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Lise on the Issues

Candidate Questions from Sustainable Wellesley, February 2019

1. What is your track record on environmental sustainability, including any related interests, experience, or initiatives?

Maintaining a healthy and habitable environment has been a driving force in my life and the focus of my work as an advocate and activist. I’ve served for five years as an elected member of the Wellesley Natural Resources Commission and I’ve been a member of the Sustainable Wellesley leadership team for 8 years. I was also co-leader of an interfaith coalition advocating at the state level for the transition to a clean and just energy future for Massachusetts.


On the Natural Resources Commission,

  • I’m leading an ongoing initiative to address the persistent problem of gas leaks in Wellesley. This effort included organizing Sustainable Wellesley volunteers to tag 200 leaks around town and coordinating the NRC’s public forum on gas leaks. I’m now co-coordinating a multi-town effort to open a dialogue with National Grid to try to accelerate progress on leak repair.

  • I’ve represented the NRC at the State House, testifying on proposed legislation concerning pesticides and plastics.

  • I was a leader in the partnership between the NRC, the Town of Wellesley Sustainable Energy Committee, and the Department of Public Works which launched the WasteWise Wellesley campaign to reduce, reuse, and recycle -- an effort to save money, reduce litter, and further our town’s commitment to cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

  • I led the successful initiative to pass a town bag bylaw to reduce plastic litter and encourage residents to switch to environmentally friendly reusable bags.

  • I initiated the NRC’s recent Grow Green Wellesley campaign to promote eco-landscaping and reduce pesticide use in cooperation with the Board of Health and Sustainable Wellesley.


2. How do you see sustainability and climate change as factors in the development of policy for the Town of Wellesley?


Sustainability and climate change are essential factors in our planning for Wellesley’s future. The town has made progress in mitigating our climate impact by reducing greenhouse gas emissions -- and much more progress is needed. In addition to mitigation, we also need to work on building resilience as the effects of climate change unfold around us. Our highly democratic form of town government includes many entities with relevant authority and it will take a well-coordinated effort to bring about more ambitious progress on both climate mitigation and resilience.


Sustainability is really an approach that applies to everything we do in town government: valuing and conserving our limited resources, making sure our decisions address current needs while also considering the implications for next generations, and educating ourselves and preparing our town for the challenges of today and tomorrow.


Factoring in sustainability often brings about cost savings and other benefits to the town. For example, the Municipal Light Plant estimates that its LED streetlight conversion will save taxpayers more that $100,000 per year, as well as reducing electricity use by 1,025,959 kilowatt hours (equivalent to taking 152 passenger cars off the road). On the NRC, we’ve partnered with the Department of Health on efforts to reduce pesticide use and promote eco-friendly landscaping -- which benefits both environmental health and human health.


3. What specific initiatives related to the environment and sustainability should the Board of Selectmen undertake in your next term?


The Town should take advantage of the state’s Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness (MVP) grant program. This program encourages cities and towns to prepare for climate change, providing funding for vulnerability assessments and action-oriented resiliency plans. The Selectmen would need coordinate with the Planning Board and others to determine how best to approach this effort.


I would also like to explore whether the Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness program could provide support for the development of a Climate Action Plan for the town that would include not only planning for resilience but also climate mitigation through reduction of our greenhouse gas emissions. Such an undertaking would involve engaging town residents and coordinating with the town’s Sustainable Energy Committee, the Municipal Light Plant, and many other town entities. The town has already made some great strides in reducing energy use and much more progress is necessary.


4. Given that the Board of Selectmen is responsible for making appointments to several important town committees, what will you do to ensure that at least some members of these committees will advocate for an environmental perspective on issues under consideration?


Recruiting Wellesley residents to serve on boards and committees has been one of my responsibilities as a member of the Natural Resources Commission. Wellesley is fortunate to have many residents who are interested in sustainability and the environment, and who are willing to generously volunteer their time by serving the town. I’m confident that we will be able to find residents who are able to represent an environmental perspective on the committees appointed by the Selectmen -- many already do.

Candidate Questions From Swellesley Report, February 2019

1. The Swellesley Report: What is your background and what qualifies you for this position?


I’ve lived in Wellesley for 25 years with my husband, Tim Fulham, and our daughters, Mary and Elizabeth. For the past five years, I’ve served on the Wellesley Natural Resources Commission and represented Precinct E at Town Meeting. I’ve led major projects and partnerships for the NRC on gas leaks, plastic waste, and pesticide reduction; I’ve built relationships inside and outside of town government; and I’ve learned first-hand what makes our decisions successful long-term. I’ve been a member of the Sustainable Wellesley leadership team for eight years and I led an interfaith coalition for two years, advocating at the state level for the transition to a clean and just energy future. In my earlier career, I was executive editor of the Educational Media Division at the National Geographic Society, managing a large staff and overseeing all editorial content.

2. If elected, what do you hope to accomplish during your three-year tenure on the Board of Selectmen?


In the next few years, Wellesley must make critical decisions that will affect the quality of life in our town for years to come. These decisions include redevelopment of three of our elementary schools, moving forward with the town’s Housing Production Plan, addressing transportation and traffic issues, and determining the disposition of the North 40. As the chief executive board of our town, the Board of Selectmen will play a key role in bringing together elected boards, town officials, and stakeholders to grapple with these big decisions. I want to highlight three priorities for this work:                                                                                                                                                       

  1. Ensuring Inclusivity: I’ve learned first-hand that successful and lasting decisions come from a process of partnership and dialogue, when we bring differing stakeholders to the table early and throughout our decision-making.

  2. Promoting livability: I’m committed to preserving our town’s quality of life, while also creating a welcoming environment that’s attainable for people of different ages, incomes, and backgrounds.

  3. Integrating sustainability: By sustainability, I mean looking beyond just environmental sustainability and taking an approach to decision-making that meets both our current needs and our obligation to future generations.

3.  What is your hot-button issue?


A study commissioned by the NRC in 2017 revealed many more gas leaks in Wellesley than the 197 reported by National Grid. These leaks come from deteriorating pipes throughout town and they persist near homes, parks, and even adjacent to some of our schools and preschools. Natural gas consists primarily of methane, which is even more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. Exposure to methane and other chemical components of the leaking gas can also result in asthma and other respiratory illnesses. Gas companies (National Grid in Wellesley) have sole responsibility for gas infrastructure, subject only to regulation by the state Department of Public Utilities. The NRC has worked for two years to bring attention to this issue and I am now co-coordinating a multi-town effort with Mothers Out FrontHEET, and the Metropolitan Area Planning Council to open a dialogue with National Grid with the goal of accelerating the rate of gas leak repair and pipe replacement.

4. What role, if any, do you think the Board of Selectmen should play in shaping policy outside of Wellesley?


As the chief executive board for the town, the Board of Selectmen can and should weigh-in on state policy that affects the town and its residents. As a member of the Natural Resources Commission, I have represented our board at the State House on several occasions, testifying on legislation pertaining to pesticides and plastic pollution. Recently, the NRC has also advocated for legislation that would address safety challenges in our neglected gas system, create a path to a safer renewable energy future, and bring about much-needed reforms in the state Department of Public Utilities. Wellesley is considered a model by many of our peer communities and we have an important role to play in advocating for policies that can benefit our town and help build a better future for our state.


5. What are your thoughts about changing the third Monday in October from Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day?


I am in favor of changing this holiday to Indigenous Peoples Day. I want to acknowledge the work of Wellesley residents and the World of Wellesley who are advocating for this important proposal. I believe this day should be dedicated to honoring the heritage and history of our First Peoples. I understand this is a sensitive issue and that some people may ask why we should erase a day that is meaningful to many, particularly to Italian-Americans. We need to recognize that our understanding of American history has evolved. For too long, we were taught a narrow view of the colonization of the Americas. Now that we have a more complete picture of the darker history of American colonization, we can no longer commemorate someone who is associated with the enslavement and genocide of Native peoples.


6. Your thoughts about the HHU project?


With the feasibility study for the Hunnewell School project nearing completion, I look forward to seeing the final recommendations by the architects and the School Building Committee. I have observed the process closely, attending public meetings and representing the Natural Resources Commission in consultations concerning the adjacent park property under our jurisdiction. I have been impressed by the thoroughness of the architects conducting the process and the efforts of the School Building Committee to balance the many factors that must go in to the eventual siting and design of the building and its landscape in this challenging location. I am hopeful that the project can be designed as a net zero energy facility, generating as much energy as it consumes without the use of fossil fuels and creating a healthier, safer environment for Wellesley students. I am aware of the sensitivities that come with any discussion of major changes to our schools and I trust that the feasibility study for Hardy and Upham (just starting now) will be conducted with the same thoroughness and attention to stakeholders.


7. Is there anything else you would like to say that the above questions did not cover?


I’m proud to be among the hundreds of volunteers who devote time and energy to Wellesley town government. I am often in awe of my colleagues on town boards and at Town Meeting who bring extraordinary thoughtfulness and expertise to their deliberations. All of us rely on the dedicated and resourceful staff who serve the town at every level. I also appreciate the many residents who advocate for the issues that matter most to them and, if elected, I intend to offer regular office hours to hear from them directly. I look forward to continuing to work toward a bright and healthy future for our town.


8. How should voters reach you if they want more information?


Please learn more about our campaign at and come meet me at one of the private gatherings or public forums listed. Like our Facebook page @LiseOlneyforWellesley. Email me at