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Norwood 2022 Candidate Profile: Amanda Grow, Board Of Selectmen – Patch

NORWOOD, MA – Norwood voters have a big choice to make as they vote to fill two seats on the Board of Selectmen on Monday, April 4.
There are three candidates vying for those slots, including incumbent Allan Howard. Amanda Grow ran against Howard in the special election in January and is vice president of the Norwood League of Women Voters. Bob Donnelly, a long-time Town Meeting member and member of the Finance Commission, also is seeking a seat.
To help voters get to know each candidate, Norwood Patch sent all candidates a questionnaire to probe their thoughts on issues in town. Here’s what Grow had to say:

Age as of Election Day: 41
Position sought: Norwood Board of Selectmen (3 year term)
Party Affiliation: None.
Family: Nick Grow, age 42, my husband of 17 years. We moved to Norwood from Ohio together in 2007.
Does anyone in your family work in politics or government? No
Education: I have been an autodidact in web development since 1996, back when you couldn’t actually get a degree for that work. I later completed some college course work in the late 90s / early 2000s in Ohio that’s fairly non applicable (Fine Arts, no degree). My more recent and relevant certifications include the following: “Statistics: Analytics for Decision Making” (2017, Babson), “Behavioral Economics: Behavioral Economics in Action” (2017, University of Toronto ), “Inclusive Leadership” (2017, Catalyst).
Occupation: I have been working in enterprise level Software as a Service (SaaS) video game studios for 15 years in the following capacities: Business Manager, 7 years, with a focus on Production Management, Product Management, Branding, and eCommerce (Standing Stone Games, LLC, Warner Brothers Interactive Entertainment), Community Manager 7 years (Warner Brothers Interactive Entertainment, Turbine Inc.). New as of 2022 I have been promoted into the role of “Producer” for one of my company’s game franchises.
Previous or Current Elected or Appointed Office:
Previous: Norwood Town Meeting Rules Committee
Current: Norwood Town Meeting Member District 7
Campaign website: https://www.amandagrow.com
Why are you seeking elective office?
I am seeking elective office for what I consider to be the best reason of all: the Community of Norwood asked me to. In addition to my experience with financial forecasting, budgeting, proposal reviews, and leading collaborative multidisciplinary teams, residents were interested in augmenting the Board of Selectmen with my knowledge of technology integration projects, information security, and my robust understanding of the US power grid infrastructure and energy suppliers.
The role of Selectman has such broad scope that it is imperative that we have different backgrounds and skill sets as part of it. The skills I have are usually cost prohibitive for municipalities. I am offering them pro bono, because I think it is the civic duty of every person with heavy technical experience to lend their time and knowledge to the Community that they live in.
What is the single most pressing issue facing the Board of Selectmen, and what do you intend to do about it?
The single most pressing issue facing our Board is the Climate Crisis. It has such an insidious domino effect into Norwood. Just a few examples: our budgeting will be increasingly more difficult as shifting Climate conditions eat at our infrastructure and increase the expense of our services, such as the heat islands in town putting extra load on our distribution equipment and spiking energy consumption costs.
Our Communities will face the threats of constant sudden natural disasters, such as the flooding that inundated the Town and destroyed the Hospital (plus the ripple effect into our First Responders from the Hospital being down after that event). Droughts and other supply chain disruptions can threaten resident’s food access.
As a Selectman I intend to be proactive and focus on increasing our resilience to these types of situations. For example, as a Selectman I would have no problem approving usage of the Town Common for the return of the Farmer’s Market, and have been working with residents on its return. Selectmen are technically the “wardens of trees”, and so I have been pitching in to help with the newly establishing Food Forest. These two initiatives will help to shorten the supply chain of food and be more resilient against food chain disruptions.
I have been cultivating a positive relationship with our Fire Department and hope to work with them and our other First Responders to continue to improve the Town’s outreach to residents for disaster preparedness learning opportunities. Most importantly, since the Board of Selectmen also double as the Light Commissioners, I am very eager to bring my knowledge of the power grid and renewables to the Commission and work with our Light Department on increasing sustainability in our town’s Energy Portfolio, and helping residents to access non fossil fuel heating and cooling opportunities.
What are the critical differences between you and the other candidates seeking this post?
Most candidates who seek this office have Finance backgrounds, which is fine, but budgeting and revenue streams are not the only responsibilities of the Selectmen nor the only knowledge base that helps the Town. I’d describe myself as “everything you love about someone with a Finance background, but with added hard-to-recruit-for skills”.
The first most obvious one is my fluency in technology, but not for the reasons you might think. You might think that it’s just about internet access or social media since I work for an online company, right? But my most relevant skills come from my experience with complex technical integration projects – that is to say, managing teams and projects that link one piece of customer facing technology to another, or even newer technologies to older technologies. From API or Python driven reporting structures, to PCI compliant payment gateways, or even re-architecture of business intelligence databases, having experience with these types of projects means that when technology related proposals are brought to the Selectmen, I will be able to help ensure a good and secure end user experience for residents and a high level of engagement with technical staff to a degree not matched by any other candidate.
Secondly, my understanding of the power grid, renewables, and energy markets is unmatched. Pick a topic and I can get into the weeds on it … the purpose of transformers, the harmonizing of generators, the pitfalls of both underground and above ground distribution lines, how photovoltaic panels work, what happens when a Nuclear power plant gets decommissioned, the difference between Class 1 and Class 2 Renewable Energy Credits. If it’s electricity and energy, you name it, and I will regale you.
It is absolutely critical that we have more knowledge in this area on the Board of Selectmen because the Selectmen double as Light Commissioners in Norwood, which is unique in the Commonwealth. Only 4 Towns have this dynamic, and we’re one of them. So I’m eager to help augment the knowledge pool of the Selectmen in these areas, and grow learning opportunities in town for residents so that they better understand what is happening with the utility rates they pay.
If you are a challenger, in what way has the current board or officeholder failed the community?
I think that there is a “survivor’s fallacy” of data gathering, and that the approach taken toward engagement and transparency with residents is too passive. Information gets broadcast out, but there doesn’t seem to be that further necessary step of validating how well that broadcast method is being engaged with, nor pivoting the strategy fast enough when it isn’t.
It’s not enough to simply make information available, we actually have to measure how well the information is being received. In multiple engagements I’ve had, when I or residents ask seated members of the Board “what can be done to increase transparency”, they tend to respond by talking about the things they’ve done in the past, and how residents need to go engage with those things.
That’s backwards. It’s called public *service*. If you’re trying to increase outreach, but the people you’re trying to reach say “hey I haven’t gotten any outreach”, the answer isn’t to blame them for not engaging with the proscribed method of your outreach and brushing them off with “you didn’t look in the right place” … you have to try something different to reach them.
There’s a rule of thumb we use in my industry which is that in a given Community, only about 10% to 15% of people will be “highly engaged” enough to give you feedback in response to a passive broadcast seeking volunteered information. Everyone else? They will not engage.
You have to be far more direct, such as paying for their time in focus groups, sending a researcher to knock doors or ring phones, and gathering data in that way until you have a statistically significant sample size. If you only work with the data freely given to you by the highly engaged participants, they are not representative of the wider population and it will skew your results and you will under serve important segments of your Community.
That’s what the “survivor’s fallacy” is, it’s only looking at the data that managed to get through, and failing to looking at what didn’t make it through into your data inputs, thus obscuring the big picture.
Describe the other issues that define your campaign platform.
Another area that I am very passionate about is cyber security and awareness. Too often the full weight of the responsibility of cyber topics gets foisted onto technical staff and vendors alone. This is a huge disservice to both residents and the workers themselves, and dangerous as the threats of cyber warfare escalate from the war in Ukraine.
I liken it to fire. Imagine that none of us paid much attention to fire as a concept. We weren’t using smoke detectors, we didn’t learn any basic fire safety, we barely understood the dangers of fire, none of us reported fire hazards, yet we kept adding fire as a tool to increasingly more and more places in our lives.
Then imagine how hard it would be to be a Fire Fighter in a world where no one but other Fire Fighters was talking about how to improve fire safety? How much more loss of life and property damage would happen if the Fire Fighters were the only ones thinking about and talking about fire because the rest of us said “oh that’s the Fire Department’s job to worry about”?
That’s kind of what we do to Infosec and Technology experts. Cyber security and other such technical topics aren’t/don’t get talked about much in the public space, yet we keep integrating more and more technology into places that the public must interface with. We’ve now reached a point where even a resident with limited or even no access to online technologies can be harmed by cyber security threats and discriminated against by bad implementations of digital technologies.
In the past people always thought about cyber security strictly in the context of identity theft, but it’s so much more than that these days. It can include everything from digital money laundering to attacks that disable or hijack infrastructure remotely, or even the manipulation of the flow of public information (even at the local level).
When we hear about topics like Machine Learning Algorithms, we tend to think of that as some future problem, yet in many cases Algorithms are already being introduced, unregulated, into public spaces in ways that can damage residents, such as being falsely matched by facial recognition software or tools meant to help States and Towns manage some aspect of public service that unintentionally have biases encoded in them.
The cyber landscape is rife with dangers, but less so if you learn about them. So this is an area that I am eager to see us improve on. I want Norwood to become a recognized “Cyber Aware Community” in Massachusetts. I want to improve digital literacy among residents, to help better protect them, but also allow more of them to volunteer to help too as they get more proficient. You can ask any IT professional how much harder it is to do their jobs if there’s lower Cyber Security awareness among their peers and customers. If we can increase cyber security and awareness among residents, it will reduce costs, mitigate damages, protect vulnerable populations in town, and create a better experience for residents who engage with town services.
This is an area where I am eager to see Norwood spread its wings, because this year marks the 20th anniversary of our Municipal Broadband service. That means Norwood as a town clearly has the type of talent needed to achieve new heights in this area. I know that the town staff and committees can accomplish so much if feel supported and encouraged to do so by the Board of Selectmen.
What accomplishments in your past would you cite as evidence you can handle this job?
My professional accomplishments are pretty straight forward. As the business manager at my studio, I ensured not only that we’ve constantly met our multi million dollar revenue targets, but that we’ve exceeded them, usually by 12% or more. My products are some of the few from their release era still in operation today, whereas most other competing products of their type have long since shut down. So clearly my forecasting and revenue stream efforts are working well.
Additionally I’m responsible for public speaking engagements with the press and public, so I’ll be very comfortable and eager to serve in that capacity. The teams that I manage and engage with are quite diverse in their skill sets, from coding engineers to artists to marketers. During large integration projects I am often the “translator” who helps the highly technical platform engineers and quality assurance teams communicate more effectively with non-technical team members or Executives, which will serve me particularly well during times when the Selectmen help the public to understand what is happening.
For example, a few years ago when electrical rates jumped higher due to a power plant decommission, I wish the Selectmen had been able to help articulate to residents what a decommission is. I saw so much confusion among rate payers, people didn’t understand what a plant decommission meant and why it was impacting rates. That’s the sort of situation where I’ll be a big help to residents, making highly complex technical topics easier for the public to understand.
In my private life, my successes are of a civics nature. I have been successful in my work as a pro bono Lobbyist, cultivating positive relationships with our State Senator and State Representative. This means engaging with their offices, often in person before the pandemic struck, to navigate proposed legislation and helping to answer their concerns. I am very proud of the work I did helping to get Automatic Voter Registration passed with both Senator Rush and Representative Rogers support in 2018. Lobbying, outreach, and collaboration are a huge part of being an effective Selectmen, you can’t just show up on Tuesdays and expect that to be enough.
I was also very proud of my work on the Town Rules Committee, and in Town Meeting, where I have attended all but a single meeting from quorum to dissolution. It takes a lot of personal time and commitment to be a Selectman, and I’m ready and demonstratively able to give of my time in that way.
But the thing I’m the most proud of is that I am continually nominated by the Community to serve based on my skills. I have served in the capacity of Secretary, Legislative Envoy, Municipal Energy Committee Member, a Voting Delegate, and now as Vice President of the Norwood League of Women Voters.
Yes these roles provide all the necessary mechanics around say Parliamentary Procedure and the crafting of legislation, but that’s not why I’m the most excited about having served in those capacities. It’s because these were not roles that I put myself forward into, but that others felt I would be perfect for based on my skills and thus nominated me. I am a highly engaged, civically active, collaborative, and capable person.
The best advice ever shared with me was:
The best advice I ever got was a quote that went like so: “If you have a thought and keep it to yourself, nothing happens. But if you tell another person, that’s how things start to get done.”
I take that to heart. For a long time I always saw public service as something you had to specifically carve out an explicit career path for from a young age. But that’s not how our societies thrive. Particular here in the US. We’re each supposed to take a turn lending a hand, and doing it as part of a Community. I
t’s not good enough to do good quietly by yourself. You have to get out into your Community and give of your time and your energy if you want things to get better. You can’t see the big challenges in front of us and ponder or fear them alone in your own head. You have to work with other residents to tackle them. I really encourage anyone who’s never given it thought in the past to try public service. Our Community thrives when good people share their thoughts, that’s when things start getting done.
What else would you like voters to know about yourself and your positions?
I am very eager to engage with residents who struggle with the English language. I’d like to see us do a better job of localizing our content, and of reaching community members who may not speak English. My companies products are offered in multiple languages, and so I am quite used to engaging with international communities and catching errors in translations.
I know that Norwood has a long proud history of immigrant communities and descendants, and that many residents speak Italian, Portuguese, Nepali, Haitian Creole, Levantine, and other languages. I love languages, and have a little experience reading and speaking in Italian, French, and German (not quite conversational but I can read it decently well and write in it with errors), as well as very light amounts of Mandarin Chinese, Portuguese, Spanish, Russian, Hindi, and Thai, though I’m quite rusty in those.
I will however always be excited to hear from residents in any language, and to practice English with them too if they would like. If you’re reading this and you’re a fluent English speaker in Norwood, and you know a friend or family member in town who has feedback for the Town but they struggle with English, let them know that I am always happy to hear from them in their language so that I can increase my vocabulary!

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