January 19, 2024
• For the second year in a row, Finance Committee member Joshua Levy is vying for one of two open seats on the Select Board this April.
As of Friday, Levy will likely be facing off against incumbent Vice Chair Kevin Keane and Human Rights Committee Chair Tina Burgos for a three-year term, according to the Town Clerk’s Office.
This is Levy’s 14th year in town politics — he became a Town Meeting member in 2010 and was later appointed to the Finance Committee in 2017. He also sits on the Housing Needham Advisory Group.
Levy earned nearly 47% of the vote in last year’s Select Board race, losing to incumbent and now Chair Marianne Cooley and newcomer Cathy Dowd.
Levy’s passion for local civic engagement stems from his natural inclination to ask questions. Levy recalled often speaking up about projects at Town Meeting hoping to examine all the options and leave no stone unturned.
“It’s just about getting to the best solution possible,” he said, “and I think the way to learn what that is is to ask questions.”
The health care consultant and near-native Needhamite, who moved here with his family at 4 years old, said the town has changed since his childhood, most significantly in affordability.
“I live in a 1950s-era ranch, and even though I grew up in Needham, I would not have been able to live on my own in Needham if this opportunity hadn’t come up,” Levy said. “The opportunity’s rarer and rarer to find a small house… People want to live in Needham, but they just don’t have the means to, and we need a broader diversity of housing in town.”
The MBTA Communities Law is one way to diversify housing, Levy said, but he would also support incentivizing builders, through zoning, to construct more starter homes. Doing so would benefit both young adults who’d like to stay in town and seniors looking to downsize, he said.
Despite not yet serving on the board, Levy said he’s played an integral role in bringing residents’ concerns to the most powerful elected body in town. When Needham experienced heavy flooding in August, Levy spoke with those impacted by the storm, conducted research and shared his findings during a Select Board meeting.
He said the risk of flooding is a “recurring” issue he wanted the town to address.
“I really advocated for more infrastructure to deal with the flooding issues to make sure that we are preparing for the future,” Levy said. “If we want to build more, there’s going to be less surface area for infiltration where water can go into the ground, which means flooding could be worse if we don’t have drainage systems that can accommodate that.”
While chair of the Finance Committee, Levy and his colleagues added funding for the Council for Arts and Culture, which is now a permanent, annual budget item. The board also recently added funding to the Needham Police Department for mental health services, Levy said.
“On the Finance Committee, we’re really careful and detailed, and when we identify a need, we fund it,” he said. “So I’m really proud of that.”
The committee and the Select Board have taken opposing stances on recent town projects, most notably on the future of the Foster property and the municipal opt-in stretch energy code at the fall’s Special Town Meeting. Levy was the only Finance Committee member to support the energy code.
“Diversity of perspectives is important,” Levy said. Local government enables residents to be heard, and if elected, Levy said he would be excited to voice their interests and promote transparency with board decision-making.
“I love talking to people, and I notice that there are huge ranges of diverse perspectives in town,” he said, “and I think that has to be represented on the Select Board.”
Levy’s work in consulting developed his analytical skills, which he said allow him to delve into data to better understand problems. Early in his tenure, Levy said the committee was discussing the construction of a new fire station, and he created charts comparing the sizes of other Massachusetts fire stations to populations, all in an effort to analyze the different factors involved.
Local elections are most important because they “affect Needham more than anywhere else,” Levy said. He encouraged voters to get excited about town politics.
“I would ask for their votes because if they want to be as involved as possible, I’m on their side. I’m rooting for them,” he said. “I want Needham residents to succeed and be as happy as possible.”
The town election is Tuesday, April 9.
As the election cycle continues, Needham Local and The Needham Channel will provide additional coverage on the candidates and races.
A previous version of this article incorrectly stated Levy was elected to the Finance Committee. All members of the committee are appointed by the town moderator.