WELLFLEET — There is a new select board member in town, and he comes from a long line of Wellfleet civic leaders.
Ryan Curley, 36, says he is a 15th-generation Wellfleet resident. He ran unopposed to take the place of departing member Kathleen Bacon in the June 15 annual town election.
Curley received 232 votes.
Talking about his decision to run for the seat, Curley said he wanted to contribute to the community where he could. “It’s hard for one person to make a difference” in the larger world, he said. “But it’s a lot easier to make a difference in your individual community.”
Curley’s grandmother Cynthia Paine was a select board member, and his grandfather Bob Paine served on the board of health, but the lifelong town resident hopes to blaze his own trail now.
Rather than judging people by their past or their family’s involvement, he said, “I’d prefer people judge based on each individual’s character.”
Curley would like the first order of business in his career as a town official to be addressing wastewater concerns.
Having served on the Wellfleet Comprehensive Wastewater Management Planning Committee since July 2019, Curley enters his new role with some experience on the issue.
The cost and attention required to properly address wastewater planning and treatment in Wellfleet is often overlooked, Curley said. That’s something he intends to change. Wastewater, in his view, “should be high on the town priority list.”
Another passion of his, though, is working on affordable housing, which he says is also linked to wastewater.
“The stock of affordable properties that are available is becoming smaller and smaller with each passing year,” he said. Curley worries that properties that are affordable are also often in poor condition. For example, he said, “They might have a failed septic system, which is a very difficult first hurdle for an owner.”
Curley has experienced firsthand how affordable housing is a gateway to a successful year-round economy.
He worked for the company his mother, Sarah Paine Curley, founded, the Furies Cleaning Service in Wellfleet, for 10 years before the family sold it in 2018.
Curley recalled the company’s struggle to find winter staff, primarily because of the lack of affordable housing in town.
In 2015, he said, he advertised two positions that paid $3.50 per hour over minimum wage, with a pay increase after 70 hours of work, but still had no luck finding workers.
Curley worked for over nine years at Hatch’s Fish Market before he took the job at the Furies.
Since selling the family business, Curley has occupied himself as a freelance technology consultant, which he plans to continue through his tenure as a select board member.
Curley studied political science and history at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Florida. He graduated in 2006 with a bachelor’s degree in history.
It was the only time in his life, he said, that he lived anywhere other than Wellfleet.
As for his first-ever meeting as a select board member on June 23, he noted it was somewhat different from his experience on the wastewater committee. But, he added, “It went fine.”