There are many excellent candidates for Amherst’s new Town Council, but only one I feel qualified to endorse.
If you have met Mandi Jo Hanneke, or heard her speak, you may not need me to tell you why she should be part of the Town Council. But if you’ve seen her lawn signs and said “Mandi Jo?” let me tell you about my two years of working closely with her. Here’s a link to her video statement, and here’s a link to her campaign web site.
I have never worked with anyone who possessed such a combination of brainpower, industriousness, collegiality, organization, attention to detail, independent thinking, adaptability and stamina. She’s a “group process rock star,” in the words of Andy Churchill, who chaired the Charter Commission, which Mandi and I served on.
I got a chance to observe her close-up for 18 months, in about 60 commission meetings, and saw her strengths from the beginning. We made her vice chair even though she was the youngest member and just barely made it onto the commission (if she had gotten six fewer votes, she wouldn’t have).
Mandi probably put in more hours than any other commission member. By the time we made our recommendation, no one in Amherst grasped the many details of the charter better than Mandi.
At one of the last meetings, commission members who did NOT support the charter voiced strong appreciation of her work. Mandi earned the admiration of all nine members of the commission, and her contribution was probably the only thing we all agreed on. Mandi can work productively with a wide range of people.
Then, from October of last year to the election on March 27, Mandi and I collaborated on this blog’s 80 posts. I asked her to join me, in part, because I knew that if she read every post I wrote before it was published, there was no chance that I would get my facts wrong about the details of the charter. (I never felt that level of confidence when I wrote for the newspaper.)
She showed her adaptability by adjusting her writing style to suit the needs of blog readers. She showed her independence by vetoing two posts I wrote but didn’t publish. She showed what a team player she is by writing a post explaining the reasons for a 13-member council, even though she (and I) favored nine members.
Mandi is both a musician and a lawyer. She plays viola in the Pioneer Valley Symphony, and was its president for three years (that tells you something). She no longer practices law, but acts as a court-appointed special advocate for Friends of Children, conducting interviews in abuse and neglect cases.
Mandi is not an ideologue. She has a knack for bringing people together and getting things done.
She joined Town Meeting the year after arriving in Amherst in 2011 (her husband David is a tenured physics professor at Amherst College), and Mandi served on the committee that made electronic voting happen. She’s also been a renter representative on the Rental Bylaw Implementation Group.
Whether you supported the new charter or preferred to keep Town Meeting, please vote for Mandi Jo Hanneke in the preliminary election Sept. 4. If you want to check her out in person, come to the candidates forum at the Regional Middle School auditorium (where Town Meeting used to take place) Aug. 29 at 7 p.m.