KILLINGWORTH – Along with the Republican and Democratic parties, Killingworth has a third party — the Killingworth Conservative Party — that is contending for town seats with five candidates on the ballot.
Leading the way for the party is John Samperi, who is running for First Selectman.
“There’s been some bad blood,” he said between him and his Republican counterparts.
Samperi said he’s been a registered Republican for 52 years, but decided to start his own party in 2013 with several other discontented conservatives.
“The Democrats have always owned the Republican party,” Samperi said. “When I was involved we always won.”
The issue came to a head, he said, when the Republican party started endorsing Democrats for offices where the Republicans didn’t have a candidate. For example, in this year’s election, Democrat Donna Dupuis is running for Town Treasurer, but the Republican Party has no candidate to run against her, but have endorsed her to be on the Republican line on the ballot.
“I realized all my hard earned money went to Democrats,” Samperi said. “I’m not going to work for that.”
He said the Republican party reached out to him and Danyyil Spichko to run on the Republican ticket this year.
Spichko made it onto the ballot for both the Republican and Killingworth Conservative parties, but Samperi missed the caucus.
“For some reason they forgot to tell the rest of the body they met with us and agreed to put us on the Board of Selectmen,” he said. “I didn’t get there and some cleaning lady jumped up to be a placeholder. Then she said she’s all in. We had a quick primary and I lost by five votes.”
The “cleaning lady,” he referred to Republican nominee for First Selectman Amy Roberts-Perry, who runs a cleaning business.
“She’s going to get crunched,” he said. “We’re going to outscore her big. This is our best year, no question.”
As for Democrat Eric Couture, Samperi described him as “a weak kid.”
“This year, having my background, I became the most experienced person probably by default,” Samperi said.
Couture has previously served on the Board of Education. Samperi has served as Councilman at Large and as Fire commissioner for the town of West Haven.
“I know budgets and contracts,” Samperi said. “I am the only person with municipal experience. I’ve never changed my philosophies.”
He said this election will be the best year yet for the Killingworth Conservative Party.
“I can’t see anyone in my wildest dreams voting for someone with no experience,” he said. “We’re going to outscore all the Republicans. That’s a given. The question is, will they not give us enough to knock out the young kid?”
Spichko, a Ukrainian immigrant who moved to the United States in 2005, is running for selectman for the first time.
“I became aware of the different problems going on in town and it seemed like there were not too many people doing anything about it,” Spichko said.
Admittedly not fond of politics, he has found a mentor in Samperi.
“Knowing John as long as I’ve known him, he’s the only honest politician I’ve known or heard of,” he said.
With training as an ultrasound technician, Spichko said he has worked with OB/GYNs, people with disabilities, and senior care.
“I have a way of understanding people and where they’re at,” he said. “I get along with everybody.”
Big concerns for both men are managing the town’s spending, and per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, that have contaminated the water in town around town hall, the fire department, and the elementary school.
PFAS, a group of 4,700 chemicals found in cookware, firefighting foam and food packaging, have been linked to high blood pressure, changes in liver enzymes, increased risk of certain types of cancer, and low infant birth rates, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Samperi didn’t give a solution as to how to remove the PFAS from the ground water, but said that clean water can be provided to the town through the local reservoirs that have served towns like Clinton and Old Saybrook.
“Why aren’t we tapping the water to our own filtration system?” Samperi said. “We need clean water here. This seems to be the town in the worst condition. Let’s get water to the center of town and elementary school and all of the surrounding areas.”
“Bottom line is the issue can’t be necessarily solved with just filters,” Spichko said. “That’s not a long term solution. It’s a bandage on a very big problem.”
As for budget issues, Samperi said there’s a big Regional School District 17 Board of Education budget going forward that he believes would create a 10 mill increase to property taxes. The school district covers Haddam and Killingworth.
The proposal, he said, would involve a $130 million school renovation project that would be paid over 10 years.
“If it comes down to replacing the high school, there’s going to be a lot of juggling,” he said. “Those decisions have to be made. I’m the only person who has experience doing that stuff.”
He said that the $130 million proposal will never pass.
“This town is never going to support that,” he said. “Everyone in Beechwood will have to move out, ” referring to an adult living community for people 55 and over.
There are several other municipal projects that are being considered, including a proposed new firehouse.
“What I understand, it’s not necessary,” Spichko said. “It’s an expenditure where people want things, other people may not see it that way. My position is to represent the people of the town. If they don’t wish that to happen, I have the obligation to do so. We need a fire department. Our ambulance is very important. I don’t take that lightly. At the same time, it’s a whole lot easier to spend what’s not yours. When it comes to town budgets the same rules don’t seem to apply.”
Another cost saving measure, Samperi said, is not hiring a new Public Works Director after the current one, Walter Adametz steps down in January.
“I’d rather see four part-timers without the benefit packages and then move two into full time,” he said. “I’m not going to replace the Public Works Director. I can do that job.”
Spichko said that if he takes office, he’d look at smaller spending line items that no one talks about.
“The little things add to a lot,” he said. “The school budget and the firehouse budget, those aren’t the only things.”
As the election goes forward on Tuesday, he said he wishes people would vote for their values.
“To me that seems to be the most important thing,” Spichko said. “If they vote for their values they will get the government they deserve.”
Also running on the Killingworth Conservative Party slate are Cindy Adametz for selectman, and David MIller and John Psenicnik for Board of Finance.