Editorial: Brenda Kupchick for Fairfield first selectman
Fairfield First Selectman Mike Tetreau has been a successful leader for the past eight years, but his tenure has been questioned like never before in recent months. Allegations of bribery, environmental contamination and official neglect have cast a cloud on his administration, and political opponents have been quick to capitalize.
The town’s public works director and public works superintendent were arrested this summer along with Julian Enterprises owner Jason Julian on charges of illegal dumping and kickbacks. It happened on Tetreau’s watch, which makes the first selectman ultimately responsible. But it’s also important to keep the offenses in context, and ensure the public understands any dangers that might have resulted.
Republicans have said public safety is at risk from material from the fill pile that was used elsewhere in town, but health officials have not gone that far. Though the town has remediated some properties out of an abundance of caution, there is little indication that anyone was put in any danger by the alleged criminal activities.
That doesn’t make the episode any less concerning. Republican candidate Brenda Kupchick, who represents Fairfield in the state Legislature, said the Tetreau administration was slow to respond to the crisis, and her criticism has some validity. Whether the episode is enough to justify a change in leadership will be up to town voters to decide, but it’s a serious black mark on Tetreau’s record.
In most other respects, Fairfield remains a thriving town with a bright future. The town recovered quickly from what could have been a devastating blow when General Electric left its longtime headquarters in town for Boston in 2016, and residents were spared a major hit even as the town lost its biggest taxpayer. Furthering the damage was news that Sacred Heart University would take over the GE campus, moving it off the tax rolls.
But Sacred Heart and Fairfield University have been major bright spots for the town, emerging as drivers of economic development and attractions in their own right. The town’s relationship with the two universities will be key to the next four years no matter who is in charge.
Elsewhere, the Metro Center development continues to frustrate, even as buildings have sprouted up around the property to take advantage of the still-new transit stop. While there are limited options for the town to spur development on privately owned land, Kupchick is right that bringing all the parties together to prod some action is the right move for the next first selectman, no matter who wins.
Fairfield voters are lucky to have two choices who have government experience and, despite their differences, the best interests of the town at heart. Though Fairfield has seen many successes in the past eight years, a change at the top would be beneficial to future growth, help spur stalled development and show that leaders must be held accountable for malfeasance that happens on their watch.
The Fairfield Citizen endorses Brenda Kupchick for first selectman of Fairfield.