Andreas Bisbikos, a member of the Colchester Board of Finance Member and high school social studies teacher, is the Republican candidate for First Selectman of Colchester.
He is challenging incumbent Mary Bylone, who unseated two-term Republican First Selectman Art Shilosky in 2019, winning with 54 percent of the vote.
The Connecticut Examiner spoke with Bisbikos about what motivates his run, and what differentiates him from his opponent.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
What inspired you to run for Colchester First Selectman?
This is an opportunity to give back to the town that has provided my family everything. My parents left Greece 34 years ago to come here in pursuit of the American dream. I was just two years old, and my parents wanted to make a better life for me and my sister, so they settled in the town of Colchester. They established a successful small business, Colchester Pizza, and encouraged my education through the Colchester Public School system.
I’m running because I want to give back to this community, and because I understand the importance of collaborating with individuals and communicating with people successfully, and I don’t think the current first selectman has the interpersonal skills to do that.
What makes your communication style different from the current first selectman?
The current first selectman has made town hall toxic, and has been described as a bully. There have been a few times where things have gotten out of hand. For example, last year, she told the chair of the Board of Finance to grow a pair when he was seeking information to clarify a decision on a particular issue.
Anybody who attempts to offer suggestions or challenge her ideas has been met with retaliation or extreme resistance, and her tone and demeanor has not been productive. On Zoom, when citizens ask her questions, she’s been very mean towards them. I’m a teacher, and I know how to bring people together, and I think Colchester could be better with a leader who has a bigger heart.
What experience have you gained from your time on the Board of Finance that you feel prepares you to be first selectman?
I’ve been on the Board of Finance for six years, and I have the most fiscally conservative record on the board. I’ve been a strong advocate for fiscal responsibility and low taxes, and I understand the numbers. I believe that my experience on the Board of Finance is going to make me very good at crafting budgets and trying to aim for zero tax increase each year.
The current first selectman pushed for an overall five percent tax increase, and I can’t get behind that, especially during a pandemic. Last year, she was advocating for a salary increase while a third of our state was unemployed. I will not take a salary increase for the first two years in office, and in fact, I’m interested in reducing the salary of the first selectman. I think a lot of citizens were unhappy with the proposed salary increase, which is part of why our budget has had so much tension.
There’s a lack of trust with our first selectman, and I believe our budget challenges were partially a reflection of that.
How do you plan to go about minimizing tax increases for Colchester residents?
If elected, I will immediately do a top to bottom review of each department, and identify places where we can save. I believe we can strategically use the federal funding coming to our community to ease the tax burden on our residents.
We also have revenue coming in from Bloom Energy, the California-based fuel cell supplier. I want to usher in a new era of clean energy and bring even more revenue into Colchester, since seeking new revenue streams would be very beneficial to our community.
My opponent was actually against Bloom Energy coming into Colchester, it was her Republican predecessor that brought Bloom Energy here.
To what degree does political party matter in this race, and from your perspective, in local politics in general?
Every party has a base that they have to appeal to, but when you get into a local campaign, you should spend less time creating labels to define an opponent because of their political affiliation, and more time offering solutions to the challenges facing our community.
I’m very humbled by the overwhelming support I’ve already received from the community, and that support has come from across the political spectrum. Upon entering the first selectman race, I’ve had many Democrats confide in me that they will be voting against their own party and supporting me. I also know that my Republican base is fired up, which was evident in the caucus, but I believe it’s important that regardless of party, we find a way to unite the community. There has been a lot of division, and I think we can do better.