Terra Friedrichs

& her local work in
Acton, Massachusetts

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Frequently Asked Questions


Q:  Terra, what do you do for a living?
A:   Business Consultant, focused on helping businesses be more triple-bottom-line sustainable.

Q:  Are you married? 
A:   I have a wonderful domestic partner.  My full family includes a brother  and his family who live across the street, my father and (wonderful!) step-mother who are three blocks away, my Mom in Maynard, two other sisters and their families.

Q:  What was a job you really enjoyed? 
A:  I taught skiing for 10 years. Over at Nashoba Valley and a couple of other ski areas in New England and out West.  Not that I've counted but I've probably taught thousands of kids how to ski. What I really loved was teaching the beginner course. You could make a lasting change in a child's life in an hour - not because they learned to ski but because they learned a skill, self-confidence, and someone was there to heap lots of praise on them.  I also loved working with the special needs kids.  I was often the only one on the instructor squad that wanted to work all day with the kids.  But when there's a little girl screaming, "NOOOO I want to be in TERRRRAAAAA's class!", you know you're appreciated.  I would actually still do it, but I've now got a committed partner Scott and, well, he's taking a few more lessons than I had thought he'd need...

Q:  You give a lot of time to global disaster relief coordination and you fundraise for those efforts.  Do you donate to any nonprofits?
A:  Yes, I contribute to MANY.  Most are tiny organizations that you probably don't recognize.  Orphanages.  Water purification projects.  Disaster Relief. Free food.  Not having any children myself, I have the ability and the desire to help children in my own backyard and around the world - we are all one village, and it takes a village to raise a child as it's so eloquently been suggested. I will share that one of my goals in life is to actually visit the countries of all of the children I've helped.  I still have quite a few to go and it's hard to keep up because they keep growing up faster than I can visit.  But I still have a few years left in me...
 
Q:  On the Board of Selectmen, why do you INSIST on asking so many hard questions?
A:  It's hard to be silent when my professional training has equipped me with knowledge that indicates we have a VERY serious challenge ahead of us in Acton, if we care about the schools, the water quantity/quality - in essence, our quality of life.  The sooner we admit we have these issues and get them on the agenda, the less likely we'll end up in crisis.  If we continue to ignore them, I'm afraid we will find our roads in gridlock, 35 kids in a classroom, and our water a disgrace.

Q:  Are you against development?
A:  Certainly not!  But I only want "appropriate development" to occur.  How do we figure out what "appropriate development is"?  That's not easy. But I think we're getting closer.  We will have some serious decisions to make about the "amount" and type of housing to encourage/discourage.  And the same for commercial development.  Check out "Issues" above and choose the piece on "Fiscal Responsibility" for more on this.

Q:  You are sometimes labeled as someone who impedes progress, do you see that in yourself?
A:  Well, it depends on what you mean by "progress". Progress isn't always doing whatever industry tells us to do, especially if it's destructive to our water supply or our road safety or the affordability of housing. If I'm good at impeding "bad progress", then that's a valuable asset, right? I want progress that is appropriate; progress that preserves and enhances town character; progress that enhances the economic viability of Acton, and protects our resources. And, of course, progress that is fully vetted and agreed upon by informed citizens. 

Q:  So what is progress that is appropriate, can you give an example of that?
A:  Absolutely.  I stepped up to help the Acton-Boxborough Farmer's Market get started in West Acton even though initial reactions were that it would be additional work for staff, who were already over burdened, and could hurt local businesses.  On the first day of the farmer's market, I was working details: sign maker, sign set-up to best guide vehicular traffic so that adjacent businesses would not lose their on-street customer parking, and I swept the street that first day because Town Staff had been worried that there would be a mess left for them. That's just one example of many times that I helped businesses either get started or improve.  I especially LOVE helping with "in-fill" design and conceptualization for "underutilized" buildings or "brown fields" (places already built upon).  I love finding ways to re-use existing buildings, for example, to promote new business and to preserve affordable housing.  Re-using buildings is the greenest kind of "development", and often the most affordable  Recently, I was approached by a lady that wanted to build a "convention center" to produce farming/educational events associated with alternative healthy living. She wants something close to or part of a farm or next to conservation land.  I showed her many buildings that stand empty, and showed her where the conservation land is, in the hopes of having her locate in Acton.

More recently, I've been working on a proposal to satisfy our affordable housing need by deed restricting apartments of Rt2A. These apartments are the most affordable in the region. We can very affordably reserve these for the people who are struggling to find affordable housing.

Q:  Some people think you are difficult to work with, what's your take on that? 
A:   I learned from a wise person, there are two kinds of people in this world:  those that think and communicate like you and those that don't. Communication can be difficult when there are really important issues to be decided and you each bring different skills, past experience, perceptions and life experience to the table.  The over-arching goal is to find the right communication blend, knowing that your mission is to work for the citizens of Acton, ensuring the viability of our town. 

But I also want to ask, if I'm so difficult, how is it that so many committee members I work with, and chairs of committees back my re-election efforts and random citizens come up to me and applaud my transparency and courage?  I believe they appreciate
my getting fact-based data on the table.  And if we don't have enough facts to make an informed decision, then yes, I ask for more information until we do.  Is that so bad?  

My intent with my closest colleagues, the Board of Selectmen, is to help my fellow Selectmen usually behind the scenes.  I try to brainstorm ideas and pass them on, sometimes project ideas and sometimes recruiting efforts for their boards and committees.  I also try hard to bridge the gaps between interest groups that are not communicating well.  Of course, I'm pretty well known for digging to find research that can help educate my colleagues and citizens on new topics.  If you ask people from "marginalized" groups if their interests have been well served since I've been in office, I believe the chances are you'll find that many people do. 

More recently, I've been working with Green Acton, where I've learned a lot about working with diverse interests. They seem to like me, because they elected me to the Board of Directors!

Q:  Do you really think Acton is "rural"?
A:   I think the quintessential "rural Acton" survives in little geographic patches and I admit that I dearly
love the aspects of Acton that are still rural.  The special touches that remind me of a rural pace and essence.  Farmers founded Acton.  And I believe that paying homage to what's left of the aesthetics that they cherished is our duty.  I drive around and think, "future children may not ever get to see that...so I better do something to preserve it."  Because I have an eye for architectural value (so say the historic district folks), I feel like I have a long list of things that need to be preserved.  And I have this haunting sense that it's our duty to do this preservation.  That's why I often refer to the recent citizen survey results that indicated Acton citizens overwhelmingly want to "save Acton's rural character".  

But it might be worth mentioning that I also believe Acton's rural character goes beyond land use issues.  Acton has a huge "Land Steward" committee, for example. THAT is "rural town character" in my mind.  A food pantry to help fellow citizens. THAT is rural character.  Helping others fix their houses. THAT is rural character. Deed restricting the apartments on Rt2A...that would also be what I consider preserving Acton's character. I grew up here, and Acton had a significant amount of the most affordable housing in the region. That is disappearing as people with financial means buy up the condos, and leave less for people who need that housing the most.


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