Guilford Selectman Charles Havrda is running for re-election on the ballot alongside fellow Republican incumbent Susan Renner, incumbent Democrats Louis Federici and Sandra Ruoff, and Green Party candidate Justin Paglino.
CT Examiner spoke with Havrda about his bid for reelection, thoughts on Guilford’s Board of Education race, and goals for another term.
This interview has been edited for clarity.
How did you decide to run for another term on the Board of Selectmen?
This is going to be my fourth run, and in the first two terms, I was part of the majority, and we got the high school through, which has turned out even better than we anticipated. But I think the [fellow Republican Selectman Susan Renner] and I work well even in the minority. I think we have the respect of the other members, and I generally support a lot of the things that are done, even if I’m probably a little more conservative than the others financially.
I enjoy being on the Board of Selectmen, and I think we’ve been able to work very well together to get some things done and keep things moving along. I have a long history on boards and commissions and have put a lot of time and effort into making this a good place, and I have been concerned at some of the things happening within the party in the town. I have been very concerned that the party here in town was starting to take a fairly hard right turn, and that some of the things being proposed within the party weren’t exactly how I saw things.
Our Board of Education has done a heck of a job keeping the schools safe and strong and within the budget, especially during the pandemic. The group of people the Republican Party ended up nominating for the Board of Education had a different perspective. I’m a fairly moderate person, and I thought protecting what we have here in Guilford was important, so here I am doing it again.
Do you feel that there is a place for you in Guilford’s Republican Party?
It’s a difficult question. I’ve come out not supporting the Republican Board of Education candidates at this point in time, and that wasn’t an easy decision for me, frankly. I believe in conservative ideals, especially financially, but the party has just struggled lately with the influence of national politics. I hate to see Guilford be made an example of some of these far right ideologies. I’m more pragmatic and moderate, and I like to work on the things that affect my neighbors in town.
As far as changing parties, it’s just premature to talk about anything like that. I hope we can come out of this campaign with a good group on the Board of Education side and continue to move forward. The teachers and the Board of Education and the superintendent have all done an outstanding job navigating all of these changes. My wife was a teacher, and still does some substitute teaching even though we pretend we’re retired, so we see the struggles teachers face firsthand. I think we should be proud of our education system in Guilford.
What are you especially proud of from your time on the Board so far?
We’ve been working on so many things here in town, and I think Diversity, Equity and Inclusion is an important subject that we can’t ignore. We have a unique community here, but the problems of the world do come home to roost. It’s part of the conversation on the Board of Selectmen, and on private boards I’m part of, the Regional Water Authority and Guilford Savings Bank. It’s about making sure that people are aware of all opportunities for everybody, making sure we’re being fair, whether that’s transparency on municipal boards or hiring practices on private boards, or expanding operations to make sure we’re not making services difficult or challenging for any group of people to access. It’s just think it’s something that has to be part of our professional and personal lives going forward.
In one personal example, years and years ago when affordable housing was in its infancy here in town, I was of the mind that affordable housing was just a startup opportunity for somebody to get a leg up. But as I did more work, I came to realize that some of these folks, who may not ever have corporate careers and college educations and make hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, were still valuable parts of our community who needed safe environments to raise their families. That lesson I learned about affordable housing has come up for me as we have more apartment projects on the horizon here, and that’s going to change the complexion of the community, but there’s nothing wrong with that.
What are you hoping the Board of Selectmen focuses their work on next term?
I think [First Selectman Matthew Hoey] has a great initiative in the works with sustainability and electric vehicles, and I’d like to see our recycling program expanded. I think we’re doing a good job with general recyclables, because just about every family has incorporated it into daily living, but I think we should think about finding ways to get things families outgrow, like baby strollers, to other families that might need it. I know other communities are developing exchange programs and ways to do that. We’re also going to be doing a lot of work with bringing summer camps and things like that back up to speed, and there’s a lot of opportunity with that.