James DeVellis married into Foxborough long before he moved to town 11 years ago.
His wife, Nicole (Morini), grew up in town and their three children are currently in the Foxborough Public Schools.
“Wife grew up in Foxborough,” DeVellis said. “For some reason, with her graduating class, nobody leaves [town]. … We are here to stay.”
DeVellis said the public schools, friends and neighbors are a few reasons why he really likes the town.
DeVellis recently sat down with Foxborough Patch at Loewen's Deli on Bird Street for a Q&A session. We asked about his involvement in town government – he currently chairs the Board of Selectmen – and what he does outside of Town Hall. Here’s what he had to say:
Patch: How long have you been a Foxborough selectman?
James DeVellis: I’m finishing up my first term in May so three years.
Patch: Will you be running for reelection?
DeVellis: I don’t know. That’s the question everyone is asking. I tell you, it’s a heck of a lot more work than I ever imagined. Especially with the stuff that we’ve had recently … casino aside, there’s still plenty that affects everybody … even the power outages. I think I counted 10 or 11 selectmen special meetings during the [power outages last year]. … I run a small business [and being a selectman is] not the easiest the time commitment.
Patch: How’s your first year as BOS chairman going?
DeVellis: It’s going OK. You always hear the negative stuff in the media and people will call you to tell you you’re doing a great job or that you’re not, but overall I think it’s going OK.
Patch: What made you want to be a selectman three years ago?
DeVellis: It really started when I was at a soccer game and one of the player’s mothers came up and asked if I wanted to do the Advisory Committee. At the time I didn’t know what the Advisory Committee was and I thought it was just something you sign up for so I just showed up at the meeting. … I did that for three years and I ended up being chairman the third year [of the advisory committee] and I liked it. I liked dealing with the programs and process. The next natural step with all the knowledge of town government was to become a selectman and have a bigger voice on some of the items that come up.
Patch: What do you enjoy about being a selectman?
DeVellis: Last year it wasn’t much. I enjoy when people come to the selectmen’s table for citizen’s input and get the opportunity to complain or ask for direction. I enjoy working with the different boards and seeing things progress forward.
Patch: What are some challenges as a selectman that has been the most frustrating for you?
DeVellis: When I finish a meeting, I will get a bunch of e-mails or phone calls saying I’m the best selectman ever and will get a bunch calling me the biggest jerk ever. The challenge is trying to find out where the special interests are. What the real issues are and kind of filter out a lot of the background noise.
Patch: What skills and experience do you have that you believe make you a valuable member of the board?
DeVellis: I’m a big advocate of process. In my day job, I’m in front of planning boards and zoning boards giving presentations so I understand how to get things approved and read between the lines on a lot of stuff when you’re doing it.
Patch: Speaking of your day job, what do you do when you’re not chairing the Board of Selectmen?
DeVellis: I run a small civil engineering and land planning business, DEVELLIS ZREIN INC. If you’ve got a development you want built or permitted you come to me and I would get it through the planning board, the conservation commission, the zoning board and design it. I don’t own any of the construction equipment but it’s all site plans and the process.
Patch: How long have you been in civil engineering and what were you doing before?
DeVellis: I started the company 15 years ago. Before that, I spent two years after college in the Peace Corps, a couple of years working in New York and a couple of years in Rhode Island before starting [DeVellis Zrein Inc].
Patch: What do you think is currently missing in town?
DeVellis: Other than a turf field? I don’t know, I will have to think about that question and get back to you.
Patch: What is the single most important issue the town of Foxborough is currently facing?
DeVellis: I’ve spent a lot of time going to [Foxborough’s] Master Plan meetings and the underlining charge is sewer. It has been that way for as long as I can remember. I think we are at the crossroads now. If we are going to get the sewer, it seems like the planning board, the selectmen, the zoning board and the town government are all aligned to get this done one way or the other. … I think that’s the biggest challenge. Sewer opens up a lot of opportunities in the downtown and also for businesses. Without good infrastructure, we are kind of spinning our wheels.
To read more from DeVellis on the town’s need for sewer and a new Town Hall, click here.