westwood Affordable Housing Associates nonprofit. We started meeting more regularly and fixing up the properties in town that provide some opportunities for lower income families to live in Westwood. We reviewed projects going to the Planning Board and helped clarify Westwood’s inclusory zoning with more specific requirements for the number of required affordable units. Our biggest challenge was having zero funding and huge maintenance liabilities just to break even on the properties we managed. But we were able to work with the town to obtain more budgeted funds to rehab the properties, obtain some grant money, and eventually, to dedicate specific funding towards affordable housing.

My mother initially rented a small apartment on Chapel Street in Norwood, then obtained affordable housing there, but was later able to move to Westwood Glen where she lived until she passed away last year.

Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety Committee

Founder and first committee chair. Organized first “walkability audit” and led the group to facilitate a new consensus around improving walking and biking in town with tangible results visible through grants for sidewalks and bike facilities, resolution of the East Street “can-opener” bridge, and a detailed transportation section in the comprehensive plan.

2008-2010

When we first moved to Westwood and lived on Gay Street, near the Hanlon School, I thought my kids would someday walk to school. But even that close, we faced an unrelenting stream of cars and no sidewalk on our side of the street. I saw an article in the Hometown Weekly suggesting people interested in safer walking and biking host a “walkability workshop,” so I called up the Town Planner and put together a Saturday event where a group of about 20 of us walked from Hanlon to Islington and back with Planning Board member Steve Olanoff and Safety Officer Paul Sicard. Afterwards, we brainstormed how to get improvements done and decided to ask the Select Board to form a standing committee. The committee was formed and over the years has provided a forum for residents to engage directly with our town departments and discuss issues of safety. We heard that things like fixing the East Street Bridge and getting a sidewalk on Gay Street were impossible dreams.

The committee worked with our DPW to create a Complete Streets policy that has resulted in Westwood receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars of grant funding, most recently to complete sections of sidewalk on High Street providing a sidewalk all the way from Town Hall to Bubbling Brook. Through a series of town meeting articles and numerous public meetings, funding was authorized and a plan for a sidewalk on Gay Street has been completed. When a horrific accident took the live of a child in a crosswalk, the committee requested a town-wide audit of all crosswalks be done–the results of which are being implemented this Spring. And even the East Street Bridge, a subject of international ridicule and notoriety for our town due to the many crashing trucks, has, after many public hearings and discussions to address resident concerns about the potential for large truck traffic, been replaced with a new bridge and sidewalks allowing kids and families to walk from the Downey School to Morrison Park on a sidewalk.

Westwood Community Access TV

Board member, clerk, treasurer and manager from the formation of the WestCAT nonprofit, through the launch of the Westwood Media Center.

2008-2011, 2014-2016

I remember when Select Board meetings were only available on television thanks to the efforts of a Comcast technician who showed up with a vintage VHS camera to record and then rebroadcast that tape once a week on a grainy TV channel. I went to town hall and asked how I could help. The town administrator suggested I join a new working group of the Communication and Technology Advisory Board to bring a real community access channel to Westwood. At the first meeting, we decided to form an independent group.

We formed a 501(c)3 nonprofit, Westwood Community Access Television, in 2008. I drafted a plan to put robotic cameras in the meeting rooms, set up a “tricaster” device for live online broadcasts, and we hired the first part time employees to bring media production in house. WestCAT had a significant amount of accumulated cash from years of small percentage fees, but faced the problem that annual revenue of these fees was not enough to hire a full time person. We needed an inexpensive studio location, and for many years, it was a tiny room in the basement of town hall. We worked on the Verizon and Comcast license renewals, to get the percentage fee increased and we scoped out locations–in the high school, in the Islington Community Center, at various properties in town and considered the renovation costs, alway mindful of the need to preserve our capital and make sure once we made the investment in a full studio build out, we would not run out of money and fail.

I left the board for 3 years when I was laid off and my family  moved out of Westwood temporarily. When we returned to town I rejoined the board to find that our part time director had left and we had no staff. We hired a person to manage the station and when we ran into difficulties covering events, I took on a management role myself to supervise our employees and, on occasion, show up and make sure the contractually obligated meetings were recorded. Finally, we reached the difficult decision to reorganize the staff and, with the assistance and leadership of new board members and help from the Select Board, we were able to find and hire the current Executive Director who has transformed WestCAT into the Westwood Media Center.

Pack 1 Islington, cubmaster

Served as Tiger den leader and then cubmaster, organizing camping trips, annual scouting for food drive, and the townwide pinewood derby.

Although I was a cub scout many years ago, I never imagined myself as a cubmaster. But when my son Marshall showed up to join a den of 11 boys, I agreed to co-lead. Then, a year later I volunteered to serve as the cubmaster. Westwood has a truly great scouting tradition because the adults always lend a helping hand and the kids are great. It was a lot of fun to camp out in Hale and Sayre…and to run the Pinewood Derby. I did some research and found that indeed, Pack 1/Troop 1 was one of the first organized boy scout organizations in the country, as the minister of the Islington Community Church was instrumental in forming it. Our old, handmade pack flag contained ribbons and awards from the 1970s, and I set a goal for our pack to complete one more to add before I finished my tenure.

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Family

Jen and I moved to Westwood in 2005, shortly before the birth of our son Jason who is now a freshman at Westwood High School. Our daughter Shay is a Junior at WHS and learning to drive; our youngest son Marshall is in 7th grade at Thurston. All of our kids attended Hanlon.
I met Jen when we were both working in Washington, D.C. in the U.S. Senate. I grew up in a small town in rural Virginia, then attended MIT and developed a lifelong love of the Boston area. Jen grew up in Chelmsford and went to BU. After we were married we moved to California as Jen obtained her law degree from Santa Clara University, and I worked in early stage startup internet companies in Silicon Valley. After my father passed away following a stroke and especially after 9/11, we wanted to come back to be closer to our families on the East Coast.We found Westwood to be a great community. I found it had many of the best attributes of the town I grew up in…neighbors helping neighbors, a town where you could get to know people…and a still-protected connection to nature. We made Westwood our home and in the last year, fulfilled a longtime dream to own an old colonial house.

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Professional Background

David leads a team of business intelligence developers at Steward Health Care to develop analytics and reporting used by Steward hospitals in New England and across the United States. Prior to Steward, Dave led technology teams in Silicon Valley and Boston primarily in the development of internet applications. He graduated from MIT in 1990, obtained a law degree in 1993, and is admitted to practice law in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

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