TOWNSEND — Business owner and environmental advocate Andrew Shepherd is running for the 1st Middlesex District state representative seat.
The Townsend native is running as a Republican for the seat currently held by incumbent state Rep. Sheila Harrington, R-Groton. In January, Gov. Charlie Baker appointed Harrington to serve as clerk magistrate of the Gardner District Court. Her confirmation with the Governor’s Council is scheduled for 10 a.m. on Feb. 9.
Leading up to his run for the State House, Shepherd has pushed for environmental and sustainable polices in his hometown. In 2020, Shepherd proposed a polystyrene ban and in 2019, he proposed a ban on single use plastic bags.
“As a farmer and someone who has worked on the family farm and having a farm in the family for the last 100 years, you can tell that the climate is changing,” Shepherd said. “It is important to make sure that we are doing everything we can to protect it, our district and our resources.”
Shepherd said he recognizes that Republicans are not commonly associated with a commitment to combatting climate change. However, he doesn’t want his party affiliation to be the defining characteristic of who he is.
“I think it’s incredibly important as a Republican to be an independent thinker and not fall into any buckets that you’re going to be one way or another just because you’re a Republican,” Shepherd said.
The communities that comprise the 1st Middlesex District are known for their open space, farmland, forests and water. Shepherd sees those natural resources as an “asset” in the district, adding to his desire to see them protected.
If elected, Shepherd would bring experience building and running his own company Bayberry Hill Water Co., which delivers five-gallon containers of spring water.
The company has a “Bottle for Bottle Promise” which says that for every sustainably designed product purchased through the company’s “Otter Store” one 5-gallon bottle or the value of one 5-gallon bottle of water will be donated to someone in need.
Shepherd has also worked for his family’s business, Shepherd’s, which includes a diverse portfolio including farming, landscaping and trucking.
As he assesses the challenges facing the district, he said the economy is the biggest issue. Prices are too high for consumers and businesses are struggling to attract employees, he said.
“I want to make sure that I go into the State House and I’m supporting policies and voting on legislation that (can) get funding to our district where we need it and and that we’re creating an economic lineup that can really continue to support our local businesses and keep people employed with with good jobs,” Shepherd said.
In the 1st Middlesex District, there are two regional school districts, North Middlesex and Groton-Dunstable. As he looks to the future, he hopes to ensure the district gets a fair return on investment for taxpayers.
“I really want to make sure that going down to Beacon Hill, I can be an advocate to make sure that that we get some of those monies back and I can put more money into our school system with Chapter 70 (education) funding,” Shepherd said.
Under the state’s new legislative districts, the 1st Middlesex District will include Shepherd’s hometown of Townsend, as well as all of Ashby, Dunstable and Pepperell. The district also includes Precincts 2 and 3 in Groton and Precincts A, C and D in Lunenburg.
While Shepherd is a first-time candidate, he is not a stranger to politics. As a student at UMass Amherst, he interned for Gov. Baker in the Office of Access and Opportunity. Additionally, Shepherd interned with the district’s incumbent representative, Harrington.
During his time at UMass Amherst, Shepherd was also a member of the Amherst Fire Department’s student volunteer force and lived in the fire station while leading the 30-member student force for two years as a deputy chief. He said his experiences have helped develop his leadership skills.
Although he has only been a candidate for a short time, Shepherd said he has wasted no time in meeting the community and hearing their concerns. Recently, he has been meeting with town officials, police and fire chiefs. Through meeting with community members, he hopes to develop his policy prescriptions further.
As the state and his potential district continue to weather the COVID-19 pandemic, Shepherd said he wants people to be empowered to make their own decisions about getting vaccinated. He said he would not support a statewide mask mandate, believing those decisions are best made by businesses and individual school districts.
Shepherd is not the first candidate in the race for the 1st Middlesex District. In October, Pepperell Select Board Chair Margaret Scarsdale announced she would seek the seat as a Democrat.
In a statement, Scarsdale said she “welcomed” Shepherd to the race.
“The past few years have presented unique challenges for our region, and our communities deserve a spirited conversation about our pathway forward,” Scarsdale said. “As chair of the Pepperell Select Board, I have consistently taken on tough, divisive issues and brought people together to achieve meaningful solutions. That work uniquely prepares me to represent this district on Beacon Hill.”
Scarsdale continued, “Andrew and I have differing levels of experience and different priorities. I look forward to him joining the ongoing conversation I’ve been having across the district since I launched my campaign last October.”