MADISON — Walking along Forest Hills Drive, a wooded and winding residential road just two miles from Hammonasset State Park, Madison First Selectman Peggy Lyons went door to door, making her case for reelection.
Lyons said it’s different campaigning as an incumbent.
“People now have specific things that they want to ask the incumbent about, rather than just trying to learn who you are,” Lyons said. “Usually it’s positive things, but sometimes it’s not, and then it’s a good way to get a perspective on what problems are affecting voters, and get out of the bubble of just focusing on the day-to-day operational issues.”
Holding back an excited labrador puppy with one hand and opening her door with the other, Madison resident Eileen Wildermann immediately recognized Lyons and told her that she had her and her husband’s support.
When Lyons asked Wildermann whether she had any concerns about the town or anything she’d like to know about, Wildermann asked Lyons whether she had any concerns about the $85 million dollar school building plan that will go to referendum at the end of the year.
“It’s a big expenditure, so while I’m very happy with it, it does mean you’re more constrained with other things you can spend on once you’ve made that commitment,” Lyons said. “But schools and beaches are why people come to Madison, so if we don’t upgrade, we aren’t investing in the town’s future.”
Wildermann, a teacher in Cheshire, said she and her husband were hopeful about the future of Madison’s education infrastructure, and offered to join building committees and offer input on the projects.
“We’re both teachers, and education is our main thing, because we have toddlers,” Wildermann said. “If there’s anything we can do, let us know.”
Wildermann’s two-year-old daughter joined the conversation, saying hello to Lyons and offering up a pumpkin from their front step.
“I have a fourth grader and a seventh grader, so I’ve seen the conditions of the schools myself,” Lyons said. “I’m hoping you guys will have new schools to put your kids through.”
While walking to the next house on the block, Lyons said many parents ask about school issues when she knocks on their door. Madison previously held a referendum on a $34 million project to rebuild Ryerson Elementary School in 2017, which failed by a nearly two to one margin.
“The vote four years ago was incredibly disappointing, and I think people have gotten extremely impatient,” Lyons said. “But unlike four years ago, this is truly a comprehensive plan, where they really took the time to do it right. I get asked about it a lot going door to door, and I really do think it’s going to be great for families here.”
Lyons greeted Madison resident Lisa Coady by introducing herself, and complimenting the bright orange door on her one-story ranch house. Coady asked Lyons if she had considered starting up a compost collection in Madison.
“We’re definitely looking into that,” Lyons said. “We’re probably going to start by offering something at the sump dump so people have somewhere to take compost. Food waste diversion is a big part of the change we’re trying to make, and we’re trying to figure out how to make compost work here.”
Coady said that her husband would be casting his ballot for Lyons, but that she, as a Canadian, could not vote.
“Coming from Montreal, where pesticides and outdoor fires are banned, we’re definitely environmental issue voters,” Coady said.
Lyons said environmental issues have been coming up more regularly with voters in the aftermath of the summer’s storms.
“Everyone recognizes that it’s changing, and people want to know that the town is planning for floods and hurricanes,” Lyons said. “When I came into office, there was no infrastructure planning for coastal resiliency, but now we’re preparing for that.”