Borchert, Richen Announce Bids For Select Board Seat

JohnCarl McGrady •

Carl Borchert and Kathy Richen are the first two candidates to declare their intention to run for Select Board in the November 8th special election to replace Melissa Murphy, who recently announced her resignation from the board to pursue a law degree.

The two candidates have a lot in common, outlining similar positions on many of the critical issues facing Nantucket, including affordable housing and the Town hiring process, with both candidates saying that while they don’t have access to all the information, they support Deputy Fire Chief Sean Mitchell to replace outgoing Fire Chief Stephen Murphy.

Both have lived on Nantucket for a long time, and both have extensive experience in local government. Borchert has served on the Energy Committee, Coastal Management Committee, and Planning Board, while Richen spent 23 years in the Nantucket Finance Department, where she was the operations manager.

Richen is retired, but she continues to direct the Christmas pageant at the Congregational Church and works with the Community Preservation Committee. She also serves on the board of the International Association of Rebekah Assemblies, a service organization that promotes charity. In her role, Richen has focused on conflict resolution and consensus building, skills she hopes to bring to the Select Board.

“I hope to have people with different opinions come together and be in an atmosphere where they can candidly speak about how they feel and see if there’s a way they can...come to an agreement,” she said, adding that her slogan will be “together, we can strengthen our town.”

Borchert touted similar skills and goals, saying that as a member of the Select Board he would prioritize “consensus building, bridge building, and compromise”, which he sees as some of the main achievements of his time on the Planning Board.

Richen and Borchert also emphasized their experience in finance, with Richen referring to her long career in the finance department and Borchert to his service on the board of the island’s Unitarian Universalist church, where he has balanced three budgets.

“I think fiscal experience is important for the [Select] Board,” Borchert said. “The town budget has gone over $100,000,000 for the first time, and that’s important.”

In addition to fiscal responsibility, Borchert said that if he was elected, his priorities would be addressing the opioid crisis, infrastructure, traffic, and affordable housing.

Richen cited water quality as one of her top priorities, alongside affordable housing. Richen and Borchert spoke at length about affordable housing, acknowledging that it was one of the most pressing issues facing the island.

“My daughter is an administrator at the Nantucket Cottage Hospital, and she had to go to Florida to find housing,” Richen said. “There’s just a huge need, and it hit home when my daughter had to [leave Nantucket]...this town needs people who make the town tick...and they’re not all multi-millionaires. ”

Both Richen and Borchert praised the efforts of Housing Nantucket and the Affordable Housing Trust. Borchert also favours the idea of a land trust, which would buy land and allow middle-class Nantucketers to purchase homes at discounted prices by only having to pay for the building.

“A lot of people here...don’t make enough to buy a house,” he said. “So if they could get a break on the trust buying the lot and they build the house, that would be very helpful.”

Borchert also criticized corporate-owned short-term rentals. While he clarified that he supports locals and summer residents using their properties as short-term rentals, he said that corporate ownership of short-term rentals frightens him and that the town’s short-term rental work group “is going to have to look at that very hard.” However, he also announced his support for Town Meeting Article 42, which would have cemented the legality of short-term rentals in all zoning districts.

One of the only issues where the two candidates clashed was offshore wind. While Richen didn’t condemn the idea outright, she said she was concerned about the projects planned for the waters near Nantucket and would prefer solar power.

“Obviously, no one has come up with the right solution,” she said of offshore wind, citing a concern that ships could crash into wind turbines and cause them to leak the hydraulic oil they use for lubrication into the water.

Borchert dismissed that concern, saying that the turbines would be well-lit and kept out of shipping lanes and that captains would know to steer clear of them. “I would say that [Richen] is misinformed,” he said.

Borchert has spent 22 years advocating for offshore wind, which he sees as necessary for greenhouse gas reduction. During that time, Borchert has been one of the most outspoken proponents of offshore wind projects in the Nantucket area, penning an editorial supporting Cape Wind in the Cape Cod Times and appearing at hearing after hearing to speak in favour of the project. “They’re benign, they go in, they generate electricity for 25 years,” he said of the turbines.

Whoever wins Murphy’s seat in November will only be guaranteed a six-month term on the Select Board, but Richen and Borchert both expressed interest in running for a full term in June should they win the special election, with Richen saying that she had planned to run in June anyway before Murphy announced her resignation.

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