I am 38 years old, and my husband, Jonathan, and I live on Butterfield Terrace, with our two dogs and one cat.  We have lived in Amherst since 1996.

On the swings at North Village, back in its flat roof days.

I spent much of my childhood here, living in North Village Apartments and attending Mark’s Meadow Elementary School, both of which I remember fondly.  North Village was a wonderful place to be a kid—all sidewalks, backyards and bikes.  That was back in the golden age of Mark’s Meadow as the lab school for UMass’ School of Ed, and innovation and creativity thrived.  I went to middle school and high school on Cape Cod, but returned to Amherst often then and later, because my father, John Coull, remained in this area, where he owned and operated Valley Bicycles for many years.

I graduated from Boston University in 1991 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Classical Civilizations.  While at BU, I had a work-study job in my Junior and Senior years that would become my entrée into the automotive industry:  I had the great pleasure and good fortune to work for the National Public Radio Program Car Talk, which was produced on campus.  In addition to arranging the show’s calls, picking out good letters to be read on the air and getting coffee, I was in fact one of the “Fabulous Vinnie Dancers” backing up Tom and Ray as they sang “the Car Talk Shuffle” at the big Car Talk Sock Hop fundraiser for WBUR.  Fortunately, this was long before YouTube. 

Taking the show on the road: at Disney World with Car Talk.

But after graduation it was time to leave “Click and Clack” behind, and I moved to New Jersey to work in public relations for Mazda.  My job was to get automotive journalists to drive and write about Mazda vehicles, which was easy to do, because back in the early 90s, Mazda’s cars were sporty and exciting and extremely popular.  The position involved amazing experiences, such as getting to borrow new vehicles from all the other manufacturers and going to race car driving school.  For someone who had always loved cars, this was a dream job.

But then things went south for Mazda, and the East Coast office I was part of was eliminated.  I began freelancing in automotive public relations and journalism, eventually becoming involved with the New York Auto Show, by whom I was ultimately hired in-house to handle all industry public relations, replacing the three-person consulting team of which I had been a part. 

I nearly flunked out of this three-day course at Pocono Raceway—I drove too slowly.

My job there was to boost the prominence of the New York Auto Show within the industry, and to manage the press introductions of new vehicles during the show’s annual press preview, a two-day event preceding the show’s public opening.  This entailed coordinating a wild collection of logistics and egos and TV shoots, and it was a blast.  But all that traversing of the massive Jacob Javits Convention Center in high heels has pretty much confined me to Birkenstocks forever after. 

And I was getting pretty tired of my commute from Jersey — 51 miles each way!  And the tolls! — and Jonathan and I were ready to buy a house, and all things considered, that just wasn’t where we wanted to be.   

Amherst beckoned, and here we are.

After those years of spending hours a day in our cars (on the plus side: we were NPR junkies) we wanted a house within walking distance to downtown.  Both of us were then telecommuting—my husband kept the job he still has, as a computer programmer for a company in New Jersey, while I went back to freelancing—so a commute was not an issue, but quality of life was imperative, and being able to walk downtown defined that for us.  It still does. 

So we bought this house on the edge of the UMass campus—there’s a dorm across the street; not your typical neighborhood—and we’ve been here for close to 12 years and couldn’t be happier.

Life as a freelancer—covering the used car beat for a trade magazine.

I freelanced for a few years doing web site work and various writing assignments for the New York Auto Show, writing articles for an automotive trade magazine, and doing  public relations and press event coordination for a couple of smaller auto shows in Pennsylvania, and eventually I got the whole car thing out of my system. 

By then, I had become very involved with the Amherst Survival Center, and slowly my paid work shifted to all volunteer work.  That has been an incredible opportunity to have, and I have savored my experiences in human services and Town government. 

After the success and enjoyment of my Town Meeting blog, I decided that I wanted to write more about Amherst.  In the fall of 2006, I began the web site, and I sought to be another outlet for telling stories and reporting news of things happening in town.  As one who walks around town a lot, I would constantly see things that made me think “I wonder what’s going on there?” and I thought the web site would be the perfect venue for sharing the answers to such questions.  In the first few months, I wrote about new businesses, the Grace Church renovation, the Boy Scouts Christmas tree sale—before it was a brouhaha—news from the library and Town Hall, and so forth.  That December, I began doing the recaps of Select Board meetings, thinking that was a niche where I could perform a valuable service—the newspaper typically covers the Select Board’s “big” decisions, but they don’t have the space to include every topic and discussion; and the meetings run much longer than most people have the time to watch.  So I began to attend and recap all of those meetings.  This takes a considerable amount of time, and it affected my ability to cover other news stories, and by the time Town Meeting ended in the spring—with its many sessions that I was blogging, and the Select Board meetings which occur before each one—my coverage of other news pretty much dried up.  I am sorry about that, because I really enjoyed researching and reporting on that very local stuff, and meeting incredibly nice and interesting people in the process, but the recaps became my commitment and my niche—and an entirely different learning experience.

The cat isn’t much for pictures, but here’s the rest of the household.

I am proud of what I have done with the site and the recaps.  I have received tremendous feedback about how complete, useful and objective the recaps are.  I have written a number of opinion pieces as well, often critical of the Select Board’s actions, and I’ve been especially gratified when people have said that they admire my ability to maintain the neutrality of a recap while feeling the frustration expressed in an opinion piece. 

The Town Meeting blog and the opinion pieces on provide a rich record of my positions on local issues and concerns.  The recaps are a testament to my knowledge of what is happening and how it happens, and my commitment to making others aware of that.  Taken together, I hope they show that I am particularly well-informed; that I am thoughtful, principled and fair; and that I am dedicated to good government for Amherst.  If that describes what you want from a Select Board member, I hope you will vote for me on April 1st.