Guilford Selectman Louis Federici is running for a second term on the ballot alongside fellow Democratic incumbent Sandra Ruoff, incumbent Republicans Susan Renner and Charles Havrda, and Green Party candidate Justin Paglino.
CT Examiner spoke with Federici, who is also an attorney, about his bid for reelection.
This interview has been edited for clarity.
How did you decide to run for another term on the Board of Selectmen?
I love the town, and I feel I can contribute from the inside in a way that’s helpful, and I feel better being involved than watching from the sidelines. I just completed my first term on the Board of Selectmen, and served three terms on the Board of Finance, so this will be my fifth time running. Before that, I did two terms on the Zoning Board of Appeals, which I absolutely loved. I’ve lived in town for close to 30 years, my kids all grew up here and went to school here, and I have two grandkids in town. I really feel committed to Guilford and want to make it the best it can be, and feel like it’s my civic responsibility.
What are you especially proud of from your time on the board so far?
We’ve done a very nice job managing our debt service. We brought the new high school on board, which was a big obligation for the town, and we’re now past the top of that curve of new debt after many years of rising debt. That situation has improved because we were able to increase the amount of capital expenditures in the general fund. We’ve done a great job collectively building a healthy… people call it a “rainy day fund,” but it’s our unassigned fund balance. It’s an important number for debt rating agencies to evaluate the town. We want to see somewhere between seven and 15 percent, and we’re between ten and 11 percent, so it’s a healthy place to be.
How has the critical race theory debate in the Board of Education campaign affected your perception of local government and politics in Guilford?
This concept, that some people believe that critical race theory is somehow a part of the Guilford High School curriculum… I don’t understand it. I’ve had the occasion to see some of those folks speak, and I’ve looked at their website, and I can’t find any specific examples, it’s just a lot of generalities. I’d like someone to point to a specific instance where some element of this incredibly complicated academic theory found its way into Guilford’s high school curriculum. There are a lot of opinions, but candidly, I don’t think the actual concern has been articulated.
It just strikes me that it’s maybe more than coincidence that this is a topic being discussed everywhere in national news, and now suddenly it’s a problem some folks say they see here in Guilford. Until this campaign started, I never once heard anybody even remotely mention this as a problem. I think this entire issue is just naked politics. Do I think it’s important to have open discussion of issues of concern? Of course. I think everybody should have the chance to identify specific problems, but I think the analysis should start with the facts of an issue, and then everyone can debate. If elected, I’d try to understand if there is a legitimate basis for concern, but it doesn’t affect us directly, it’s really a school board issue.
Has it made you think differently about the voters of Guilford?
No, I think people are entitled to their concerns. The last thing I would ever want to do is tell someone they can’t be concerned about issues they feel are important for their own children and the children of the entire town. I’d just like to hear more specifics, and I think I will, whether these folks are elected or not. I think people will come to our public meetings and will bring up specific incidents of concern, and we’ll see if there’s anything we can do to address whatever specific problem they have with a piece of information in the curriculum.
What are you hoping the Board of Selectmen focuses their work on next term?
One thing in the pipeline that has been of concern to the town, and should be, is our safe streets initiative, and our desire to balance motor vehicle use of our roads with pedestrian and bicycle use. We’re building more sidewalks, and working on calming traffic. A lot of people like to ride bikes in town. I ride one occasionally, and I walk as much as I can. We’re not going to eliminate cars, but we want to make all three forms of transportation as sympathetic with each other as possible, and that’s underway.
The town is also working on housing for ALICE households, which stands for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed, which would be like a first year teacher in Guilford who would not be able to afford, on their salary, to purchase or rent a typical two-bedroom housing unit. We’re developing some housing units and apartment proposals so we have a range of housing options.