New Townsend selectwoman brings numerical science and activism to board

Veronica Kell wants tax responsibility and transparency from town officials

Veronica Kell, the newest member of the Townsend Board of Selectmen
Veronica Kell, the newest member of the Townsend Board of Selectmen

TOWNSEND – If local residents are concerned about the numbers and figures going in and out of Town Hall, they’re lucky to have Veronica Kell on the Board of Selectmen.

Kell won the only contested race at this year’s annual town election, defeating Kevin Keefe in late June with 424 votes to his 392.

Kell takes a seat on the board vacated by former Chair Sue Lisio, who resigned from her position on Nov. 14 last year to focus on other plans.

The board decided to hold-off on holding a special election until the annual town election in April, which was postponed to June due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Kell told the Nashoba Valley Voice said she’s lived in town for 35 years and has been active in the workforce and in her free time.

With an undergraduate degree in mathematics and graduate degree in numerical science, Kell has worked as a teacher, mathematician and a software engineer in her life.

In-between those resume boosters, Kell’s done plenty of work benefitting the town. She’s been a member of the Townsend Conservation Land Trust and the Squannacook Elementary School Board, a Girl Scout leader and Girl Scout representative on the first Townsend Earth Day Committee. She’s currently the clerk of the Planning Board and a member of the Conservation Commission. As she said during the candidate forum in June, her first town position as a member of the Affordable Housing Subcommittee for the town Master Plan developed in the mid-to-late 1980s came from one of her first experiences living in town.

“In our first summer here, a town resident walked up our driveway and asked us to sign a petition,” Kell said. “We got to talking and we had never lived anywhere where there was an open town meeting form of government. We thought it was pretty cool to have a say in community decisions, so I signed up for that Master Plan Subcommittee.”

Kell said that she had to find a different way to reach out to people during her campaign while others stayed home to avoid the coronavirus. As for her original intent to run, she said she came to realize a need for immediate action on town issues earlier this year.

“Rather than asking questions and amending articles at Town Meeting, it became clear to me at the Special Town Meeting in January that it was time to just run for selectman,” she said.

While she knows the most immediate issue pressing the Board of Selectmen is the coronavirus pandemic and how the town addresses it going forward, Kell said she wants to focus on supporting the community and providing transparency between the board, other town boards and town residents.

At the candidate forum, Kell said that the aforementioned community support includes food security through supporting local farms, availability of experts at Town Hall and rental assistant programs. She further explained the need for the community to know where funds are and how they can be used properly via a financial plan.

“There should be no cross-pollination across the budget,” Kell added. “In other words, money shouldn’t be move from one place to another because that’s more pressing. We should be working a plan and having tax dollars used wisely.”

But of course, COVID-19 is still prevalent and residents are awaiting how to live in town with a potential second wave of cases looming. With that in mind, Kell said at the forum that meal taxes, excise taxes, local taxes and local revenue have taken a hit from the pandemic.

She brought up grants and programs that state agencies have made available for community support, including food security infrastructure, and wants to help the town get in on those offerings any way possible.

“I am hopeful that this is currently a work in progress and that our selectmen are looking into now,” she added at the forum. “These things are being rolled out in real time as we speak.”