TOWNSEND -- Member of the Finance and Capital Planning Committees Carolyn Smart is making a second run at selectman this spring.
Smart, who lost the election to Colin McNabb last year, said she is hoping that her years of experience in town government will help to bring sensible financial policies to town government.
"I have a really good understanding of how municipal government works from putting together budgets in tough fiscal times," she said. "I feel the taxpayer really needs an advocate in the selectmen's office."
Smart has also served on the Planning Board and Personnel Board, and has worked as both the selectmen's executive secretary and the acting town administrator.
Her top priorities are fiscal, she said, and include restoring the town's bond rating and establishing a set of financial policies.
"My top priority is our bond rating. A bond rating is really an indicator of the fiscal health of the community and I'm terribly embarrassed that we lost it," Smart said.
The town's AA3 bond rating was revoked by credit rating agency Moody's Investor Service in June due to missing information. Town Administrator Andrew Sheehan has said that the issue is due to delays in the town's audits from previous years because the town hired a new auditor.
Sheehan told selectmen in August that the bond rating would be restored, but it has not been yet.
Smart also advocates more advanced financial planning to prepare for long-term expenses. She cited the example of the fire station headquarters project, which will go before voters at Annual Town Meeting, as an example of poor planning.
"They should have looked at the income per capita, population, unemployment figures, our assessments and figured out what the town could afford and then set a budget so you can sell a reasonable plan to the taxpayers. I don't feel that was done," Smart said.
Smart said she is also concerned about the status of the town's green communities designation, which makes the town eligible for grant funding. In order to stay a green community, the town was required to reduce its energy consumption by 20 percent by the end of next year. So far, the usage has gone down only 4 percent, potentially jeopardizing future grant money.
"I don't see selectmen putting a plan in place on how to reduce that. We need to have a plan on how to come up with that reduction," Smart said.
To do that, she said, she would use the town's biggest asset, its employees, through incentive programs.
"Employees will have the best solutions. You've got to tap into your best resources," she said.
She also suggested mandatory training for both town employees and selectmen so that everyone has a better understanding of how the town should be run.
For selectmen, she said, this training would help officials to better understand the decisions they are entrusted with making.
"They're the CEOs of the corporation, making decisions that affect the entire community. They ought to know how everything ties together. I feel like there's a disconnect with the big picture," Smart said.
Training for town employees would clarify expectations and make the entire town staff more productive, she said.
"Leadership is not about how many people follow you, but how many people you empower to be leaders themselves. If you can do that you're going to succeed, because as a team you've succeeded," she said.
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