Preston – This was supposed to be a year of transition in local politics, with 22-year incumbent First Selectman Robert Congdon having announced plans to retire and incumbent school board Chairwoman Jan Clancy and finance board chairman Norman Gauthier not seeking re-election.
It’s also a time when Preston must plan for big changes to come in the near future, with Mohegan Gaming and Entertainment’s plan to develop the former Norwich Hospital property into a major entertainment, recreation, sports and recreation complex.
But the municipal election ballot tells a different story.
With no candidates coming forward to run for first selectman, Republican Congdon announced he would stay for another two-year term. He was cross-endorsed by the Democratic Town Committee. Incumbent Republican Selectman Michael Sinko and Democrat Lynwood Crary also are running unopposed.
Congdon said he was disappointed but not surprised at the lack of interest in running for local office. Congdon said as the town’s future “becomes brighter” with the proposed future development and what could be accompanying complementary development in town, more people will become interested in town government.
But he said the current political climate is not conducive to encouraging people to come forward.
“I think the whole climate at the state and national level has people just fed up with government,” Congdon said. “It’s going to be a fairly difficult of couple years to be involved in local politics if the present budget situation is any indication. And people, young families especially, have less and less free time. Kids are involved in more things.”
The Board of Education not only has no contested seats, but there are not enough candidates to fill the available seats. The ballot states “four to be elected,” but only three names, Democratic incumbent Cindy Luty and Republican incumbent Charles Raymond and newcomer Republican Edward Gauthier on the ballot.
The ballot has 13 individual positions or commission races, and only three are contested, with more candidates than positions. There are two candidates, newcomers Democrat Sandra Allyn-Gauthier and Republican Keith Wucik, in the race for one seat to fill a two-year vacancy on the Board of finance.
But the Board of Finance has no race for its six-year full-term seats, with two candidates for two slots. Current board alternate, Republican Stacey Becker is cross-endorsed by both parties and newcomer Republican Dan Duprey is on the ballot.
The only other contested races are for Board of Assessment Appeals and Zoning Board of Appeals.
The Board of Assessment Appeals has a quirky situation. Incumbent Republican Gregory Moran’s current term doesn’t expire until 2019, but he placed his name on the ballot this year to start what would be a new four-year term to 2021, Republican Town Committee Chairman Norman Gauthier said, to fill out the ballot. He is opposed by Democratic newcomer Nicholas Vegliante. The move will create a new vacancy for the remainder of Moran’s current term expiring in 2019, Gauthier said.
The Zoning Board of Appeals has three candidates for two slots. Two Republicans who are now alternates on the board are seeking regular board seats, Merrill Gerber and Jerry Morales. Incumbent Democrat Lydia Lavoie also is on the ballot.