NEWINGTON – Building projects, economic development and taxes are the divisive issues steering the 2019 municipal election for Town Council and Board of Education.
Rounding out the Republican Town Council slate are incumbents Tim Manke and Gail Budrejko, both seeking a third term.
“Myself and the others on my team have been listening, so there weren’t any surprises about what residents are concerned about,” Budrejko said, adding that rises in spending have left many families challenged financially.
Newcomers include Mike Camillo, owner of West Hill Automotive, and John Donahue, president of Newington Community Television.
“I can’t afford to live in Newington anymore if things don’t change and I’m sure that’s the same case for many other residents,” said Camillo, who is currently serving on the Town Plan & Zoning Commission and among a group of residents embattled in a lawsuit with the town after a budget increase to the Town Hall Project.
Republican and former councilor Dave Nagel served five terms but lost the 2017 election.
“I never lost my interest in the town and my desire to serve,” Nagel said. “I bring experience to the table; I have always tried to be forthright with people, listen and act upon their concerns.”
Democrats’ “Newington Forward” campaign slogan has some republicans concerned.
“We need people who are going to put spending and debt on a sustainable path for the future,” Budrejko pointed out. “We have to move Newington forward but the fiscal impact is just as important as the vision itself.”
Democrats have endorsed incumbents Carol Anest, Diana Serra and Chris Miner for council seats.
“We need to continue to move Newington forward and I am confident that we can continue to do this as long as we work together as a council and community and not for personal gain,” Anest said. “We need to continue to focus on our infrastructure, our schools and services to make our community the first choice for residents looking for a new home.”
For Serra one highlight her last two terms was supporting the school board’s efforts to staff the STEM Academies.
“In my first term as the minority party we were unable to accomplish our goals; as a result our town remained stagnant,” she said. “In my second term we were able to start moving our town forward and I’d like to see it continue.”
Miner is a 12-year active member of the Newington Volunteer Fire Department and former plan and zoning commission member hoping to implement a shared services approach if elected for a second term.
“I’d like to look at ways of reducing redundancies to create better efficiencies,” Miner said. “I would also like to continue the progress we’ve made over the last two years... it takes time to accomplish any long term goals.”
A newcomer to the slate is Timothy Zapatka, a state employee and 1995 graduate of Newington High School. Sharon Braverman, a 12-year school board member, now hopes to bring her experience and creative outlook to the council.
Board of Education
Running for the school board are Democrat incumbents Michael Branda, Emily Guion and Cindy Stamm, along with newcomers Sam Sharma and Jessica Weaver. Republicans include Bob Tofeldt, Paul Vessella and Steven Silvia, along with newcomers Bruce Fletcher and Beth Hutvagner-Manke.
Sharma, 48, founded educational nonprofit Global Study Treks. A Harvard University alumnus, he would like to create a program for Newington students initiating collaborative learning opportunities with the Ivy League school.
“I want to ensure our students have necessary skills to successfully compete for jobs in today’s global economy,” Sharma said. “Instead of raising taxes on hardworking town residents to fund education, I will cut education costs by raising funds through meaningful public-private partnerships and corporate sponsorships.”
Weaver, 21, is a town native who spent the last several years working on educational policy at the state and federal levels. She’s currently finishing a masters’ in public policy at the University of Connecticut, with a focus on K-12 education spending.
Fletcher, 63, has over 32 years of experience in education and wants to put it to good use.
“I’m concerned with bringing our school buildings up to date,” he said. “I think both sides have to be open and consider what we have for revenue and what the needs are.”
Silvia is just wrapping up his fourth year on the board and would like to finish what he started.
“Prior administrations were directing available funds the town provided for material things like buses and Smart Boards and lost their focus on what the students really needed, but we have a new superintendent whose objectives are more in line with the board,” Silvia said. “I want to follow through to make sure we’re delivering on our promise.”
As the current vice chair, Guion is proud of the board’s accomplishments over the last several years and plans to continue making headway on new initiatives if re-elected.
Erica Drzewiecki can be reached at 860-801-5097 or firstname.lastname@example.org.