Special ed teacher challenging incumbent Lanesborough selectman


LANESBOROUGH — Selectman Robert Ericson is being challenged by a teacher who's been active on school issues facing the town, in a race highlighting the annual Lanesborough election on June 21.

Michelle Johnson, a special education teacher at Morris Elementary School in Lenox, is running against Ericson for a three-year board term.

Johnson said she began attending School Committee meetings in recent years out of concern over proposed spending cuts at the elementary level and over discussion of Lanesborough possibly leaving the Mount Greylock Regional School District in favor of the Adams-Cheshire Regional School District or another nearby district.

She said she also strongly supported recent approval of a major $64.8 million renovation and reconstruction of Mount Greylock junior/senior high school in Williamstown.

"I thought it was my town, and I wanted to make sure it did right by my kids," Johnson said.

She said the regional school system to which Lanesborough belongs "is where we hang our hats; it is what people move to the town for."

Johnson said that was her thinking when she moved here in 2003, having grown up in Bennington, Vt., and worked for several years in eastern Massachusetts after graduating from the former North Adams State College in 1996 with a degree in psychology.

But Johnson said that, "at the end of the day, I am not interested in beating a dead horse [concerning school issues]." Her principal focus on the Select Board, she said, would be increasing the town's tax base.

"I know taxes are too high," she said. "I understand. But we can minimize the impact."

Encouraging business and residential growth will help stabilize the tax rate, she said, adding, "I would prefer to grow the town rather than cut."

Johnson also advocated creation of a comprehensive economic development plan for Lanesborough. "A lot of people have expertise," she said, and such a process could spur some valuable "out of the box thinking" about the town's economic future.

Ericson, who is seeking a second three-year term as selectman, believes he has experience in the job and can be effective in dealing with issues facing the town.

"It took me at least a year to sort of learn on the job," he said. "There is a fair amount of repetition, but not every meeting is the same."

The board faces a changing array of zoning, highway or other concerns or questions from residents, in addition to budgeting and other issues, he said.

The incumbent, who retired in 2005 from a 32-year career at GE and later General Dynamics, also has served two four-year terms on the Mount Greylock Regional School District Committee, and he serves on the Lanesborough Energy Committee. That board is working to foster energy efficiency projects with funding through the Massachusetts Green Communities grant program at the elementary school and other town buildings.

He was involved in the planning process that led to the Mount Greylock new construction and renovation project, having served on the School Building Committee. He said he also acted as a volunteer owner project manager as the existing building, which opened in 1961, was being assessed prior to selection of the current project format.

Ericson said he had gained experience helpful for that role during his years in the Navy when he helped establish naval training facilities. He holds an engineering degree from the State University of New York at Plattsburgh.

He said he became a supporter of the approved partial renovation and new construction school plan in part because of structural and design problems that showed renovation alone would not be financially feasible given the original school design and construction, and because renovation alone would cost Lanesborough the same as the accepted building plan.

Ericson moved to town in 1996, building a home on Scott Road. He is an active bicyclist and has been a member of the ski patrol at Jiminy Peak in Hancock for 27 years.

A race also has developed on the town ballot for two three-year Finance Committee seats, with incumbents Ronald Tinkham and Alfred Terranova facing challenger Rebecca Flood.

Running unopposed are Robert Reilly for another term as moderator; Danielle Taylor for town School Committee; Rachael Eramo, library trustee for three years, and Sherri Wilson, library trustee for one year; and Reilly for a three-year term on the Cemetery Commission.

No candidate is listed for a five-year Planning Board post.

Contact Jim Therrien at 413-496-6247.


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