The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, September 16, 2005


Attorney Kelly Stringham joins the ConsCom

If multi-tasking is a hallmark of today's young women, the latest appointee to the Carlisle Conservation Commission (ConsCom) fits the mold. A resident of Carlisle from 1999 to 2001, and again starting in the fall of 2004, attorney Kelly Stringham was recommended by the Commission on July 14 and subsequently appointed by the Board of Selectmen to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of Commissioner Tom Brownrigg.

The Mosquito welcomed the opportunity to interview her. Stringham graduated from the University of Utah with a political science and international relations degree in 1992. She and her husband David departed almost immediately for a year in China, where she helped design and teach an English curriculum for medical students and other professionals needing to become proficient in English. In her spare time she conducted "independent academic research on Chinese social values."

Stringham enrolled in Harvard Law School in the fall of 1994. Her extra-curricular activities included editing and contributing to the Human Rights Journal and the Environmental Law Review, plus active membership in the Harvard Mediation Program, Harvard Asia Law Society and the Environmental Law Society. Summer vacations were spent as an associate in a law firm in her hometown of Fairbanks, Alaska and in the Peabody and Arnold law firm in Boston. Among other assignments, she wrote legal memoranda on environmental contamination and land-use cases.

Upon graduation in 1997, Stringham, her husband David and their new baby moved to Pago Pago in the American Territory of Samoa where she was a judicial law clerk to the American Chief Justice. Her major duties involved advising and working with Samoan tribal chiefs who were the traditional non-lawyer judges for their communities, and smoothing relations between the Samoans and the American military.

The Stringhams returned to the States in 1998 and rented a pre-Revolutionary house on East Street. Kelly was again employed by Peabody and Arnold, this time as a private client and tax associate. In 2002 the family again picked up stakes and moved back to Fairbanks, where Kelly was employed as an estate planning associate in a local law firm. Maintaining her interest in land management and environmental law, she also taught a course on public land policy at the University of Fairbanks that encompassed water resources, timber, oil and gas, minerals, wildlife and wilderness law. She admits that the scope of the subject matter was "a bit of a challenge," but the varied backgrounds and interests of her students made them and the course an exciting interlude.

Following a divorce and ready to settle down after all the family's peregrinations, Stringham accepted a position at Wilmer, Cutter, Pickering, Hale and Dorr in Boston in the fall of 2004 and, with her seven-year-old daughter Anna and nine-year-old dog Mocho, settled into a new home on Great Brook Path, Carlisle. She says it is wonderful to get back to jogging on the nearby Great Brook Farm State Park trails, particular favorites being the Stone Row Trail and, in winter, the river trail from Foss Farm to Greenough. Although she describes herself as a marathon runner and has unofficially completed the Boston Marathon and officially placed in the Equinox Marathon in Fairbanks, she is quick to say that preparation for a competition, which requires many hours of jogging through quiet woodland trails, is the part of the sport she enjoys most.

Asked the inevitable question of why she sought the ConsCom position, Stringham says she wants to get more involved in the town and its governance, and ConsCom seemed a good fit. "Carlisle has such an abundance of natural resources, and I want to help assure that its people recognize the value of what we have here and are willing to take care of it." Not surprisingly, she is interested in the commission's ongoing land-stewardship project as "an important step in the right direction."

Stringham emphasized that she has a lot to learn, since she is not knowledgeable about the precise provisions of the Massachusetts Wetland Protection Act. On the other hand, she is confident in her ability to work with the public when and if tough decisions are required. Explaining legal mandates and negotiating compromises are skills she practices daily in her present duties as counsel to individuals, families and family businesses on estate planning, taxation, probate, and wealth accumulation and transfer. "I enjoy the interplay between the law and people, particularly the adversarial and problem-solving aspects," she explained.

Turning to basic legal concepts, I asked Stringham about her approach to the correct balance between individual property rights and community needs. She thought deliberately before replying, "My Alaskan background makes me receptive to the primacy of individual rights and to local over national regulation. However, I am already aware that the institutional and public factors in play here differ from those in my home state. Taking the relevant example of wetland regulation in a suburban setting she said,"Wetlands are a critical public resource, and in that sense common property." She considers herself presently "in a learning mode" and not ready to take any public stance until she sees how things play out before the commission. She was definite about one thing, "At the meetings I have attended [which included a couple of enforcement hearings] the need for increased public education seems obvious."

The interview then turned from political hot potatoes to less weighty matters of hobbies and personal pleasures. Stringham's interests range from rock climbing to harp playing to quilting, but she has a knack for tying together her hobbies and her professional life. For example, while at Harvard, she wrote an article on "Rock Climbing and the Effect of Recreational Use Statutes on Private Landowner Liability." As a youthful 4H Club member and animal lover, she had raised pigs and was an enthusiastic gardener. It is hardly a surprise that she values Carlisle's rural traditions and sense of community. "I'm very happy with the school system and plan to make this my permanent home," she assured me as we closed the interview.

2005 The Carlisle Mosquito