KILLINGWORTH – The election hasn’t happened yet, but Republican candidate Nancy Gorski has her first day as First Selectwoman planned out.
First on the agenda is to meet with the health director and DEEP about PFAS and sodium contamination found in wells in town – including at Town Hall. She wants to arrange for a water consultant to offer solutions to people with contaminated wills, and schedule routine testing with DEEP to continue to monitor PFAS contamination, she said.
Next up is the Deer Lake Property – the former Boy Scouts of America camp that’s listed for sale. Whether the town should buy it has been up for discussion, and it’s something outgoing First Selectwoman Cathy Iino has been working on. Gorski said figuring out the next steps would be a top priority in the early days of her administration.
“I’d have a public hearing to serve as a town hall, to see if people are really interested in saving it,” Gorski said.
With the ball rolling on those issues, Gorski said she needs to have another sort of town hall, this time with the town employees – to see what they think is working, and what could be improved in town operations. It’s an essential step for the head of the town who will be responsible for those employees for at least the next two years.
“I want to look over everyone’s job descriptions, make sure they’re growing in their job, what the cadence for their reviews are – employee kind of stuff,” Gorski said.
She wants to move the board of selectmen meetings off of Zoom and into the Middle School cafeteria – an area she says is large enough to allow for social distancing. She knows she’ll need to move quickly to restart the Charter Revision Commission – a charter review is overdue after an earlier attempt was disbanded over procedural issues, she said. She wants draft revisions ready by next summer so residents can vote on the charter in November, she said.
She also wants to start an Economic Development Commission, she said – a group to look at how Killingworth can support its businesses, and attract more business development to town. Meeting with the resident state trooper, the new Region 17 School Superintendent, the town finance director are all on the extensive to-do list.
“It’s a work in progress. Even as I was waiting for you, I’m thinking of what else I need to do,” Gorski said.
Gorski is planning her first months in office because she is confident she will be Killingworth’s first new First Selectman since Iino was first elected 12 years ago. The Killingworth Democrats couldn’t find a candidate to fill the retiring Iino’s shoes in time for this year’s election – leaving Gorski as the only candidate from a major party running for the position.
Killingworth Conservative Party founder John Samperi is Gorski’s only opponent, and she’s confident she can win after Republicans came close to unseating Iino in 2019.
“I can’t count my chickens before they hatch, but I’d like to think that by Nov. 3, Cathy and I can sit down and talk about transition,” she said.
Gorski and her family moved to Killingworth in 1999, and she said she immediately got involved in the community.
“We love Killingworth, it’s one of the most beautiful places in Connecticut,” she said. “It was serendipitous, as soon as we saw what it looked like here, we knew this was the place. And we’ve been here ever since.”
After working on the Killingworth Light Spectacular for many years, Gorski ran for school board as another way to get involved. Later, she ran for the Board of Finance, and then spent one two-year term on the Board of Selectmen. From those positions, Gorski said she learned how the budget process works from both sides, and how it takes a careful balancing act to get both approved each year.
Gorski is expecting some significant capital projects that have been percolating will need to be addressed – whether to build an addition to Town Hall to replace the aging modular units that serve as town offices now and how to update the fire station designed for 1970s-era equipment much smaller than what’s used today.
“To me, there needs to be more urgency with those projects,” Gorski said. “They’ve been lingering.”
In addition to addressing the town’s buildings, Gorski says she will emphasize economic recovery for the businesses in Killingworth. Those would be her two main priorities for using federal aid money that has been coming into towns from COVID relief bills.
While she thinks capital projects and some form of business relief – like grants – would be good uses of the funds, she said she wants to get as much input as possible into how to spend those funds. She’ll wait to see what recommendations come out of the committee tasked with looking into how to spend those funds and work from there, she said.
Gorski said communication will be key with her administration. Along with providing more avenues for people to share their ideas with her in town hall-style meetings, she wants to have more communication from the town to the people – especially regarding any crimes or public safety concerns in town.
“I think it’s important to communicate to the residents what is going on out here, and we need the resident state trooper to start coming into the Board of Selectmen meetings to give us an update on crime and any risks he’s seeing out there,” she said.
Gorski said she doesn’t like how COVID has limited people’s ability to have their voices heard by the town government, and she wants to hold town halls on different topics like capital improvements to get their perspectives on a wider range of issues.
“We need to get to the townspeople more frequently and ask them directly, ‘This is what we’re thinking, tell us what you’re thinking,’” Gorski said.