Three Vie For Two Seats On Brewster Select Board

by Rich Eldred

BREWSTER – Is it a step up or a step down?

Kari Hoffmann will not seek reelection to the Brewster Select Board this May, but she is running for a seat as one of Brewster’s representatives to the Nauset Regional School Committee. That’s a school district her husband Richard used to run as superintendent until 2015. He is currently on the Cape Tech school committee.

As a result, there are three contenders for two seats on the select board for the May 28 election. Incumbent Mary Chaffee is running for a third term on the board. Laurel Labdon, who lost her race for the board by just five votes last year, is giving it another go. Amanda Bebrin, chair of the planning board and Bay Property planning committee, is running for the first time.

Prior to her two terms on the select board, Chaffee was elected to three terms on the board of health. She served 27 years as a nurse in the Navy, finishing with the rank of captain, and has spent seven years as Brewster’s representative to the Barnstable Assembly of Delegates. She has a law degree from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, a masters in policy from the University of Maryland and a Ph.D. In nursing.

“Brewster’s government is admired across the Cape. We’ve won awards,” Chaffee said. “I’m running for reelection because I’m committed to seeing this high standard continue. I’m running for reelection because I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished the last six years and want to continue to serve the community.”

Chaffee believes the select board has been doing a lot over the past few years.

“When you look back, we’ve preserved open space,” Chaffee noted. “We preserved and acquired housing and acquired the Sea Camps. We resolved serious financial issues in 2018 after I was first elected and we got an outstanding financial team. Last year we won a national award for our budget process. We created the dog park and First Light Beach, the Long Pond boat ramp and added sidewalks to Millstone Road.”

Brewster has protected the environment by reducing the town’s use of plastic, and Chaffee was a driver in setting up hydration stations around town so people could refill metal water bottles instead of buying and tossing single use plastics.

“Our goal is to continue to provide services in a sustainable budget,” Chaffee added. “We want to protect and restore Brewster’s water resources.”

She’s also a select board representative on the Bay Property planning committee.

“The Sea Camps plan is infused with the input of hundreds of Brewster residents,” Chaffee noted. “Brewster is a wonderful place to live but it is getting difficult for some people to remain here. So the select board has to balance that with the expectation for services and programs and we’ve got to do that within a sustainable budget.”

She believes her experience as a nurse, Naval officer, problem solver and policy analyst all make an effective community leader and that the select board has displayed strong leadership

“I hope to see that continue and I hope to continue to be part of a great team,’ Chaffee concluded.

Laurel Labdon ran against incumbent Ned Chatelain last year, and after a recount lost 1147-1142. Carol Anderson was third with 123 votes.

Labdon is chair of the Brewster Housing Authority. She is also chair of the All Citizen’s Access Committee, which is currently dormant as there are not enough members. Labdon is looking to recruit some volunteers.

“I’m on the board of a nonprofit, Pleasant Bay Community Boating, and have an honorary role as an advisor for Sail Cape Cod,” Labdon added.

Labdon grew up in Brewster after her family moved here in 1974 when her father started a veterinary practice in Harwich.

“I graduated from Nauset High School. Went to Brewster elementary school. I received a bachelor in science degree from the University of Colorado,” she said.

She has been active on local issues.

“I’m just concerned about the tax burden. The town has taken on a lot of capital expenses with the [Nauset] high school ($170 million) project and the Sea Camps ($26 million to buy, over $60 million to complete). There’s the town meeting to develop the Sea Camps and the looming expense of the Stony Brook Elementary School, where a renovation will trigger code compliance,” Labdon said. Code compliance upgrade could cost around $40 million for the elementary school. Labdon is concerned these rising expenses and taxes are making it harder for families to stay in Brewster.

“The tax burden is leading to a decline in opportunities for people to live here,” Labdon noted. “It is becoming more and more impossible for young families to do that. And it is difficult for elders to stay in place. Issues around aging in place have gotten more difficult.”

Labdon said she has seen a breakdown in community spirit.

“I’d like to provide that spirit for us to be a little more responsible until we can pay down our debt,” Labdon said. “That and coming so close last time, I got a lot of encouragement to run again. I love my hometown and am concerned about the direction we’re going, and I’d like to have a say in that.”

Bebrin grew up in Connecticut and moved to Cape Cod 12 years ago to teach high school after getting a degree in secondary education from Providence College.

“I started going to town meeting and fell in love with town government,” she recalled. “I grew up off Cape and we didn’t have town government and I’m just passionate about Brewster government. I’d worked every position you can in a restaurant, bartender, waited tables. I was inspired to take a big leap and just go after the kind of life I wanted and this place was feeling like home to me.”

She moved to Brewster in 2015 and is the chair of two committees; the planning board and Bay property planning committee.

“Both are excellent training for the select board,” Bebrin observed. “I’m learning how hard you work with all the different volunteers, the excellent town staff and elected leadership and I’m learning about the things Brewster cares about and I realized I have a good set of skills I can add to what is already a very competent select board and town management team.”

She has a number of priorities she’d like to work on if elected: creating jobs that will help retain young families in town and turning Brewster’s long-term planning efforts into action.

“We need to look at things in a big way rather than silo by silo,” Bebrin said. “I am a little bit of a newcomer [to government] but I am truly passionate about Brewster and local government and I believe in doing rather than talking. It’s important to have plans and do something rather than have the plans sitting on a shelf gathering dust.”

Bebrin said the fact that she chairs two committees shows she will show up and do the work.

“I’ve built a lot of great relationships with fellow board members and town staff and look forward with enthusiasm to serving with the rest of the select board,” Bebrin declared. “I want to continue the excellent leadership of the current board and to move forward with the Sea Camp plans and provide transparent budgeting, fiscal responsibility is important, maintaining water quality and providing community housing options, and getting people involved with community government.”

The League of Women voters will host a candidates forum on May 7 at 5 p.m. at the Brewster Ladies’ Library.