Election Day: Only the number of votes is unknown
There are 26 names on the ballot for this year’s municipal election, but no one has to worry about not being elected because there are no contested races. In fact, the memberships of two of Wilton’s major boards — Board of Selectmen and Board of Finance — will not change as they now stand.
Voters may cast a ballot for these volunteer public servants on Tuesday, Nov. 5. Each of Wilton’s three polling places will be open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.:
District 1 — Wilton High School Clune Center, 395 Danbury Road.
District 2 — Cider Mill School main gymnasium, 240 School Road.
District 3 — Middlebrook School gymnasium, 131 School Road.
The registrars of voters remind Wilton electors that Miller-Driscoll School is not a polling place. Those unsure of where they should vote may check at the registrars page on the town website, wiltonct.org.
There are no questions on this year’s ballot.
Previous issues of The Bulletin have covered the candidates chosen to serve on the Board of Selectmen and Board of Finance. Selectmen Jim Saxe (R) and Richard Dubow (D) are both up for re-election. Board of Finance Chairman Warren L. Serenbetz and member Jeffrey Rutishuaser, both Republicans, are also up for re-election. Richard Creeth, a Democrat, recently took the seat of Andy Pforzheimer and now stands for that position.
Board of Education
The Board of Education will see a change in membership with the departure of Republican Gil Bray and Democrat Karen Birck, both of whom have served two four-year terms and thus are term-limited. Chairman Bruce Likly has served one term and is on the ballot to serve a second.
The Republican candidate to replace Mr. Bray is Glenn Hemmerlee, a retired retail executive and a member of the Wilton Library board of trustees.
The Democratic candidate to replace Ms. Birck is Christopher Stroup, chairman and CEO of Wilton Re and an operating partner of Stone Point Capital.
The Bulletin reached out to Mr. Stroup to ask his thoughts on issues facing the Board of Education, but because he was traveling in Asia, his opportunity to respond was limited.
Among the main challenges facing the board is the selection of a new superintendent to replace the retiring Gary Richards, he said. What he would like to see in a successful candidate is “demonstrated success in developing teachers and curricula that translates into improved outcomes for students.”
As to questions regarding meeting the needs of both special education students and general education students and possible challenges posed by implementation of the Common Core, he said that once he joined the board he would study the issues and form a position.
Mr. Hemmerlee enumerated several issues facing the board:
• Identifying and bringing on board a new superintendent.
• How and what to do to deal with the Miller-Driscoll facility.
• Adoption and implementation of the new Common Core curriculum.
• How to continue to meet the needs of special education students.
• Maintaining the fiscal discipline necessary so that we do not negatively affect the financial stability of the town of Wilton.
Regarding selection of a new superintendent, Mr. Hemmerlee said he thought Dr. Richards has done “an outstanding job” and planned to meet with the firm conducting the search.
“I think a hard thing to find, but if we could, would be someone who could bring a background in education — run a school district as large as ours — but marry that with some experience in the business world,” he said. “We are talking about running an $80-million business. Some strong financial acumen, along with an excellent communicator, someone who can lay out the objectives in a way that is objective rather than subjective. Someone who can deal more in black and white than shades of gray, but that is hard to do in the education arena.” Still, he said, “that would be an important issue.”
Reining in costs for special education, which are tied up with unfunded state mandates, will be difficult he said, but it is important to try.
“This is not just a Wilton issue,” he said. “It is statewide.” Noting that “every penny of increase in this year’s budget went to special education needs,” he said, “I don’t know if we can continue to do that.” Still, he is committed, he said, to finding “a way to do it not at the expense of our kids.”
Mr. Likly identified hiring a new superintendent as the main issue before the board, followed by implementation of the Common Core and the new teacher evaluation program.
“Relative to finances, I believe that continuing on the path of sharing information with citizens about our school programs and their costs and performance across all aspects of the district will help people develop more informed judgments about the district and its programs and how it invests the funds it is given each year,” he said. “The citizens of Wilton are very pro education, but they are also, especially in these difficult financial times, pro value. Providing additional insight into the district helps highlight the value received for the investments made and helps insure investment in programs that are important to the town now and in the future.”
Of Mr. Hemmerlee and Mr. Stroup, he said, “I’ve met both new candidates for the Board of Education and am thrilled they’ve stepped forward to serve. They each bring with them a wealth of knowledge and experience in working in and managing large organizations, and I think they’ll be quick learners in understanding the complex dynamics of our district and its operations, which includes almost 600 employees, over 4,000 students, 17,000 citizen stakeholders, and an abundance of state and federal regulations.”
The rest of the ballot looks as follows:
Board of Assessment Appeals: There is only one candidate, Republican Frank Oliveri.
Planning & Zoning: There are five four-year terms and two two-year vacancies. The Republicans have nominated Peter Shiue, Sally Poundstone and Joe Fiteni for the four-year terms. The Democrats have nominated Frank Wong and Doris Knapp.
For the two-year terms, the Democrats put up Bas Nabulsi, and the Republicans put up incumbent Marilyn Gould.
Zoning Board of Appeals: There are two four-year terms. The Republican line shows Tim Meyer and the Democratic line shows Brian Lilly.
Republican Al Nickel is running for a two-year term.
Republican L. Michael Rudolph and Democrat Andrew McNee are running for two alternate seats.
Constables: There are five seats open. The Republicans have named incumbents Richard Ziegler, Christopher Gardner and Christopher Dubrowski. The Democrats have named incumbents Deborah McFadden and Bo Mitchell.