Reading, MA — The following statement was released from Select Board member Vanessa Alvardo regarding the recall petition that was submitted.
My name is Vanessa Alvarado. I am a mom to two young kids, the wife of a Marine veteran, a working professional and a town volunteer serving on the Select Board. I am not a professional politician. I am your neighbor.
I moved to Reading ten years ago when I was pregnant with my daughter. My husband was about to return to school full-time thanks to the GI Bill. After three decades of living in cities, we decided to settle down and raise children in this kind and friendly town. When my son was born a few years later, I decided I wanted to get more involved in the community I’d grown to love and that had welcomed us so warmly. I found the perfect spot for my skills and interests on the Finance Committee, where I served for four years. With this understanding of the role of local government, and hearing from many residents that they desired new voices in elected office, I decided to run for the Select Board.
These decisions would end up changing the direction of my life in town in ways I’d never imagined. On Memorial Day, I had the privilege of commemorating those residents lost to war and the families they left behind. I spoke to a Girl Scout troop about what it means to be a local elected official. I have put in motion efforts to improve sustainability, improve communication with residents, address downtown parking issues, involve residents more actively in major town decisions, and encourage people to join our many boards, committees and commissions. I have met wonderful people I never would have had the joy of knowing if I hadn’t joined the Select Board. It has truly been one of the most uplifting and affirming experiences of my life. That is, until a recall effort was initiated against me because someone questioned how I managed a process.
Our Charter calls for the Select Board to vote to confirm only two positions appointed by the Town Manager: the Police Chief and the Fire Chief. I strongly believe the intent is not for those votes to merely be a rubber stamp. The intent is to ensure that elected officials, as representatives of the town’s citizens, play a role in appointments to these critical public safety positions. All of the actions I took in the last six months were out of a desire to create an open and public discussion of our priorities in identifying our next police chief, fully consistent with the important role the Charter carves out for the Select Board.
I never anticipated needing an attorney to defend myself against a petition to recall my position amid allegations of wrongdoing. Allegations of violating the Town Charter, something I took an oath to uphold. I never anticipated being subjected to such intense hatred and vitriol on social media by some of my own neighbors. I never anticipated needing to warn my children that they may hear people saying derogatory things about their mother or our family. I never anticipated needing to explain to my employer that I was about to make the Boston news circuit for the volunteer work I do on my own time.
And yet these issues pale in comparison to those now faced by neighbors in Reading, across the Commonwealth and the country. As elected leaders, we are concentrating on the challenges to our health, our children’s education and the effect on our economy brought on by this pandemic. This is the true work of our local government.
You see, we are a local government composed entirely of volunteers. Yet who among us, watching what has unfolded in the last months, will risk themselves, their families and their livelihoods to do the work of this town? This is not the price any volunteer should have to pay for their public service.
I know this last month is not an accurate reflection of the Reading I call home. I will not allow the actions of a few to overshadow the love and kindness of the many. I believe we are a community of people who care and support one another during difficult times. We are a community that believes in civil discourse. I ran for local office because I believe in the mission of the Select Board. I am committed to the oath I took and am dedicated to the truth. I am humbled and honored to have been elected by the voters of Reading to serve this community.
Now Reading volunteers need your support and your vote. A special election may be coming that could send a chilling message to anyone who volunteers for our town: Do exactly what we want, how we want it, or we’ll make life in this town miserable for you. But I have faith in Reading. Reading neighbors who understand that we can disagree with someone, have a discussion about it, and then decide whether or not to vote for them when their term is up (I’m up for reelection in just a year). We don’t need to wage a war on volunteers.
There are various factors that will influence if and when a recall election will take place. Should that time come, I would ask you to support our local government and the many wonderful people who make our town the inviting and welcoming place it is. Please help me continue to serve our community. Your vote matters; protect our volunteers by voting against the recall.