Graduate and union leader appointed to seat on Greater Lowell Tech Committee

Lee Gitschier, an applicant for a seat on the Greater Lowell Technical School Committee, spoke before the City Council and School Committee Wednesday night. He was selected for the position in a 13-1. SUN / ELIZABETH DOBBINS

LOWELL — Each had a unique pitch.

Deborah Belanger said she would be a coalition builder and the first woman on the Greater Lowell Technical School Committee since 2006. Lee Gitschier touted his union experience and deep roots at the technical school. Diego Leonardo, an immigrant from Guatemala, described education as an equalizer and building block of community.

In a 13-1 vote on Wednesday, the Lowell City Council and Lowell School Committee selected Gitschier — the president of IBEW Local 2321 and a 1987 graduate of Greater Lowell Tech — for a seat representing Lowell on the Greater Lowell Technical High School Committee.

Lee Gitschier. SUN / ELIZABETH DOBBINS

In a short presentation, Gitschier described working side-by-side with co-op students and understanding the difficulty of balancing school with this work experience. He also spoke about the need to make sure these students continue to work and live in Lowell following graduation.

“I’ve been in the trades. I’ve sat in that seat,” he said. “I understand the struggles these kids go through. I still see fellow graduates at job sites.”

He said his father and son also graduated from Greater Lowell Tech. His brother, Erik Gitschier, previously sat on the Greater Lowell Technical High School Committee and headed the Lowell Regional Water Utility.

School Committee member Jackie Doherty cast the only vote supporting another applicant. She voted for Leonardo, the founder of the Latinx Community Center for Empowerment and a member of Coalition for a Better Acre.

Councilor Karen Cirillo was absent.

The third applicant at the meeting Wednesday night, Belanger, headed the Greater Merrimack Valley Convention and Visitors Bureau for nearly two decades and is currently a director at the Lowell Management Group. Her son attended Greater Lowell Tech and she has served over 10 years on the advisory board for the school’s hospitality program.

A fourth applicant, Tanya Ford, was expected to present to the board, but did not attend the meeting. She is the executive director of the Cambridge Election Commission.

Charter boat captain and musician Paul Belley submitted an application, but also did not attend. At the City Council meeting on Tuesday, Councilor John Leahy announced Belley withdrew his name for personal reasons.

The meeting on Wednesday lasted about 20 minutes. Each applicant made a presentation. After the three presentations, the City Council and School Committee voted.

Lee Gitschier will fill the seat vacated by Ray Boutin in September. Boutin told The Sun he stepped down to spend more time with family and attend to increasing demands at work. His term was set to end in December 2020.

Boutin was named to the seat in a similar proceeding in 2012 through an 8-7 vote. He filled a seat vacated by Michael Lenzi.