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Boronski aims to bring communication, efficiency to board

Date: 12/4/2012

By Chris Maza

EAST LONGMEADOW — While she may be running for the seat vacated by Enrico "Jack" Villamaino, Debra Boronski doesn't want to give much more attention to the voter fraud the former selectman was allegedly involved in.

For Boronski, the combination of East Longmeadow's positive attributes and challenges should be the focus.

"I am running for a seat on the Board of Selectmen. I'm not running for Jack's seat," she said. "It was an unfortunate incident involving one person and it's something we have to start moving past."

Boronski, who is currently the president of the Massachusetts Chamber of Business and Industry, is on the ballot for the Dec. 18 special election running for the remainder of the term Villamaino had won in 2011 when he ran for re-election unopposed, which expires in April 2014.

Resident Bryan Doe, who announced a write-in campaign, will oppose her.

Boronski said that the decision to run for a seat on the board has been a long time coming and is not something she has taken lightly.

"I had decided almost two years ago that I wanted to run," she said. "I put it off because I was settling some good opportunities for my business and then decided I would be running against Mr. Driscoll in April of 2013."

However, Driscoll announced in July his intentions to resign from his position. Then, in August, Villamaino resigned abruptly from his post amidst the voter fraud investigation.

Boronski said that she felt the town needed to take a serious look at its operations, specifically on the human resources side of things.

"I think that the management of the town's employees and everyday business is something that needs to be looked at," she said. "East Longmeadow has close to 800 employees and a $55 million budget and we have no personnel policies and no one overseeing how our employees are trained and managed in an effective leadership style.

"Hasbro and Lenox each have 700 or 800 employees. Could you imagine one of those businesses running without a human resource role?" she added.

While she said a full-time human resources position may not be an option, she would pursue options such as the re-institution of a personnel policy committee made up of local business and community leaders in order to set up more defined guidelines in order to better "train, support, educate and evaluate the people who are running our business."

She explained, "This is just as much about the people who work for us. We want to keep good people. You want to make sure that you're training them properly, that you're paying them properly, that everything you're doing is fair and equitable and that one employee isn't receiving more or different benefits and services than another."

Boronski added that the establishment of personnel guidelines would also address the issue of employee salaries, which was addressed at the Special Town Meeting this fall.

"That's one of the things that comes along with putting in [personnel] practices," she said. "When you embark on putting together systems for personnel, one of the things you are looking at is the job description and then the pay rate. I agreed fully with the Appropriations Committee in their desire to put those things in place."

Increased communication between the Board of Selectmen and town departments as well as the community would also be a point of emphasis for Boronski.

"The people serving as members of the [Board of] Selectmen are chosen at the will of the people and while you are there to make the best possible decision, that decision must be made with respect and understanding of everyone's perspective," she said. "I think that opening that line of communication so that people feel comfortable speaking their peace and being a little more welcoming is necessary."

Boronski added that she would not wait for department heads to come to her, but would become actively involved in their discussions.

"I understand that there is a regular meeting of the department heads and that they get together monthly and that is something I would want to be very involved with. I think bringing team leaders of the town together and helping them brainstorm and work together [is important]," she said. "Those are some of the skill sets I have facilitating conversation and bringing about best practice, looking outside the box for answers."

Those characteristics, Boronski said, also make her an asset to the town at the collective bargaining table.

"In my 25 years of running chambers of commerce, I work with the business community, so I am well aware of employee relations, employee challenges and how unions work," she said. "I have built a skill set in working with groups of people because chambers of commerce are run by volunteer business people. So I sit with 25 business leaders regularly to talk about what decisions need to be made to best meet the goals of that organization.

"I believe in give and take and I believe if both sides look logically at what each can do for the other that you can come to terms and come to an agreement," she added.

Boronski also indicated that she was very happy with the direction the town has taken in regards to businesses and would like to continue to build upon those relationships.

"I know for a fact that East Longmeadow is the envy of many other communities with regard to our business-industrial-commercial mix," she said. "I believe East Longmeadow is a beautiful mix of commercial and residential property. I think East Longmeadow is a friendly place for businesses. Otherwise, we wouldn't have such phenomenal businesses that are here. Quite honestly, we don't have a lot of commercial spaces left and I think that speaks volumes for the way we treat businesses.