REGION — Gene Rauhala is clear on why he is running for office.
“I believe the six towns need a much stronger voice on Beacon Hill,” he said.
The Democratic candidate for state representative in the 1st Middlesex District wants to bring more state aid and economic development to the district.
Attracting people to the area and serving the families living here depends on good, safe roads, he said.
All six towns are members of regional school districts and rely on bus transportation to get children to school, he said.
Rauhala was in one of the first classes to attend North Middlesex Regional High School. When regionalization began, the state was supposed to reimburse 100 percent of the transportation costs.
“In reality, it’s about 50 percent. They’re not coming close,” he said. “That’s one of the whammies.”
“The cost of that has become a real burden,” Rauhala said.
The towns in his district are not getting enough state aid to keep the roads in good repair. Instead of rebuilding the infrastructure, towns are only able to afford repaving projects that are not permanent.
“We can’t find the money to do it,” he said. “It’s incredibly important to be all over those formulas.”
Towns do not have enough money to cover their expenses and meet the regional school budgets, he said. “State representatives have to take the lead.”
A Democrat who represents the region in the House will be able to work with other party members to get as much state aid as possible into the region, he said.
“When I grew up in the ’50s, this was a destination spot,” Rauhala said. Farms and state parks drew so many visitors that kids could get summer jobs working in the concession stands to serve the travelers.
“We had a vibrant economy,” he said.
Improving Route 119 and approaching the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority about adding bus service to Fitchburg and Ayer is on his agenda.
Improved access would make it easier for visitors to visit the existing cultural and recreation locations of the region such as the local historical societies and open space.
Visitors could utilize the trails that lead through conservation lands in each town. Significant economic activity has been generated by the existing rail trails in Pepperell and Ayer, Rauhala said.
“The middle class really are the ones that get the benefit of day trips,” he said.
Bus service, even just a couple of runs in the morning and afternoon, would benefit residents without cars, he said. Education, training and treatment facilities are inaccessible right now for many who need them.
“I feel the infrastructure investment would be well worth it,” he said.
Rauhala served as town moderator in Townsend for 16 years. One of his last projects as moderator was drafting the community resolution opposing the proposed natural-gas pipeline that would bisect the district. Townsend Town Meeting passed the resolution unanimously on July 31.
He supports the enhancement of the energy grid to use renewable, green energy. “We’re well on the way,” he said.
Rauhala was born and brought up in Townsend, a grandchild of Finnish immigrants. He and his wife, Leslie, are both lawyers.
He is a past president of the Townsend Historical Society and coached youth soccer when his sons were on teams.
The union musician has played trumpet in town bands in just about every town in the 1st Middlesex District.
Their sons attended North Middlesex Regional High School. Sam teaches high school physics in Pittsburgh, Penn. Their younger son, Ben, is a freelance music director and musician on Broadway in New York.
The Democrat wants to tie his interests in culture and music together with his skills as a town official and lawyer to benefit the district his family calls home.
The last, and perhaps only, Democrat representative in the 1st Middlesex District was Bruce Weatherbee from 1974 to 1984, he said. The majority of current members of the Massachusetts House of Representatives are Democrats.
“I really feel that over the years having a Republican representing our district has cost us,” Rauhala said. “It’s pretty hard for the majority to step up and fund your projects.”
“That is why I am running,” he said.