Best bet for GOP? Selectman contenders vie for backing
Selectman Kevin Kiley and challenger Laurie McCardle had a chance Monday to make their pitches to win the nomination from the Republican Town Committee caucus later this month for the November election.
The RTC will meet July 21 to nominate candidates for the fall municipal election, including first selectman. The top slot is expected to go to Representative Town Meeting member Chris Tymniak, the only announced candidate. Prior to the start off the brief five-question forum Monday, Tymniak announced his endorsement of McCardle.
Kiley, the GOP incumbent member of the Democrat-controlled Board of Selectmen, reminded party members of his 22 years of service to the town on the Representative Town Meeting, the Board of Finance and now as a selectmen.
“In 1999, I dusted off a senior tax plan to help our older residents, living on fixed incomes, stay in their homes,” Kiley said. “I’ve sought to properly invest in our schools and make sure every dollar is well spent toward rising student achievement. I led the town through the financial crisis by workin with the Board of Finance to stop spending, cut expenses and keep the town running.”
McCardle, finishing her first term on the Representative Town Meeting, said her experience as a teacher, a small business owner and the parent of four would make her an effective member of the Board of Selectmen.
“Are you and your family better off than you were 14 years ago?” McCardle asked. “As I drive across town and see all the for sale signs, I would have to say no.” She said it is time for a “new approach and new ideas ... I’m ready to work with Chris and all of you to win back the first selectman’s office.”
Asked what they saw as the role of the “minority” selectman, McCardle said she’s not hoping to be the minority selectman — in other words, not the only Republican member. Currently, the Democrats hold the two other seats on the Board of Selectmen — Michael Tetreau as first selectman and Sheila Marmion as the other selectman. “I agree with Kevin, we have to be the voice of the Republicans in the room. We need to question, we need to discuss policy issues,” she said. “I’m not afraid to make waves when I don’t agree.”
Kiley said at most Board of Selectmen meetings, he’s the only Republican in the room, and he said he’s been the GOP voice “time and time again.” He said he’s not afraid to ask the hard questions, citing town pensions and rebuilding the Penfield Pavilion.
But, he added, “You have to be able to work with the people the room.”
The biggest challenge in coming years, Kiley said, is to find the balance between affordability and the town services residents expect. “Everyone has to be able to pay their taxes and stay in town,” he said, adding that tax increases continue to shrink each year. “Can we do better? Yes.”
Kiley said town residents also demand high-quality services.
“I think one of the biggest challenges is we need to have increased accountability,” McCardle said. Town leaders need to contact other municipalities and find out what is working for them, and McCardle said she would use her business experience to “help revitalize economic development in town.”
Kiley said an operational management study funding in the new budget needs to go forward because it will help to identify efficiencies and savings across town. One area Kiley said could be combined between the town and school board is information technology.
“We need to find more revenue sources and grow our grand list,” Kiley said, calling for a new developer for the stagnant Fairfield Metro Center.
“I would say Chris and I are in the process of developing a 100-day plan” for the town, McCardle said, details of which will be revealed during the campaign. She also suggested looking to other towns to see where they have been able to generate more revenue, outside of taxes.
“We need to win this election,” McCardle said. “I think I bring a lot to the table and I think I can bring us to victory in November.”