PEPPERELL — Newly elected Select Board member Mark Mathews is all about economic development.
Currently serving as the chair of the Economic Development Advisory Committee and as a member of the Master Plan Implementation Team, Mathews views his new role as a fun, new challenge. He retired from the private sector in May 2020 but has remained active.
He believes in Pepperell’s ability to attract visitors from other communities, highlighting both rivers, the bike path, the historical landmarks, and the hiking trails.
“We really do have it all and we haven’t really featured it as well as we could in the future,” Mathews said.
He pointed toward the construction of the Indian Hill Music Center in Groton as one way to attract visitors to restaurants and shops moving forward. Travelers from Lowell and Nashua will pass through town on their way there.
Mathews wants to prioritize balancing the budget and seeking new revenue opportunities. He is interested in commercial property, new businesses, and housing, but says a balance of those things is needed, and it must be right for the town.
Although he wants to explore new revenue opportunities, he is conscious of the town’s affordability. He is concerned about the property tax burden.
“What we want to try to turn this town into is a place that’s affordable for people,” Mathews said. “Where you can walk downtown, go to a concert, whether it’s on the town field or maybe a concert area down by the old mill building, and then go get ice cream.”
Mathews also sees opportunity at the town-owned Peter Fitzpatrick school. He would like to look at rezoning it for professional services or to take advantage of its food kitchen, similar to the Worcester Regional Food Hub. Additionally, he sees development opportunities along Route 119 if available space were to be rezoned.
As he enters his new role, he believes that he will complement fellow Select Board members Margaret Scarsdale and Anthony Beattie. Having the right people and working hard was instrumental in his business success.
“We’re not all the same type. We don’t all have exactly the same beliefs. But I think we’re understanding and respectful of one another,” he said.
Matthews succeeds William Greathead, who passed away in February. He had an opportunity to speak with him just prior to making the decision to run.
“He will be sorely missed. That’s a position I can’t hope to fill. The relationship he had with the people and how he’s loved in town, that’s just fantastic.”