Running mates in the spotlight at debate finale
Political newcomer and Independent Party candidate for selectman Deanna Polizzo reminded the audience at the Fairfield League of Women Voters forum Thursday that she was not like her two opponents -- Republican James Walsh and Democrat Cristin McCarthy Vahey.
"I have no party loyalties or favors that I owe," said Polizzo, a real estate agent. "I'm just a regular taxpayer like the residents of Fairfield and I'm willing to step up."
Walsh is an incumbent on the board and Vahey has served on the Representative Town Meeting, most recently as minority leader.
The candidate forum, which took place in Fairfield Ludlowe High School, also included a debate by the selectmen candidates' three running mates running for the job of first selectman. It was the final candidate debate for the local election season; balloting is set for Nov. 8.
Polizzo said she wouldn't vote on items "because I have friends I owe favors to ... I'm one of you," she told the audience.
Walsh took exception to Polizzo's remarks. "I've never vote-traded in my life," he said. "I've always voted with my heart and what I thought was the right thing to do for this town."
"I've enjoyed doing the job I've been doing for over a year and a half," Walsh said, "ever since taking over for our late Selectman Ralph Bowley. I think I've asked the tough questions that needed to be asked."
A lawyer with a financial background, Walsh was on the RTM before taking a seat on the Board of Selectmen.
For Vahey, the decision to make the move from the legislative body to the Board of Selectmen is based partly on the fact that the RTM is the last town body to act on legislation. That can be frustrating, she said, adding that she wants the opportunity to help shape issues at the outset. Now a stay-at-home mother, Vahey said her social work experience has proven useful in dealing with others in town government. "I'm also one of you," she said. "We're all one of you and we each come with a different perspective."
Vahey said Fairfield's greatest asset is its people, and its biggest liability is the economic climate. "Economic insecurity is something we must face," she said, and be aware of as the next town budget is crafted. "We certainly have the ability to improve our process and how we run our government.'
She said the role of the Board of Selectmen is "to create a vision and a plan and set the direction for our town."
Polizzo said when she first moved to town what impressed her was Fairfield's sense of community, and its wonderful resources and school system.
"I've been a member of this town 18 years and I've seen things that have made me proud and other things that have left me horrified," Polizzo said. "We've become entrenched in policies and procedures. There haven't been a lot of new thought processes."
Walsh, a lifelong resident of Fairfield, agreed that the town's people are its major asset, and noted the volunteerism that can be found at every level.
Something he would like to see change, he said, is the four-year term for the first selectman and selectmen. Walsh said he feels the tenure should revert to two-year terms. "I don't think this has been a good experiment," he said, and suggested a need for charter revision to limit the power of the first selectman "a little bit."