Republican John Hall is running for First Selectman of Westbrook, a seat left vacant by the retirement of longtime Republican First Selectman Noel Bishop.
Hall, who has served on the Board of Selectmen for 10 years, is running against Democrat Chet Bialicki, Westbrook High School’s teen leadership coordinator.
Why did you decide to run for Westbrook First Selectman?
I’ve been involved in Westbrook politics for most of my adult life. I was on the Zoning Board of Appeals for 27 years, and have spent the last 12 years on the Board of Selectmen. I knew I’d live my life in Westbrook, and I own properties in town, so taxes are important to me. I like to be involved and keep an eye on things, and keep taxes under control.
As selectmen, we start working on the budget in early January, hear all requests from department heads, and then decide how we want to formulate the budget before handing it off to the Board of Finance. This year, there’s no tax increase, and in the past years they have been minimal, so I think we’ve done a great job keeping taxes affordable for people.
How has your experience as a longtime member of the Board of Selectmen prepared you to lead Westbrook?
I’ve been very involved and worked closely with Noel over the last four to six years, particularly between budgets and all other things. We’ve reformed a few departments in town and made some staff changes, like expanding the police department. We relied on the state resident trooper program for maybe 30 years, and at one point had three resident troopers, but the state has been increasing costs to very high levels, so we’re transitioning to hiring more of our own police officers for more effective, local policing at a lower cost.
You and Noel Bishop have worked closely together, but have there been any situations where he’s made a decision that you would have handled differently?
No, in all of the years I’ve been on the Board of Selectmen, no matter what the composition was, we’ve always worked collaboratively. We may have different ideas, but we always work it out and do what’s best for Westbrook. I’ve said for years that once the election’s over, nobody is with one party or another, we all work for Westbrook. I’m a Westbrook native, and my family came to Westbrook in 1635, so I always keep an eye on what is best for Westbrook in the present and the future.
How would you differentiate yourself from your opponent, Chet Bialicki?
I know my opponent, he’s lived in town a long time and worked in town, but I’ve never worked personally with him on any projects. I’m not sure what his platform is. I think voters will know where I stand on issues and what my record is, so I will let my record speak for itself. When you live in town for 64 years and are active in town government and all kinds of other organizations … I think voters know quite a bit about me at this point. I’m a fiscal conservative, that’s my big thing. Taxes are my number one issue, then public safety, and third, I would put economic development. I always want to keep Westbrook going.
We have an excellent marine industry, a lot of commercial activity in town, a number of restaurants, and I want to see that stay on a positive track and continue to grow. I want to work with potential business folks in town and out of town who want to invest in Westbrook or bring new business into town.
What role do you see national politics or party identification playing in local races like this?
I don’t think national politics play much of a role in local elections and town government. At the town government level, I find when you talk to people, they care about the quality of education in schools, taxes, quality of our roads … things like that are what matter to voters on the local level.
I don’t think national politics plays a very important role in that, because people are voting for the individual and what the individual stands for.