Planning and Zoning Commission Candidates

Meet your candidates!

Bruce Mayer – Incumbent

Why are you running?
Having been an active member of the Tolland Planning and Zoning Commission for over eight years, I believe I have the experience and judgment to help the town plan for its future. I have come to appreciate that decisions made by the PZC not only impact current residents, but they will also shape what our town will be like for decades to come.

Previous service to the community:
I first got involved in local government nine years ago, when I responded to a request for volunteers to serve as an alternate on the Planning and Zoning Commission. After briefly serving as an alternate, I was appointed to the Commission due to a vacancy later that year, and was then elected to two four-year terms. I also serve as Tolland’s representative on the Regional Planning Commission of the Capitol Region Council of Governments (CRCOG).

Tell us about your background and how these experiences and your perspective add value to Planning and Zoning Commission (2-year)? 
I grew up in Connecticut, and after a decade spent in New York and Boston, my wife Rita and I returned to the state to raise our family. I am a biologist and educator who runs a biomedical research lab at UConn Health in Farmington. I really enjoy helping to train the next generation of researchers, doctors, and dentists, because I get to work every day with highly motivated young people who want to make a difference in the world. I also enjoy research—making new discoveries about how our bodies work, and how to use that knowledge to improve human health, is incredibly rewarding. While my “day job” may not be directly applicable to the nuts and bolts of planning and zoning, it has made me comfortable analyzing data and working with all sorts of people to accomplish common goals. I believe that facts and reliable information are always a good thing, and should be the basis for making sound decisions. 

I have also been deeply involved in building the faculty union at UConn Health, and I was elected to be its first president in 2010. We represent over 600 physicians, dentists, researchers, and educators. This time was incredibly challenging but rewarding, as it involved working closely with other faculty, with UConn and UConn Health administration, with other state employee unions, and with the legislature and governor’s office. I think the most important lesson I took from this experience was that real leadership requires being able to work productively with others to find the best solution for the group. Compromise should not be a dirty word. I think in my years on PZC, this ability to work with others has been really helpful. While I can have strong views and am not afraid to state them, I also understand the importance of listening to what others say, and of finding solutions that benefit everyone in Tolland. 

What is your vision for Tolland? Do you see any pressing issues facing the community right now? Are there projects or initiatives you hope to focus on or initiate while you serve?
Our town is at a crossroads as we consider what type of community we want to be in the coming decades. The rapid development of Tolland from a mostly rural town to a more suburban one, based on single family homes on large lots, has created issues that we need to address going forward. Suburban cul-de-sac neighborhoods can be great to live in (and my family has loved the space, privacy, and safety of our neighborhood), but are costly in terms of town services like paving, plowing, and emergency services. Our town has very little commercial property with access to town water and sewer (because of all those beautiful hills and marshes!), so it is not realistic to expect commercial or business development to fully cover those costs. This means it is a challenge to balance the desire for low taxes with the need to fund the essential town services that make Tolland a desirable place to live. To address this, we need to encourage the types of commercial development that enhance the quality of life for residents. One obvious area that needs to be addressed is affordable and workforce housing. Not only is this the right thing to do, to make our town a more inclusive and diverse place to live, but it is in our self-interest, as multi-family housing increases net tax revenue while providing new customers to businesses located in Tolland. Here our town can truly do well by doing good. 

Proposed changes to zoning regulations that the current PZC has been working on for the past year or two are a good first step in making some types of development easier in Tolland. We do need to be careful, however, about possible unintended consequences of making all development easier. For most residents, their home in Tolland is their biggest investment, and haphazard and unwise development can lower quality of life and the value of those homes. Mistakes, once made, cannot easily be undone. Other areas I would like to address are increasing the walkability of our town, and lessening the environmental impact of future development. While we have made some progress in these areas in the past, that progress has stalled in recent years. and I would like to revitalize these efforts. Sensible, thoughtful development, with input from all of our residents, is what will make Tolland a great place to live for decades to come.

Considering the office that you are hoping to be elected for, how is Tolland #WORTHIT to you?  My family and I have lived in Tolland for over 20 years, and there is so much to appreciate. This is a truly beautiful place to live—the physical beauty of its hills, meadows, and marshes, and the historic beauty of the green and other colonial landmarks. Tolland has also provided a wonderful environment to raise our family. I strongly feel that one of the most important responsibilities of PZC is to ensure that we pass these things that make Tolland special down to the next generation. Most of all, Tolland is filled with wonderful people and a sense of community. This was really brought home to my family when we suffered a terrible loss a few years ago. The outpouring of support from neighbors, town employees, and other community leaders is something we will never forget. It truly helped us get through a very dark time. I know there are issues that divide our community, but these are outweighed by the things that hold us together, and I will do my best to work for all residents as your elected representative.

What are some of your hobbies? How do you enjoy spending your free time?
My wife and I became avid hockey fans when our kids played (from when they were toddlers through high school), and I still follow high school, college and pro hockey even though I never played myself. I also really enjoy cooking, especially different kinds of Asian food, and I am slowly learning how to barbecue. I also like to grow vegetables, and am particularly proud that I have been able to successfully grow artichokes in Tolland. Probably my favorite activity is fishing, mostly offshore or in the surf. When our kids were little, I vowed that I would someday catch a fish bigger than one of the kids, and I am still trying. But I do manage to catch enough tuna to keep our freezer full of sushi most of the time.

What are one or two ‘fun facts’ about you or your life?
Our first house in Connecticut was built 150 years ago, and was next door to a general store where you could buy rubber boots, ammo, a frying pan, and ice cream. 

My first apartment was in a brownstone in Brooklyn, right above the Atlantic Avenue subway station. Every time a train went by, the building shook.

Marilee Beebe

Why are you running? 

My background in engineering, construction, and agriculture provides a mix of practical and technical knowledge that is useful on the land use boards. My previous service on elected boards provides an historical perspective to the issues facing the town and the opportunities available to us.  I am familiar with the evolution of many proposed and successful developments and believe that providing that context to planning and zoning decision-making can be valuable to the town.

Previous service to the community: 

I’m a current member of the Tolland Zoning Board of Appeals and have served on both the Planning and Zoning Commission and Zoning Board of Appeals for 25 years.  I was privileged to serve as chair of the Tolland Planning and Zoning Commission for several terms.  I previously served on the High School Land Acquisition Committee and was co-chair of the Charter Revision Commission that submitted Town Charter updates implemented by the Town Council in December 2018.  When the opportunity arises, I greatly enjoy volunteering on STEM outreach activities to schools through my employer.

Tell us about your background and how these experiences and your perspective add value to the Planning and Zoning Commission? 
I spent my teenage years on my parent’s farm and originally studied agriculture at UConn before finding a job with a local construction company in the early 1980’s.  I worked for more than 10 years in local construction, had two daughters, and raised cattle and sweet corn on my late husband’s family farm.  In 1994 I was fortunate to be able to return to UConn to study civil and environmental engineering.  I have spent the last 21 years of my career working on both remediation of brownfield (contaminated) sites and significant road and bridge projects like the Q Bridge in New Haven.  My background has taught me to pay attention to the details and think critically.  Having a foot in both agriculture and engineering has allowed me to understand the challenges and pathways to successful developments and the mitigations necessary to protect critical environments and water resources. Volunteering in STEM outreach activities has taught me the importance of speaking in plain language and making technical concepts accessible to the general public.  

What is your vision for Tolland? Do you see any pressing issues facing the community right now? Are there projects or initiatives you hope to focus on or initiate while you serve?
When I arrived in Tolland there was still a viable farming community and Old Cathole Road was dirt!  There have been many changes since, but the community has retained its rural charm and has emphasized land preservation in addition to development.  Moving forward I believe our immediate land use concerns revolve around development of our commercial and mixed use areas to provide a sustainable business community.  It is this issue on which I hope to focus.  

Considering the office that you are hoping to be elected for, how is Tolland #WORTHIT to you?  

Serving on a land use board is an immense privilege, as decisions made can affect the town for years in the future.  As PZC chair, I was sometimes told by big city developers that Tolland is a bit of a backwater and we should “take what we can get”.  But Tolland is absolutely WORTH a comprehensive Community Vision and the effort and investment to plan for it.  I believe that working with our citizens and local businesses on this Vision is critical to success.

What are some of your hobbies? How do you enjoy spending your free time? 

I love to read but never have time to finish a book!  I love being outside working in my gardens and taking care of my horses.  I am up for any skiing, hiking or camping adventure and in the last 10 years learned the fine art of living out of motorcycle panniers to be able to accompany my husband, whose idea of fun is 12 hours a day on a bike!

What are one or two ‘fun facts’ about you or your life? 

I own and operate a John Deere 410 backhoe, still enjoy hay baling days in the summer and once climbed the right cheek of New Hampshire’s “Old Man In the Mountain” before it fell.

Do you have a favorite quote or song lyric? 

“In a world where you can be anything – be kind.”

Ryan McCann

Why are you running?
Tolland is uniquely positioned for growth, given our geographic location, rich historical assets, open-space conservation, and strong school systems. We are afforded an opportunity unlike many of our rural neighbors because of these qualities, yet there is a tangible sense that we are drifting; surviving on individual efforts alone with limited cohesiveness. We have an opportunity to make the whole community greater than the sum of its individual parts.

The Planning and Zoning Board has an opportunity to take a leading role in crafting the story of our future. Our decisions today will determine the future of Tolland in the next 10 – 20 years. We must embrace our existing assets while also engaging the diversity of thought within our community, setting measurable goals by which we can assess our success. 

While I believe PZC has been productive in many ways, the results it has delivered reveal a struggle to anchor decisions and policy to a common vision or strategic plan. I am running for PZC to influence and facilitate the use of a tangible, actionable strategy that can leverage the strengths of the Planning & Development staff, PZC members, and given to us by the hard work of our preceding generations.

Previous service to the community:
Having been raised in the suburbs of Chicago by a minister and elementary school teacher, service to the community is a way of life for me. Over the years I have been both a member or leader of numerous boards and organizations including Boy Scouts of America, Habitat for Humanity, Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer 3-Day volunteer and fundraiser, local recreation and conservation organizations, Tolland Little League Coach, First Lego League Robotics Coach, and countless ad hoc neighborhood efforts among the communities in which we have lived.

Tell us about your background and how these experiences and your perspective add value to PZC? 
I have a formal education in electrical engineering, technical management, and human resource management, and have a Black Belt in Six Sigma methodology. My career has spanned privately-held small businesses and publicly-traded Fortune 500 organizations, through times of growth and times of recession. These experiences have forged a unique skillset that bridges an analytical and human-interest approach to strategic planning and change management.

What is your vision for Tolland? Do you see any pressing issues facing the community right now? Are there projects or initiatives you hope to focus on or initiate while you serve?
I believe Tolland can continue to be a resilient, strong town that can endure whatever the future may bring. More specifically, we have the opportunity to balance development at the human scale (walk/bike/wheel to commerce, recreation) with development focused around the automobile. We should embrace sustainable energy solutions, encourage local business development, and certainly not least, we must expand our housing options. 

These issues are core to our long-term success, as has been well documented in case studies across the nation. This vision can be realized through small, incremental investment and deliberate development that is aligned with a long-term plan, that enables us to thrive through times of growth and recession.

Considering the office that you are hoping to be elected for, how is Tolland #WORTHIT to you?  Tolland’s current focus on budget management is a good strategy to employ, but must never be the only strategy employed. No organization – ever – has survived over time without investment in its future. If we as a community wish to maintain or increase our quality of life, we must leverage our assets, invest in our future, and look beyond the current fiscal year. 

Additionally, we must encourage and embrace people of all backgrounds, as our collective experiences, knowledge, and skills will ensure we have a robust community that can endure through time. 

We must adopt a multi-year plan that guides our development decisions and enables our community to adapt to a diverse and ever-changing world.

These things we must do, because we, and those who come after us, are ALL worth it.

What are some of your hobbies? How do you enjoy spending your free time?
I love to create by any variety of mediums including woodworking, metalworking, music, and photography. I enjoy hiking and generally being outdoors, and am slowly making my way to as many national parks as possible. I love studying history, both from the human experience and the geological perspective. I have a soft spot for old pick-ups and enjoy a road trip to anywhere!

What are one or two ‘fun facts’ about you or your life?
I met my wife while walking 60 miles on the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer 3-day walk. 

I was born on the 4th of July.

Do you have a favorite quote or song lyric?
It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent. It is the one most adaptable to change. 

(NOTE: This is not a quote from Charles Darwin, despite being attributed to him. It is a paraphrase by several different people speaking about his work over the years.)