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MARK KOST AND JULIETTE MOUNT
Only a day before the Westford town election, a new twist has emerged around the open selectman position.
Westford resident and local activist Juliette Mount announced formally on April 30 that she has accepted a write-in request to run for selectman in tomorrow’s May 1 election. Prior to her announcement, current Selectman Mark Kost was running for re-election unopposed.
In her platform statement, Mount declared that she was running for selectman to “return respect and integrity to all levels of government.” Additionally, she wrote of her hopes to protect local land, promote school security, and practice responsible government spending if she should win. Mount also expressed her dissatisfaction with Kost’s work, claiming that he failed to act on the enforcement and protection of town bylaws. She did not specify which bylaws, but in 2017 she led a successful resistance movement against restaurant construction on the government-protected Drew Gardens land.
“I am not a ‘politician’, but in my opinion, the person currently running uncontested is not serving this town well. For a recent example, when recently presented with options for enforcing our town bylaws to protect this town and our investments, the incumbent once again was ‘not inclined’ to act,” Mount wrote.
In a written response to Mount’s announcement, Kost defended his past service to the town of Westford, while also mocking Mount’s claim to having been motivated by respect and dignity.
“During these 12 years, I have consistently and openly provided fact-based decision making and a no-personal agenda focus in all aspects of my work,” Kost wrote. “I find it a bit ironic that the words ‘respect and integrity’ are being used in this effort by this ‘candidate,’” he wrote.
Kost went on to point out Mount’s lack of experience in local government, while also criticizing her for being a single-issue candidate favoring the conservation of Drew Gardens.
“What kind of ‘integrity’ is being displayed by not engaging other candidates in such a debate or not allowing voters to ask you questions, rather, maybe a popularity contest because the ONE issue that you choose to focus on is personal based upon where you live, as opposed to what might be best for the Town as a whole?” Kost wrote.
Mount lives directly across from the 9-acre parcel with three Agricultural Preservation Restrictions. Developer Ebrahim Masalehdan purchased the land in 2016 with the intent of building a 15,000 square-foot, farm-to-table restaurant on one of the the three sections of land. The plan failed to win approval at Town Meeting in 2016 and 2017, due in part to Mount’s ability to rally opponents.
While Mount has in recent years played a leading role in the conservation efforts for the Drew Gardens land, also known as Drew’s Farm, she blames Kost for lacking support for this issue. Although her conservational work might have inspired her to become active in the community, Mount wrote, running for office would give her the opportunity to fight for new issues.
“For the past two years, I have been actively involved in protecting the APRs on the former Drew’s Farm, and believed that focus there required continued focus without hindrance. However, seeing the continued blatant disregard for our Town Bylaws and the rights of this community by this member of this Board, I feel it’s time to correct the issue directly, lending my focus and influence to a wider set of issues,” Mount wrote.
For Westford voters, booths will open tomorrow, May 1, at 7:00 a.m., and close at 8:00 p.m. Click here for polling locations.
Anthony Cammalleri is a Westford Academy senior completing his capstone internship at WestfordCAT.