Echevarria scores Ward 1 slot

Rossetti consults with Echevarria after he won the Ward 1 seat. Photo: Angeline Vo.

Who will be succeeding Maureen Bastardi in the Somerville School Committee and representing Ward 1? Benjamin Echevarria.

The decision to elect Echevarria was, by no means, easy.  It took about three hours to make the announcement, and the decision was one that Chairman Mary Jo Rossetti considered  tough.

After conducting three public 20-minute interviews for the three candidates (Echevarria, Steven Roix and Bonny Carroll), the committee was initially deadlocked between Echevarria and Roix.  After a re-vote, the committee favored Echevarria, 5-to-3.

“Ten people stepped up.  And I was like ‘Wow.’ Anyone on this list would do a good job, and it’s just an honor that out of all ten, that I was selected,” Echevarria  remarks.

Before the vote was announced, the committee opened the floor to concerned parents, teachers and staff to voice what they wanted to see in their representative from Ward 1.

Melora Rush, president of Somerville School Committee’s PTA, said she wanted to see a candidate who was bilingual to represent all of Somerville, because one of the main concerns that all parents in attendance could agree on was that there isn’t enough parent-teacher involvement.

Melanie Brown, a concerned parent, wanted candidate who had high levels of civic engagement and a great deal of passion, for she too agreed that it’s important to strengthen the lines of communication among the nationalities that make up the districts.

Paul Bockelman from Ward II says Echevarria’s public-service record shines.  With Echevarria’s experience with the Baptist ministry, youth groups, his technical skills, and also growing up in the school system, Bockelman says he believed Echevarria could make improvements.

According to the committee, it’s not an ideal situation, having to find a replacement to represent the district in the middle of the school year.  But, the slot opened when when Bastardi was appointed to the Somerville Board of Alderman.  And what the school committee and  parents were worried about was how exactly the board was going to choose their candidate to fill the slot.

The process was an anomaly of sorts. Generally, there would be a special election.  However, Bastardi resigned with less than one year before the next election the upcoming November election.  As a result, the city charter calls for the committee to appoint a replacement  instead.  This was a problem for one of the parents.  Bastaldi spoke to the committee and told them she didn’t like this process.  She thought the candidate should be elected in just as Bastardi was elected

But after everything was said and done, Mayor Curtatone and Chairman Rossetti were extremely proud of the democratic process that took place tonight.

The mayor was impressed to see the turn out.  “We have a lot of work to do together,” Curtatone says.  “It’s not just about Ward 1.  It’s not just about the Somerville community.  It’s about the entire district.”

Echevarria says he’s up to the challenge.  One things he said he learned from this mini-campaign was that he didn’t have a think skin.

“I don’t want (the committee) to choose me because of the color of my skin,” he emotes, adding that his priority is the school budget.  “I want to be chosen based on my qualifications.”

“I don’t want (the committee) to choose me because of the color of my skin," Eschevarria emotes. "I want to be chosen based on my qualifications.”


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