This year, for the first time in a decade, Fairfield will elect a new first selectman. With change comes opportunity. It's crucial we consider what type of change we want and which people are most qualified to usher in a new era for Fairfield.

We all know the economic environment is much more difficult than it was 10 years ago. Numerous fiscal challenges are ahead of us. We need a first selectman at the helm of the town's $260 million operation with the right experience, skills and leadership ability to guide us through tough times and keep taxes as low as possible.

All the candidates have had much to say on these matters, but when casting your vote on Nov. 8, I urge you to consider each candidate's actions. In my four months as interim first selectman and throughout my many years of civic involvement in Fairfield, I have demonstrated exactly how I will lead and get results for Fairfield.

I have championed a fresh approach to managing our town based on sound business practices, fiscal responsibility, and open and honest communication. Cristin McCarthy Vahey, the highly respected mnority leader of the RTM and candidate for selectman, and I are running as a team dedicated to providing the balanced, thoughtful leadership our town needs.

Financial management

Financial management is my top priority.

Upon discovering the Metro Center cost overruns when I took office in June, I immediately assembled a team to analyze the problems and present a detailed report to the RTM. I then worked closely with administrators and elected officials to develop a cost-effective action plan that was ultimately passed by the board of finance and RTM. I also went to the bargaining table with the state and took a tough stance to get back $3 million for Fairfield's long-awaited third train station, which is now nearing completion. All of this was accomplished while my opponents sat on the sidelines.

My 25 years of management experience, as well as the many years I spent as a project manager, prepared me to handle this potentially disastrous financial crisis.

As a member of the RTM, I chaired the School Project Reimbursement Committee that helped free up several million dollars of state aid due our town. As a member of the board of finance, I led the charge to stop deficit budgeting. Fairfield was routinely planning to spend more than current-year revenues, using our savings to balance the budget. This is not the way to run our town, and I made sure we stopped this fiscally unwise practice.

Partner with school officials

Education is essential to Fairfield's future.

I was fortunate to grow up in Fairfield and attend Fairfield Public Schools, which prepared me well for Princeton University and beyond. Now more than ever, today's children need a high-quality education to thrive in a global economy.

Given that the school budget constitutes over 60 percent of the town budget, it is imperative that the first selectman develop a healthy partnership with the superintendent of schools and board of education. It's our job to work together to maintain high standards for our schools while keeping taxes in check. I have already begun meeting with Dr. David Title, our new superintendent, with the goal of beginning budget discussions much earlier than has been the previous practice.

We should be going to the board of finance and the RTM with a unified voice -- not squabbling over the numbers and our direction. The current five-year financial plan for the town has no school board input into future budget increases; this has to be fixed.

Keep Fairfield affordable

We must keep Fairfield affordable for seniors and all citizens.

All of us know people who are struggling in this economy. I want to make sure that Fairfield remains affordable for everyone, particularly our seniors. I saw my parents forced to leave Fairfield after selling their home of 50 years because they were unable to find an affordable senior-friendly home in our town. We need to provide more services for seniors and find ways for them to stay here if they choose.

Our town has changed dramatically from the small town where I grew up. Still, there is much to admire and appreciate about today's Fairfield -- a vibrant downtown and cultural center, a strong commercial sector with low vacancy rates, one of the best school systems in the state, and wonderful beaches and recreational areas.

I will build on these strengths as we set a new course for Fairfield. There's no question that it's time to rethink how we do business in town hall, re-engage with all of our citizens, and adjust to a new economic reality. Yes, change can be good.

Cristin and I will make the right changes for Fairfield. We are ready to lead. We ask for your vote on Nov. 8!

Mike Tetreau is the interim first selectman and is running for a full term as a Democrat.