Brent Putnam Candidate Profile
By: Christopher Kazarian
When Brent V.W. Putnam of John Parker Road, East Falmouth, first ran for selectman three years ago he pushed for a more open, accountable and fiscally responsible town government.
“There is still work to be done,” Mr. Putnam said, explaining why he hopes to be voted onto the board for a second term.
“I suppose if I accomplished everything I wanted to accomplish in the last three years, I wouldn’t run again. I discussed it with my family and my 12-year-old daughter [Victoria] said it best, ‘Look at everything you’ve done and what you started. You’ve got to finish what you started.’ ”
Tackling the big issues
Among the items at the top of his list are the town’s capital budget and finding ways to fund those needs and maintain Falmouth’s infrastructure without having to rely on overrides or debt exclusions.
He also wants the board to continue focusing on its policies, which has become a priority over the past year.
“For a long time we had a policy manual and it languished and there was never any review of it,” he said. “Now there is a regular process of reviewing it, retiring some policies, modifying others and adding others. That [through policy] is how the board governs.”
He would also like the board to finally begin delegating lesser tasks, such as wedding permits and dog hearings, to other departments so it can address more important issues such as wastewater, water quality and wind turbines.
“There is a lot of loose ends we need to tie up,” he said, again stressing his goal of making Falmouth’s government operate in a manner that will make all residents proud.
Although he admittedly never had aspirations to become a selectman, Mr. Putnam said, “I was raised with a strong sense of community,” His becoming an Eagle Scout exemplified his early commitment to civic service.
That bond, he said, extends not only to local government, but the founding of this country as his family traces its roots to the Revolutionary War and General Israel Putnam.
People make work rewarding
A 1989 graduate of Falmouth High School, Mr. Putnam initially enrolled at Case Western Reserve in Cleveland, but left after marrying Rebecca A. (Druley) Putnam. The two have been married for 21 years and have three children: Andrew; Kaytlen; and Victoria.
After marriage Mr. Putnam eventually returned to school, attaining his associate’s degree in computer information systems in 1996 from Cape Cod Community College. Over the past year and a half he has served as a senior technical analyst at the Framingham-based TJX.
The job, he said, is much different than that of a selectman.
“If a computer doesn’t behave, you can do things differently or walk away,” he said. “You can’t walk away from the people. Certainly, it is a different challenge.”
But it is the people, he said, who are the most rewarding aspect of his work on the board.
“I’ve met a lot of really good people, especially when you are campaigning,” he said. “You meet people you don’t usually meet. They know why you are, but you don’t know who they are with your face plastered on FCTV and on the front page of the paper, whether you like it or not.”
He said the general reaction from the public has mostly been positive, which has been humbling “especially when people have kind words to say about the work you do. I’m hearing they are satisfied with the work I’m doing. I supposed if I didn’t hear that, I’d know it was time to go.”
As to what he has brought to the board during his tenure, it has been everything from the small to the large. On the lesser side he has encouraged board members to take pride in their appearance, dressing in a professional manner that he said may be a minor issue, but still important.
“There is a certain expectation of our leaders. I try to bring to the job the seriousness and attention it requires,” he said.
Restoring faith in government
Mr. Putnam made a name for himself shortly after elected, convincing Town Meeting in November 2008 to approve an in-depth audit of the Falmouth High School renovation once it is over.
He still maintains that should happen, explaining that “people have to have faith in government. We need to be willing to question ourselves, ask what happened and how we can learn from it in the future.”
He explained that in order for the public to have faith in the town going forward with larger projects, such as cleaning up Falmouth’s estuaries and expanding the wastewater treatment facility, “we have to give people faith, not only that we are capable of doing the job, but stepping up and saying if there is a mistake or problem we have to figure out why, to make sure we don’t make the same mistakes again.”
While the board had its differences during his first few years, Mr. Putnam is particularly proud of the fact that this changed over the past year: “We have sort of hit our stride. We recognized the issues as a group and decided to tackle them head-on.”
He is hopeful that residents view him as playing a significant role in that shift and that he can continue in such a capacity.
“The board has managed to put our differences aside and focus why we all wanted to be selectmen and that we wanted to accomplish some good for the town,” he said.