League of Women Voters to focus on different forms of government

Bloomfield Town Manager Philip Schenck will discuss different types of town governments in Connecticut during the Wilton League of Women Voters’ lunch meeting on Thursday, Oct. 8.
A brief business meeting and light lunch will take place at 11:30, followed by Schenck’s presentation at 12:30.
“I will be discussing different forms of government — what we already have in Connecticut and what are available to communities,” said Schenck, a former Wilton resident. “Wilton has the typical New England model — a first selectman and a town meeting.”
Under Connecticut’s Home Rule Act, municipalities may adopt their own local charters and choose their own government structures.
Schenck said the type of government a municipality adopts “depends upon how the community views itself.”
“Each town evolves at its own pace based on situations in the community,” he said.


Schenck said the council-manager form of government is “the most popular form in the United States for communities under 50,000 [residents]” and one that he advocates for and has worked in.
“This model started about 100 years ago as part of the Progressive Movement during the Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson administration. It’s modeled after a corporate government structure,” he said.
“The town manager, town administration, chief administrator — whatever a town chooses to call it — is similar to the superintendent of schools, who is appointed by a governing body in a community,” said Schenck. “In Wilton, that’s the Board of Selectmen.”
That person “manages the non-education part of the community” like planning, development, recreation and leisure services, and health, said Schenck, and reports to the municipality’s governing body.
Schenck said there are about 45 towns in Connecticut that have “something similar to the council-manager form” of government.
In this form, the use of a town manager takes politics out of town projects, said Schenck, and turns them into administrative processes rather than political ones.
“It doesn’t take a Democrat to fix pothole; it doesn’t take Republican to fix a pothole — you just need someone who can fix a pothole,” said Schenck.
“You can often get more done by putting the partisan political side out of the way.”
As for other forms of town government, Schenck said he has seen over the years that “the strong mayor form tends to be one that leads to more drama [and] less rational decision making.” In other words, he said, “more politics are involved.”

A resource

At the League of Women Voters’ meeting, Schenck said, he will be there “as a resource.”
During his presentation Schenck will address questions like:

  • Which types of town government are most efficient?

  • What’s the difference between a town manager and a first selectman?

  • Do all Connecticut towns require that their town meetings approve annual budgets?

  • What are model practices for Connecticut municipalities?

Not only will his presentation cover the pros and cons of different types of government, Schenck said, but will also allow residents to “make judgment of whether Wilton needs, in terms of tweaking and changing, to make its government more efficient or effective.”
The Wilton League of Women Voters’ meeting will take place at Trackside Teen Center, 15 Station Road, and is open to the public with reservations in advance.
Click here  to RSVP and learn more about the meeting.