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Arlington needs to 'take control' of its future, Mahon says

Diane MahonMahon

ELECTION'S EARLY LOOK: Those who take out papers in races that may be contested in April respond to basic questions about themselves and Arlington.

If you attend selectmen meetings or watch them on cable, you know Diane Mahon. If you don't, then read on.

The 51-year-old Arlington resident (since age 7) seeks a sixth three-year term on the board. She has been a member since 1999.

Cites town services, change

The board member known for seemingly instant responses to constituents' questions is also known for surrounding issues brought to the board with a stream of questions, punctuated with familiar phrases of diplomacy.

Asked what she sees as key challenges ahead for Arlington, and how to meet them, Mahon wrote about two:

"[E]nsuring that the town continues to provide high-quality municipal services and taking action to direct and affect the change occurring in our community. We need to 'take control' of our future and maintain a high quality of life in Arlington.
She wrote that the town manager and the selectmen, who appoint him, must make sure the town provides such services to residents within the limits of the annual town budget for fiscal 2014. That plan is based on cost reductions and increased efficiencies and, for those, she applauds the manager and the town employees.

"In fact, the tax override of 2011 was designed to fund town government until fiscal 2014," she wrote. "However, due primarily to cost savings in employee health care, there are sufficient funds to extend that plan’s coverage to, as currently projected, fiscal 2018.

"Town employees and their unions agreed to insurance plan changes which shifted more of the costs of health insurance to the employees. Consequently, the annual budget reflects these cost savings."

To deliver expected services, she wrote, "We need to retain the high-quality employees we have working for the town today. Our employees are at the bottom of the pay scale for comparable communities. Over recent years, town departments have lost well-trained, experienced employees to surrounding communities which provide them better compensation.

"Our employees tightened their belts and agreed to increase their individual costs for health insurance. Cost savings and efficiencies are one-half of the equation. The retention of our skilled workforce is the challenge we face today. I intend to address the issue of employee retention.

Supports master-plan process

The other major challenge she noted is change. "The town is changing, sometimes quickly," she wrote. "We need to 'organize' and direct change, where possible. We need to 'take control' of our collective future.

"I fully support the town's master-planning process, which will 'serve as the town’s primary policy statement on future physical development in Arlington.'"

Mahon quoted master-plan working papers: "'The process involves public participation to set goals and communicate a long-term shared vision, a review of current trends relative to land use, economic development, housing, open space, recreation lands, natural and historic properties, transportation, demographics, public facilities, and includes steps to implement the plan.'

"I encourage residents to participate in this process," she wrote. "As a community, we need to 'embrace change.' We need to change our paradigms; the ways in which we look at development, transportation and the other elements of the process.

"We need to work together to create the Arlington of the 21st century. An Arlington which will be safe and secure, sustainable, with a high quality of life for all of our residents.

"Developing and implementing this plan is the challenge before us.

"I wholehearted commit to work towards this goal and continue to grow Arlington into the attractive community it has become."

'I REALLY love the job'

Asked why she wants to be reelected, she wrote (the emphasis is hers):

"I still REALLY love the job. I’ve seen the [Board of Selectmen] evolve since my election in 1999, and feel that we are in tune with the climate in Arlington, which fosters community activism, employs exemplary town workers and is constantly adapting to the times, including around sustainability, technology and new ways to do business.

"I feel, most importantly, that my number 1 job has been, and always will be, constituent services.

"I try to facilitate when people and/or businesses have questions and are not sure where to turn. I take very seriously helping those who may have fallen on hard times, for one reason or another, with connecting them with vital services the town can offer while also respecting their privacy.

"One of my goals is to get citizens not only the access or information, but to encourage them to get involved and feel good about Arlington and what we offer.

"Lastly, I get great satisfaction from just meeting people, hearing their stories and getting them to trust in town government."

Began as citizen activist

In addition to her work on the board, she worked for many years before that as a citizen activist. The issues on which she worked included:

    -- Alleviating extreme flood conditions in the neighborhoods surrounding McClennen Park on Summer Street;

    -- Limiting the amount of raw sewerage flooding into Alewife Brook in East Arlington during severe storms; and

    -- Improving conditions at the Warren A. Peirce High School playing field.

Mahon wrote that she got involved in the political life of the town while working to improve the quality of education for her children.

"I quickly realized that my personal goal was inseparable from improving the educational opportunities for all of the town's children," she wrote.

In 1987, the Arlington High graduate was elected president of the Brackett School PTO. At the time, she formed and chaired Arlington’s Friends of Neighborhood Schools, which played a role in keeping Peirce and Brackett schools from closing.

For many years, she was a cochair the Townwide PTO.

"I love Arlington, and I want to continue working for all of you," she wrote.

The following is a partial list of the organizations that Mahon provided reflecting her participation:

Arlington selectman

Townwide PTO president for eight years

Arlington Pop Warner Board of Directors

Founding member, Arlington Labor Alliance

Town Meeting Member, Precinct 14, for 20 Years

Former chairman and current member of the Arlington Town Day Committee

Brackett School PTO president for five years

Brackett School PTO member for nine years


Mahon is a professional court reporter, a Massachusetts notary public and a commissioner of deeds in New Hampshire and Rhode Island. She is also a high school varsity cheerleading coach.  

Previous positions include employment with AT&T/Verizon, at the state Department of Social service (now Department of Children and Families) as an intake worker for child services, respite and foster care. She has also worked for RESOLVE, a nonprofit for infertility services, in its infancy.

Two Board of Selectmen seats are open. Dan Dunn, the current chair, and Robert Tosi Jr. have also taken out papers.

Campaign website

Mahon has been the top vote-getter for selectmen in the following elections, except for her first run in 1999. That year, Charles Lyons received 4,837 votes and Mahon 4,577:

2002: 4,340, second to Lyons (3,019);

2005: 4,590, second to Annie LaCourt (3,109);

2008: 4,580, second to Annie LaCourt (3,079);

2011: 4,485, second to Dan Dunn (4,247).

2014 town election: Town | YourArlington

This story was published Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2014.

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