Stockbridge election features two challengers for Board of Selectmen seat
STOCKBRIDGE -- A spirited three-way Select Board race is the only contest on Tuesday’s annual election ballot.
Challenging Chairman Stephen Shatz, who’s seeking his second three-year term, are Nabih Nejaime, a well-known local business owner for more than 50 years, and Adelheid "Heidi" Teutsch, a full-time Stockbridge police officer and town resident.
Nejaime favors closer scrutiny of town spending and greater emphasis on civility toward the public, while Teutsch calls for listening to the voices of the people and creation of a town ambulance service. Shatz, a recently retired attorney, points to his record of accomplishment and legal background.
The polls are open from 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., Tuesday, at the Town Offices, 50 Main St.
Shatz, who retired in December from the Springfield law firm he founded in 1969, is a native of that city, grew up in Longmeadow and moved to Stockbridge in 2000. He specialized in land-use planning and zoning issues, as well as affordable multi family housing.
"You learn very quickly that you are first and foremost an employer," said Shatz, 71, describing his Select Board experience. "Your obligation is to retain and hire the best possible candidates for the town. We’ve done that in significant ways," referring to Robert Eaton, the new police chief, among others.
"We’re quite proud of the choice and the way the process was undertaken, in a more open way than most towns," he said.
Shatz cited his "experience in making decisions and choices. ... It’s not easy, I agonize over them, but I have the analytical skills and I happen to like doing this, making a contribution to a community that is accustomed to change, and needs to change."
High on his agenda, if re-elected, is strategic planning for a town with a shrinking, aging population -- down from 2,400 in the mid-1990s to 1,800 currently, with a median age that has risen from 39 to 55.
Shatz pronounced the town’s finances "healthy and responsibly managed," thanks to "a talented Finance Committee that’s very careful in the way public funds are spent."
Teutsch’s advocacy of a town ambulance service would eliminate total reliance on Lee, Lenox, County Ambulance and Southern Berkshire Ambulance.
"It would be a wonderful addition to the town," she declared, "and we’d be able to give back to Lee and Lenox as much as they’ve given to us."
A native of Willingboro, N.J., Teutsch, 36, grew up in Pittsfield, Marietta, Ga., and back to Richmond as her father worked for GE plants.
"Police work found me," she explained. After graduating from North Adams State College [now MCLA], she served with the Richmond Fire Department.
After working as a part-time police officer in West Stockbridge, Teutsch spent nine months with the University of Massachusetts police department in Amherst, graduated from the state police academy in 2007 and landed a full-time post in Stockbridge. Her son, Peter, 17, is a junior at Monument Mountain and her parents live in Richmond.
"People are very sensitive to wanting to feel like they’re being heard," Teutsch stated. "They want to continue to be understood, maybe with somebody who could come in with a fresh perspective. I don’t want to say that it’s something that’s not being done."
"I’m a unique candidate because I get to have the eyes and ears of the community," she added. "I’m able to connect with that variety of people and I think my educational background in sociology and anthropology enables me to be a good listener, to see what everybody wants and needs, and guide them into the direction they want Stockbridge to go."
"I’m a very ambitious person and I have a lot of positive energy," Teutsch declared.
Nejaime, 79, a native of Lebanon who immigrated to the U.S. in 1955, worked at a relative’s market in Torrington, Conn., co-owned a store in nearby Harwinton, and moved to Stockbridge in 1964 to purchase what became Nejaime’s Market on Main Street. In 1980, he created a company to sell lavash, a crisp flatbread cracker of Middle Eastern origin.
He sold the firm 13 years ago, but his flatbread recipe, now called Ghiddo’s Lavash, is still produced in Brooklyn, N.Y., and sold regionally. Currently, he owns Nejaime’s Marketing Associates, a business consulting firm.
In 1970, he acquired a wine and liquor store on Elm Street, working with his sons, Jim, proprietor of Spirited in Lenox, and Joe, longtime owner of Nejaime’s Wine Cellars in Stockbridge and Lenox.
"My attitude and philosophy is to tell it like it is," the candidate declared. "Courtesy is very important; being truthful is more important than the product sometimes. I would never make a promise I couldn’t live by, and I think I created acceptance and respect in the marketplace."
Nejaime served on the Sewer and Water Commission a few years ago as well as on local and regional school committees in the 1970s.
"Like anything, there’s always room for improvement," he added, referring to town government. "What it takes to do that, collectively, is understanding, civility, and cooperation with the public. If you’re a selectman, you’re working for the people. ... I don’t want to cast any blame on the existing board."
"Ultimately, my contribution would be in finance, that’s my strength," Nejaime emphasized.
Nejaime promised that he would be "a serious guardian of keeping things the way they are in the main section of town" and of exercising "better control on hiring and expenses for the town. Sometimes, things have gone a little wild. The level of compensation, in some cases, is totally unreasonable. ... On the things I’m concerned about, there’s definitely room for improvement."
To contact Clarence Fanto:
or (413) 637-2551.
On Twitter: @BE_cfanto