Russell Robb

Interviewer: Michael and Carrie Kline
Date: November 6, 2015
Place of Interview: Trustee's Room of the Concord Free Public Library, Concord, Mass.
Transcriptionist: Adept Word Management, Houston, Tex.

Click here for audio. Audio file is in .mp3 format.

Michael Kline: 0:00:02.8 Okay. Today is November—today is November 6th. I'm Michael Kline here with Carrie Kline in the Trustee's Room of the Concord Free Public Library on Main Street. It's another beautiful fall morning, and we're here—let's see. Would you introduce yourself, please? Say "My name is."

Russell Robb: I'm Russell Robb. I—

MK: And—and your date of birth please.

RR: Sure, 1937. So that makes me seventy-eight years old.

MK: What's the—what's the month and day?

RR: July. July 19, 1937.

MK: And, if you would please, just tell us about your people and where you were raised to get started on this.

RR: Sure. I spent most of my time here in Concord with the exception of World War II when my family moved down to Washington , DC, because my father was in the Air Force. So I've been in Concord virtually all that time except several years with the Marine Corp and when—several years when I was in college down in Pennsylvania. So I've been here virtually all my life except for those several interludes.

MK: Um-hm. And who—tell us—talk about your people and the place you grew up.

RR: Okay. I was prepared to do that. First of all, talk about the Robbs, the family, why they came here and when they came here. I have to go back to my grandfather who was born in 1864. And he was in Dubuque, Iowa. He became an orphan at the age of eleven in 1875, and several years later he moved to Detroit to be with his two aunts, the Bagleys and the Newberrys. He never did finish high school because he was working. But he took a test to MIT, and he got a scholarship there, having not finished his high school and entered MIT at age twenty, graduating in 1884. Soon after, he joined an engineering firm that became quite famous called Stone & Webster, and he became the Senior Vice President, married in 1898, and moved to Concord in 1900 and then on to Monument Street where he built a home in 1902. Now, why did he come to Concord? Well his two aunts—or one of them actually was Mrs. Bagley who was the wife of the governor of Michigan, and the Bagleys were married to the Buttricks. And the Buttrick family was very prominent here in Concord, as you know. Their big estate on Monument Street and Liberty Street is well known. So the Buttricks influenced my grandfather to move to Concord.

MK: 0:03:17.3 B-u-t—

RR: B-u-t-t-r-i-c-k. Buttrick. Stedman Buttrick. So my family contributed to the town perhaps mostly in the amount of land they acquired, which at one time was one hundred eighty acres, and most of that land now is in conservation with easement rights. US Forestry Service has bought most of the land, and my wife and I live on Pippin Tree Farm on Monument Street. And as you know, Concord is rich with conservation land, and this was part of it. My family never really participated in a big way in town affairs, but my father was President of Trustees at Concord Academy and on the board of Fenn School as my son has been, and they were sort of influential, at least my grandparents, in starting up the Concord Art Association and the house that the Alcotts lived in.

MK: The Concord Art Association?

RR: Correct.

MK: Can you talk about that some?

RR: Well, it's just a group of people that display various art, and the members are artists themselves. And it's right on Lexington Road, and it's one of the sort of core places the museum is in in Concord. And the Alcott house, often called the Orchard House because of the Little Women books that were written, attracts fifty to sixty thousand people a year, which is astronomical because the Orchard House is very small. It's not much to look at, but Little Women became so famous that it's now a big draw, so to speak, from tourists.

So—would you like my overview of Concord? You know, Concord is ten square miles, and a third of the land is in what I call conservation land, which is a big plus and a big minus. The minus is that it's nontaxable, and that's because there are so many eleemosynary— I call them nonprofits—that have set aside land that they're not taxed on. There are a lot of schools, and the town owns a substantial amount of the land itself. And we've been part of that in terms of producing land that's not to be built on, but it puts a strain on the town in the sense that we have a very high tax rate. Seventeen dollars per thousand is about as high as you can get around here. And so it sort of changed the character of the town because the people that can live here have to—like myself—pay very steep taxes, and so the—it become—it's sort of an affluent town, if you want to call it that way. It's changed in character in the sense that in past General Radio was here. That was a competitor to Hewlett Packard way back in 1945-46. They were equal size, same business. That's gone. The Dover Ski Binding Company, which was a premier company making ski bindings. There was a furniture manufacturer here on Bradford Street in West Concord.

RR: 0:07:10.9 So nowadays, we don't have those industries or businesses. We have—it's mostly a commuting town to Boston, and the town is sort of split up between downtown Concord, which is quite nice. And then we have West Concord, which is more or less where you go for your shopping, whether it's a five-and-dime store or it's something like a shoe store or something like that. You go to West Concord. And we have a—so we're a major suburb of Boston. Commuting has become—to Boston—has become a real chore. My son, who lives in the next town over in Acton—I only mention this because it's relevant to Concord—it's so difficult for him to get to his business, Price Waterhouse, in Boston, which is in the Seaport area, he has to catch a train at 5:55 in the morning in order to get into Boston in time to go to his office. Otherwise, he would be bogged down with commuter traffic. So the town is very dependent on the train, and the commuters either go to Boston or elsewhere. Let's just take a time out here.

MK: All right. That was quick.

RR: So I thought I'd mention a little bit of what—in the last seventy-five years—what has remained the same in Concord, and then I'd segue into what has really changed in Concord. What I see being the same—first of all, we have the same types of museums here. We have the Concord Museum, the Concord Art Association, the Alcott House, the Buttrick Mansion. All those museums remain the same from the day I was born practically. We also have in Concord famous authors. There used to be Emerson, Hawthorne, and Alcott. Now we have also famous authors, Doris Goodwin and Alan Lightman, and they're both premier authors. So we haven't lost our culture. We still have it. The schools that were there seventy-five years ago—of course, the high school, Fenn School, Nashoba Brooks, Middlesex, Concord Academy. The only new one in the last seventy-five years has been Minuteman Tech, which is actually part of Concord, but it's located in Lexington, and that's a trade school, a very important trade school. But it attracts students from, not just this area, but further afield.

MK: Trade? Trades?

RR: A trade school. Learning people how to be electricians and carpenters and so forth—very important because our society has become sort of lopsided in the sense that there are lots of jobs out there that people could get, but they don't want to be a carpenter or a tradesman. And they can actually earn fifty to seventy-five thousand dollars at that trade, so it's not a bad way to go. So that's remained the same.

Other things that remained the same are the clubs and the institutions. One is Social Circle, which I'm a member of. It goes back to 1782. There are twenty-five members, and what's unique about the Social Circle—it sort of represents the fabric of Concord people—it's an all-male club—is that they write a memoir about each member after that person has died. And the Social Circle is a—it's a great recording for—for the history of Concord because it—it's a personal history of the individuals. For example, there are a number of families that have been—had members for two or three generations, such as the Buttricks, the Kaisers, the Lovejoys, the Shaws, and the Robbs. And so it has a certain amount of continuity to it. The—many of the members in the Circle play a very active part in the town's government. For example, the moderator of the town meetings is Eric Von Loon and before him was Ned Perry, both members of the Circle. And as far as Selectmen are concerned, there's Stanley Black, Jack Clymer, Mr. Clayton, Terry Rothermel, and Gordon Shaw. So they are very active in the town affairs.

MK: 0:12:02.3 Could you—could you talk a little about the qualifications for being a member. Could I be a member?

RR: Yes, you could. You have to sort of—you have to have spent a certain amount of time here in Concord, probably five or ten years. You generally—you serve on Concord boards. There is a requirement that, if you leave town, you have to resign. So you have to be—you have to live in Concord. And most of them are in the age bracket of, shall I say, fifty to seventy years old. And people are known by others—their peers. So it's—that's sort of the requirement, loosely stated.

MK: Okay.

RR: So other clubs in Concord—the—so there's another club that's like the Social Circle but not as active is Boys Friendly made up of businessmen as well. Course there's the Rotary Club, which I used to be a member of. They now admit women, which goes back to something like 1985. Before that it was an all-men's club. There are the Lions Club and so forth.

MK: Now, Boys Friendly—

RR: The Boys Friendly.

MK: —that's one I'm not familiar with. Can you talk about that one?

RR: Well, it's just like us. It's got about two dozen members, and they meet at somebody's house once a month for dinner. And they talk about a political issue or a social issue. So you go to the meetings at maybe seven o'clock, eat at eight o'clock, and then from nine to ten there's a discussion period about a subject that might be controversial. And it's sort of a way of—in this club, Social Circle, Ralph Waldo Emerson was a member, for example. And I'm sure his meetings were quite interesting. And it's—the club has a long history of—of well-known people. The founder of Concord Grape, for example, was a member.

Carrie Kline: Founder?

RR: Ephraim Bull is his name.

CK: Founder of—what did you say?

RR: He was a member of the Social Circle.

CK: And a founder of Concord—

RR: Grape. The Concord Grape that you are familiar with. It's now known as Welch's Concord Grape because Welch is still here in Concord, and it's a co-op. And most of the grapes come from farmers in New York State, but they produce Concord grape juice and Concord grape jelly, and Ephraim Bull was the originator of the grape. It's not used in wine, but it—because it's too sweet. So I'm only mentioning him as somebody that was a member of the Circle and member of Concord and rich in history and so forth.

MK: 0:15:00.1 Now, is Boys Friendly intergenerational? Does it—does it have—does it encourage young membership, or does it—is it boys as in us?

RR: Oh well, no, it's not intergenerational. It's usually, I would say, forty-five years and above because they're more mature, have lived here for a while, and so forth. So it's similar to the Circle.

MK: Okay.

RR: Now, I also want to mention that historically we've had a number of famous businessmen in Concord. For example, Andrew Hepburn was a well-known architect from Perry, Shaw, and Hepburn, and they were the architects for Williamsburg down in Virginia. And then we had Henry Laughlin who was president of Houghton Mifflin that published all of Churchill's books, and he lived on Monument Street. Now, today we have a different set of businessmen. Peter Brook, one of the first major, major—what I say investors in start-up companies and venture capital and private equity, and he's recently left Concord but Peter Brook. And then we have David Winstanley who was a fellow who started out selling chemicals and entered into the real estate business, and he has so much real estate, industrial-wise, in and around the Concord area, like maybe a million to two million square feet of real estate, that he rents out to other companies. And then we have Dave Arnold who just died recently unfortunately, and he was the shining light of Shipley Company, which was a specialty chemical company. And they grew from three employees to eleven hundred employees—worldwide business. And then we have other well-known businessmen such as Bill Moses of Mass Financial, one of the largest mutual fund companies. And then the Stevens that were in the textile business in Lowell. So we've been blessed with some famous businessmen as well.

What remains the same is the politics through town meeting format continues. We have a big imbalance politically in Concord. I think the Democrats probably outweigh the Republicans at least five to one, and even though Independents make up maybe 40 percent of the voting, you can almost depend that in Concord, if there is a state election, they will always go the way of the Democrat, which is a little disturbing to me because, of course, I'm a right-wing Republican. We have just a couple of Republicans in the Social Circle, so over the years, the trend has gone away from what I say is conservatism to liberalism. So that gives you an idea of what has stayed the same here in Concord, and maybe I can move on to what has changed. Let's just stop there.

MK: Okay.

RR: Will you start off with a question?

MK: Okay. Yeah. So we're back, and you had discussed how the Circle has become less conservative over time and more liberal. Is that what you said?

RR: 0:18:40.9 That's correct, and the understanding is that liberal people are more anxious to spend money than the conservative people. So if we have—we have a new—brand new high school, for example, and that—the educational component of the town of Concord's budget is like 65 percent. Conservatives in Concord, of which there are few of, probably wouldn't have spent so much money on the high school and tried to keep the tax rate lower than it is. And—so that's one of the basic differences between what I call liberals versus conservatives, and it's no different than what you see in Washington. Obama has, as you know—is willing to spend all sorts of money, and the conservatives, like Ryan, are pulling their hair out because we're so much in debt. Well, Concord's in good shape financially, but it still remains a difference between liberal and conservative. Let me put it that way.

MK: So you're talking about economic issues?

RR: Right.

MK: Um-hm. Okay.

RR: So if we want to segue into talking about Concord's changes over the last fifty years, I will go ahead in that direction.

MK: That sounds good.

RR: So Concord has really become a different town in the sense that there are a fair amount of stores, shops, restaurants, which attract people from the surrounding towns like Lincoln, Acton, Carlisle, Westford, and so forth. And that's been a major difference. In fact, if you'll look at where it used to be when I grew up back in the 1940s, we had two car dealerships. Ford was right next to the post office, which is now the Tuttle's Livery, and diagonally across the street was a Buick agency. And we virtually don't have any dealerships anymore in Concord. Back in those days, the center of the town was Richardson's and Snow's drug stores, and they were at the corner of Main and Waldon Street. And we don't have those anymore. In fact, they're sort of vacant, which sort of surprises me because the landlord—the new landlord came in and raised the rent so much that the former tenants, being a toy store and a stationery store, moved out, and it's now the—the storefronts are dormant, which is very disturbing because, in a town like this that's so active, if you have vacancies in the center of town, it's not a good thing. So that's changed. The CVS and Rite Aid drug stores are sort of the outlier parts of Concord, not in the center, because they need more space. Back in the 1940s, we used to have three markets, Anderson's, the Economy and the National stores, and a fruit store right in the middle of Concord. We don't have grocery stores in the middle of Concord anymore. We do have a big grocery store, Crosby's, on one of the outlying areas of the town. In the old days, it's hard to believe, but if you wanted to buy something at Anderson's—this is back in the 1940s now—you would either call your order in on the telephone and they would deliver it on a pickup truck, or you'd go to Anderson's—which was quite small but had most everything you wanted—and make your selection with a shopping list. You didn't go up and down the aisles looking for things that appealed to you. So that's been a big difference.

RR: 0:22:47.8 And back then there were three banks. There are now six banks in Concord and West Concord. In fact, Citibank tried very hard to locate in Concord principally because they had a strong wealth management division, and the citizens of Concord made such a protest, particularly the other retailers, because it would change the character of the town if Citibank came in and took over a large space, that Citibank finally withdrew—thank god—because it keeps the character of Concord better than it would have been. We used to have a Concord dairy in the center of town, which took all the milk from the local farms and actually produced the milk and ice cream. That's now a Starbucks. The railroad station is no longer. You can still catch a train to Boston, but that's been converted to a retail area with a restaurant above. And so you can see the town has sort of segued into a different character.

Back in those days, we had a couple of real estate agents, Barbara Lee, Beth Arnold, and Beth Baldwin, who sort of worked out of their house. And now Concord has so many real estate agents, it's unbelievable, because this has become a mecca for million-dollar homes. And it's attracted a lot of people like—that's set up shop here in Concord. I'm not sure if that's good or bad to be honest with you. The trend has been to—for houses to be sold and then torn down. My neighbor's house just sold for $1.65 million, and it's a teardown. I thought it was perfectly fine. It was built back in the, say the late 1960s, and as far as I was concerned, I saw no reason to be torn down. But a contractor bought it, will tear it down, and rebuild another house with better amenities, particularly the kitchen, bathrooms, and so forth. And that's not just a single isolated case. This happens quite frequently. And there's a phrase here that's been created called mansionation—mansionation—which is mansions that people are building now in Concord, large houses and—with multi-rooms. And so for many of us, that's been a little bit of a downer. We'd like to see Concord more or less remain the same. The former fire station has now been converted to a restaurant called Bondir, and that's different for sure.

MK: There have been several restaurants there over time, have there not?

RR: There have. The one that was before Bondir was called Walden Station. In fact, I was thinking of buying that building myself, but I was so afraid that if the restaurant, which was the main tenant, left that I'd be left with a big vacancy, and in fact, that did happen. And luckily Bondir came in two years later. So it has been a mecca for banks and real estate businesses, and in addition, West Concord, as I mentioned before, has—also has four full-blown restaurants but is more of a shopping area for fundamental needs like five-and-dime stores and so forth. Now, there's a big possibility in Concord that disturbed me somewhat, and that is—at the—just shortly from the Colonial Inn is Lowell Road and then—called Millbrook Tarry, and that's where Rite Aid is. And they are thinking of making a big shopping center in that area, and I don't—and it's a real problem with those like myself that think there's going to be a traffic problem and that Concord's going to become too much of a shopping center and not a town with mostly residential usage. So that will create some controversy when it goes to—when it goes to the Planning Board. So let's stop for a minute.

MK: All right.

RR: 0:27:42.5 So to continue this—the changes, I thought, because I live on Monument Street, I would talk a little bit about what's happened on Monument Street since I was growing up back in 1945, 1950. And Monument Street is a major street that runs from the Colonial Inn in the dead center of Concord to Carlisle. It's quite a long road, and it's a nice road. And there were quite a number of farms back in those days, Hutchins Farm that raised cows and then Water's Edge, which had horses. But what's happened in Monument Street is that there are eleven different roads that have spurred off Monument Street for development purposes—Martin Road, Bartlett Hill, Redcoat Lane, Brewster's Ridge, Buttricks Hill, North Meadow, and Silver Hill. Those are—Turning Mill, Crestbrook—those are some of the streets that have spurred off Monument Street for development purposes. In addition to that, one of the older streets, Lang Street—it was a Free Church there, no longer there now. It's now converted to a house. And then there was a Brooks School, which was on Monument Street. No longer there now; it's now another house. The Boston & Main Railroad ran right across Monument Street into Concord Lumber and actually serviced Concord Lumber with coal and lumber. And the Loughlin estate—remember I talked about Henry Loughlin as the—as running a large printing company and publishing company—Houghton Mifflin published Churchill's books—has now been converted to Water's Edge which is a horse farm. Fenn School has expanded enormously. The Hutchins Farm area has more or less remained the same in terms of their growing vegetables for people to buy and so forth. So the result is that there's probably fifty plus houses—new homes—that have been built on or just off Monument Street. So you can see, as one of the changes that's developed here in Concord is—well, the population probably doubled in that period of time from the late 1940s to the present. The number of houses has increased enormously.

So maybe it would be worthwhile talking about how to improve Concord going forward, and I—because that's on my mind in the sense that one can become quite complacent, saying everything is just dandy and we shouldn't change anything. Well, recently there was a group of former Selectmen that got together, and they call themselves the Governance Committee. And what they wanted to do is to see if there was any way to improve the management of the town. After years of deliberation and meeting with people, they decided there was not much they could do. I was not a part of that, but it sort of plays into what I'm going to say next, and that is I've often been a proponent that having the Selectmen is not enough to manage the town because they're inundated with one issue after another, whether it's issuing liquor licenses or whatever comes up in front of them, that they don't have time to sit back and look at the five-year plan in Concord. And so I have been a believer that there should be a group of former Selectmen and people that have been responsible for the management of the town that got together and—whether they were a Board of Directors or whatever you want to call them—that would have a view of a long-range planning in Concord. And the reason I say that is I don't think we have it now, and whether it's how to handle things like Millbrook Tarry, which I mentioned before, which is another major development in the town, how are they going to treat the traffic problem, which has been very acute. We just can't—ten, twenty years from now we're not going to be able to have all the cars go through the center of town. There's going to have to be other roads to circumvent this. So this group of so-called Board of Directors will sort of think about the future and start planning way ahead of time. And I say this because the town—with a third of its acreage in nonprofit—it's gotten so the taxes are unbelievable, and it's scaring some people out of town. Most of our land that we own on Monument Street is in conservation, but we—our taxes are over fifty thousand dollars a year. And it's—so it means that none of my kids can live in that house. I can't hand it down because they won't be able to afford the taxes. And so it's a little scary, particularly when the tax rate now is about the highest in the state. So I think if you had a Board of Directors that addressed some of these issues, it would be very, very helpful. So my second point—

CK: 0:33:39.6 Before you go on, I think if you're going to mention a figure like fifty thousand, it would be relevant to know how many acres that you're paying for with that—what's not in conservation. Fifty thousand represents what?

RR: Sure. Well, fifty thousand—we have quite a large house, and around it is probably twenty eight acres, which is in what we call a Chapter 61A. And the rest of the acreage is—we've sold the easement rights to the Forestry Service, so that's not really taxed at all. So even though there's a fair amount of land, it's only our house plus one other house potential lot that you're taxed at a higher rate than if it was not a buildable lot. So the one house and the twenty, twenty-five acres is what we sit on now, and the rest of the acreage, as I said before, is now not taxable.

MK: Okay. That's helpful.

RR: So the other thing that the—maybe how Concord could improve itself is that the government is really volunteer. In other words, you sign what is called a green card saying that you're interested in serving on the Planning Board or Board of Selectmen or one of the boards in Concord. And so those people that apply for that are usually folks like attorneys or those that—like the finance committee that might be accountants or people that have some degree of expertise, and that's sort of the way the process goes. I feel that we ought to be more proactive instead of reactive for putting people on town committees and—for example, I filled out a green card when I was in my twenties and thirties, and they never selected me for any committee, probably wisely so. But it was not a chance for me to really show how I can help get things done, and that's what I'm known for. My wife was town manager of King City, CA, and she was head of finance out there. And she said she would have been willing to work on one of the committees here—here in Concord, but she was a little shy, and she never put in a green card. What I'm trying to tell you is that there was a talent that, if you had—somebody like an executive recruiter would have found her and put her on one of the boards. My neighbor is an architect, a developer, very successful. He has fifty people in his architectural firm. He's developed properties, and he said he would serve, but he hasn't volunteered himself. Somebody should recruit him because of his background.

So what I'm trying to say is the town committees could be a little bit more proactive instead of reactive. For example, the finance committee—I considered sitting on that board. There's fifteen people on the finance committee, which is far too many in my opinion, and they are—they make suggestions, but they don't have any real authority. And what really turned me off was I said, "Well, 65 percent of the town taxes and budget go toward the school." The school is unionized, and they've had some differences. The superintendent and the union sit down together every year or so and negotiate teacher's contracts. Well I said, "I'm sure that somebody on the finance committee should be in that negotiating process because they're the ones that are providing the funds." Oh, no. No, no. No, the finance committee does not sit in that negotiation. Now, that's something that really is—should be fixed and—because the town is spending all this money on the school system, why shouldn't they have a seat at the negotiating table? So that's another area I think can—can be improved upon.

RR: 0:38:08.0 And then there's the—another issue that I brought up before and that was we have a situation where there's so much nontaxable land in Concord—and I'm a part of that, by the way, because I put a lot of the acreage into conservation and sold the easement rights to the U. S. Forestry Service—that if we get too much more nontaxable land, it puts the tax rates even higher because there's less money—less land to be taxed. So somehow we have to think about going forward how we're going to handle this problem. In fact, in some cases, the town, I don't think, manages their land too well. And I'm thinking of—I'm thinking of Punkatasset Pond, which had a huge apple orchard. And—every year the orchard was mowed, and for whatever reason, when the resource committee took it over, they let the entire apple orchard grow in. So they not only lost all the apple trees, now it's not a field at all. It's just overgrown, and to bring it back to a field which is next to Punkatasset Pond, it would cost—I don't know—at least fifty thousand dollars, if not more. And I think that the town should manage their land a little bit better.

And the one way to do this, in my opinion, is to sell parcels of land like that where the town does not have a budget to take care of—of keeping it in good shape—sell that land for a dollar to the Concord Land Trust. And the Concord Land Trust is a resource of managing open field lands, and they would be more motivated to keep the trails open and keep the fields open than the town of Concord, which doesn't have either the time, inclination, or money to do so.

So let's go back to this land situation where possibly the Concord Land Trust could get involved by taking over some of the town nontaxable land like I mentioned, like the Punkatasset area. The Concord Land Trust is a wonderful organization. If you, for example, owned a house and maybe, let's say, twenty acres, and you didn't want to necessarily grant it to your offspring or your children, you wanted to preserve the land the way it is, open, and you didn't want to have it part of your estate when you die. So what you do is you call up the Concord Land Trust and say, "Would you be interested in buying twenty acres and put it into conservation?" which is their own conservation, Concord Land Trust, nonprofit. So that's been a wonderful way to keeping land open, and I think more of that is fine but not too much more of it because I don't think Concord can go through having sufficiently greater amount of nontaxable land. Now, the motivation of course is to pass this land into the hands of a responsible entity that will keep it out of construction because it will be permanently put in that state, and also they will maintain that land. So they'll keep the trails open and the fields open. So I think the Concord Land Trust is a very important aspect of our town, and I'm very proud of it and so forth.

CK: So we're running out of opportunity for this though because of the tax base issue, so do you then suggest that in a short number of years people should not have that option?

RR: I'm not sure you'd—I'm not sure you should legislate it, but I would think that the Concord Land Trust I think should throttle back a little bit in terms of taking over more land because I don't think—they have en—I don't know what the number of acres are, but it's significant. And unless it is adjacent to some other nontaxable land, it doesn't make too much sense to get small parcels of five or ten acres unless it's adjoining something else, and that's just my opinion.

CK: But it shouldn't be legislated?

RR: Correct.

MK: If—if people are—are buying the beautiful homes built in the sixties, let's say as that recently, and tearing them down to build much larger houses, can't a great deal of the tax revenue generate from that—from that kind of development and take a step or two toward discouraging it while also raising the revenue considerably? I—I would think you—that the town would just want to make that almost prohibitive in terms of taxes, or does that fly in the face of your conservative view of taxes or what?

RR: 0:43:51.9 Well, people like Peter Nicholas who was at one time—or is—a chairman of Boston Scientific—and it's a stated public fact that at one time he was worth three billion dollars—he came into town, and he's got a house that he built on land of—with another house on it, and he's got it up for sale for ten million dollars. And it's not selling very well because it's too expensive. But he—there's a case where you've got people coming into town, paying a big amount of money and then, for whatever reason, they leave town. And it puts—the burden is now on getting more of these high net worth people to buy homes in Concord. So it just—what it does is it just keeps raising the tax rate, and the taxes from these new homes are, to a certain extent, offset the fact that there's a shrinking amount of taxable land. So maybe that's what you're driving at.

MK: Okay. Where do you want to go from here then?

RR: I don't know. Why don't you turn it off for a minute, and we can—

MK: Well—okay.

RR: So getting back to this area of how the town could help improve itself in the future, if we step back for a minute and talk about boards of directors of businesses—large businesses—and even nonprofits, I am sure on my feeling here that two-thirds of the conversation should be on the future, not discussing the present and the past. And so they focus really on the future. Where are they going to be? How are they going to get there? What resources they need. What personnel they need that they don't have, and what products they're going to produce. What services they're going to offer in the future. So I think this is a missing component to the town of Concord in the sense that, if you had a so-called board of directors made up of former Selectmen, say make it workable, like five people on this board, then you can sort of start to map out what the potential problem areas are going to be. Well, for example, the town of Concord should be working more closely with the State of Massachusetts, and the state has spent, without a question, forty years developing this Route 2 overpass that goes on the skirts of Concord. And there's going to be another big intersection by the reformatory that the state is going to work on, but it takes so long for the state to make these changes that I think if Concord became a little bit of a pressure point and make sure that things were moving along better, faster, it would be helpful. But it needs a senior group in Concord that has the authority to talk to the state and to start planning—and start planning. So what's the town going to look like in ten or twenty years from now and not just let it happen serendipitously but have it happen with forethought. So that's my opinion on that score. I think that the Governance Committee, while they probably did a yeoman job in trying to figure out what they should be doing, they should be brought back to the table and say, "Well, we should—," whether it's called a Governance Committee or a Board of Directors, they should think about—a little bit more about how they're going to work in the future because the Selectmen as sort of the senior government group—Selectmen, there's five Selectmen—but they don't have time to just sit back and ponder, Where are we going to go be in ten years from now? They have to address each meeting the subjects that come up, so they don't have a chance to look forward, in my mind.

MK: Okay. Excellent.

RR: I mean I can—


RR: So to come full circle and summarize what I've been talking about, Concord really recognizes having a glorious past, a great present in the way they handle affairs in Concord. But we're challenged for the future, and I think we really have to spend a little bit more time thinking where we're going to be in ten or twenty years, how are we going to get there, and whether we have the proper resources and talent, personnel, and otherwise to make sure that we just don't do things serendipitously—that it really is thought out ahead of time. So I'm glad to have had this opportunity to talk to you all. And hopefully we can move forward with vigor. Thank you.

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Text and audio mounted 18 March 2016 -- rcwh.