Suzanne Bryan Looks Ahead at Climate Crisis
EASTHAM — “I’ve turned into that person who’s really interested in small-town politics,” says Suzanne Bryan, who is running for select board. She likes the fact that small-town life allows people to be involved directly in government. “It’s not just because we’re bored,” she says. “People here care if you clearcut a property illegally.”
Bryan is running unopposed for one of two seats on the board being vacated by Jared Collins and Al Cestaro. Finance committee chair Jerry Cerasale is also a candidate.
Bryan, 32, has lived in Eastham since she was four years old. She graduated from Prescott College in Arizona with a degree in environmental and international studies and returned to town in 2015. She works for J.P. Ludwig Consulting, often recording Brewster town committee meetings.
“I don’t have a whole lot of control over many things,” she says. “But I can try and make my town a nice place to live — a place that reflects its values and cares about its residents and the environment.”
A former member of the water management committee, Bryan volunteered for the T-Time Development Committee formed in December 2019; she is currently the vice chair. For the past year, Bryan has also served on the conservation commission.
She is currently studying for a master’s degree in spatial informatics from the University of Maine. “I’m interested in where planning, public policy, and the environment meet,” she explains, noting an interest in using drone imagery for mapping and surveying.
Having a seat on the select board, Bryan says, will allow her to continue work on the T-Time project and the town’s broader plans for creating a town center and addressing traffic on the Route 6 corridor. She wants to make progress on the Complete Streets project, to make busy roadways accessible to pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorists.
Like Cerasale, Bryan says she admires the select board’s decisiveness in making recent land purchases. But town hall could improve its communications with residents, she says: “It’s always going to be hard. There are so many boards and committees, and they’re volunteers. But T-Time outreach showed that you really can reach people. It just required a coordinated effort.”
Bryan supports the newly announced wastewater initiative to reduce the nitrogen load in Salt Pond, Nauset Stream, and Town Cove, but she believes that nitrogen and phosphorus are only two parts of a larger contamination picture that includes chemicals, detergents, and pharmaceuticals. “We need to do something about the ponds,” she says, “and we can’t endlessly sprinkle aluminum and dredge them. We need preventative care.”
Bryan says it’s time to consider the enormous threat of sea-level rise. Rising waters could destroy numerous coastal homes in Eastham, she says, and thus a portion of the town’s tax base. “Is the entire bank along the bay side going to turn into a rock revetment?” she asks. “Because that’s the only tool we have. But then what? At some point that’s no longer going to be an option.”
She points to the Ballston Beach house that was recently moved from the brink to illustrate the importance of planning. “Truro was scrambling to figure out what to do,” she says. “There are going to be many more properties in that situation, and there might not be pieces of land behind them to move them to.”
Bryan says the town should apply the lessons of the housing crisis. Today, towns are buying parcels for affordable housing, but the building process is a long one. “All of those units were needed 10 years ago,” she says. “If we don’t plan 20 years in the future, then we’re going to be caught with our pants down.”
Cerasale Looks to Trade 3 Seats for 1
Although Jerry Cerasale can be seen in archived C-SPAN footage testifying before the U.S. Senate, he says, “I’ve never been in a position of government where I was actually elected instead of appointed.”
Over a 40-year career, Cerasale has been deputy general counsel for the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Post Office and Civil Service and senior vice president for government affairs for the Direct Marketing Association.
In Eastham, he has served on the finance committee since 2015 and has been its chair since 2017. If elected to the select board, Cerasale says he will continue his finance committee mantra of “getting all the facts out so everyone can make a more informed choice.”
Cerasale is running for one of two uncontested select board seats with Suzanne Bryan. Incumbents Al Cestaro and Jared Collins chose not to seek new terms.
Originally from Connecticut, Cerasale and his wife bought their Eastham house in 1988 and retired here in 2013. The couple volunteer at a food pantry in Hyannis, he says, and regularly pick up roadside trash. He is also head of his church council in Brewster. He says he and his wife, Janine, still try to make time to walk to the beach every day.
In 2015, Cerasale joined the Eastham Housing Authority. He also serves on the Community Preservation Act Committee. As a select board member, he will have to give up those other three positions.
Soon after Cerasale moved here, the town approved a $131-million municipal water project. At the time, Cerasale says, “I had no idea what was going on.” Now, he recognizes that “the town was trying to catch up. Eastham had delayed or postponed lots of capital improvements.”
Today, Eastham is doing “really well” financially, says Cerasale. The only blemish is the lack of a AAA bond rating because the town issued so many bonds for the water project. The finance committee and select board have a management plan that he thinks will help the town regain the top rating.
Cerasale says his work on the finance committee has helped him understand the town’s ambitious agenda. At the same time, as a finance watchdog he wants to rein in costs where it makes sense to do so. He thinks regionalization — starting small — could make a difference.
Cerasale favors the proposed $500,000 budget override on the town meeting warrant. “If you delay this one, we’re going to be hit much harder next year or two years from now,” he says. Next year’s budget, including the override, he notes, would add only $50 to the tax bill for a house of median assessed value — currently $527,000.
Along with the rest of the finance committee, Cerasale supported Finance Director Rich Bienvenue’s and Town Administrator Jacqui Beebe’s decision to use $900,000 in short-term rental tax revenues for housing rather than to fund the operating budget. He also voted in favor of every proposed town meeting article involving housing. “We’re making the right steps and we’re on the right journey, but whether we make it there or not is yet to be determined,” he says.
“You don’t want the town to have to make the housing,” he adds. “You want to partner with a developer. We did that with Nauset Green, and we have to learn from that and go forward.”
Cerasale says he wants to work more closely with school administrators on their budgets. Allocations to Eastham Elementary School and Nauset Regional High School account for 27 percent of Eastham’s fiscal 2023 budget. “It’s a great school system, but I think there could be more cooperation between the towns and the schools than there is,” Cerasale says.
Cerasale approves of the current board’s land acquisitions. “We don’t want to just have a developer come in and purchase whatever they want,” he says. “The select board has a good vision there.”
Collins and Cestaro have both endorsed Cerasale and Bryan. “I wouldn’t be stepping down if we didn’t have such excellent candidates that are selfless and have the bandwidth to govern with responsibility,” said Cestaro.
“I feel exactly the same way,” responded Collins.