CLINTON – As local elections fast approach, Democrats are centering their campaigns around developing the downtown area and a revision of the town’s Plan of Conservation and Development, while Republicans are focusing on the budget and mental health programs for young adults.
“We’re working hard to try to maintain an effective budget without growing the budget,” Republican Town Committee Chairman Wayne Buchanan told CT Examiner. “We’re working hard to address some of the issues that are front and center with the people of Clinton.”
Those include funding a new senior center and supporting young adults with mental health issues like depression, suicide and addiction, he said. The party is running three incumbents for the Town Council – Chairman Chris Aniskovich, Dennis Donovan and Carol Walter.
Clinton transitioned to having a Town Council government with a town manager two years ago, Buchanan explained, adding that Republicans have done a great job within the structure.
Republicans, who hold a 4-3 majority on the council, have been working closely with Town Manager Karl F. Kilduff to keep Clinton’s budget growth manageable, Buchanan said.
“Our candidates running for Town Council deal with it every day,” he said. “We want to be as transparent as possible with budget issues.”
Meanwhile, Democrats hold a 4-3 majority on the Board of Education, which has three open seats this election cycle. Republicans are running two candidates – incumbent Catherine Staunton and Lawrence Pilcher, a retired attorney and substitute teacher.
“I think we want to support and maintain the traditional values of our education system,” Buchanan said. “Certainly education is a concern. It’s like 80 percent of our town budget. We want to maintain and control the growth of the budget, manage effectively the growth of the budget. We could only seat two Republicans. I think we have a great chance for that.”
Other Republican candidates include Ed Albarino, Adam Moore and Dylan Walter for the Planning and Zoning Commission, and former First Selectman Bruce Farmer and David Carroll for the Police Commission.
Clinton Republicans have been going through a difficult transition, Buchanan said, after the recent death of the previous chair, Brendan Saunders.
“He was a wonderful guy,” he said. “He passed away suddenly. It’s been a bit of an adjustment jumping into the election season without him. We’re working hard to stay with his vision and move forward.”
Buchanan’s Democratic counterpart, Paul Gebauer, recently took over as chair for the Democratic Town Committee as well.
The first thing he did when he took the position last year, Gebauer said, was call Buchanan.
“We’re both the captains of the teams,” he said he told Buchanan. “Let’s do this nice. … They all … want their version of what they think is best for the town. We’re the minority now and we’re working to be the majority. We all want what’s best. It’s just making Clinton a better town.”
For Gebauer, the focus is on developing downtown Clinton.
“It needs attention,” he said. “There’s not much going on. We don’t have a Main Street. Downtown is a high priority.”
The two Democratic nominees for Town Council are incumbent Hank Teskey and Brian Roccapriore.
“We’re happy with our 10 candidates,” Gebauer said. “We think our candidates are better. We’re working hard. We want to flip the majority from Republican to Democrat, and work with the town manager, and give him direction to get some good stuff done. I know most of the stuff on the council, they fundamentally agree. We want to get the most out of the town manager.”
The Planning and Zoning Commission is also very important, he added. Democratic incumbent Zack Plourd and Jay Mandell are currently running for commission seats.
Democrats currently have four full members on the commission and two alternates, while Republicans have four full members and one alternate. The Green Party also has one full member.
“We have to come up with a Plan of Conservation and Development,” Gebauer said. “That’s due in two years or so. Now’s the time to start drafting that.”
As for Clinton’s school system, he said he’s very happy with the district and has a lot of faith in Superintendent Maryann O’Donnell and the Board of Education.
Running for reelection to the school board are incumbents Jason Adler and Alan Samet.
“They brought us through COVID,” Gebauer said of the board and O’Donnell. “It was hard, but they did an amazing job. It’s a hard job being a teacher. They deserve every penny they get. As a parent, I trust the superintendent’s process. I know everybody on the Board of Ed and they’re doing an amazing job. There’s no partisanship. They work well together. Nothing but great things to say about the schools.”