Voters Guide: 2017 Municipal Election
On Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 7, Wilton voters will go to the polls to choose the town’s next board and committee leaders. This voters guide is presented as a service of The Wilton Bulletin, which encourages all citizens to exercise their right to vote. Click here to see a sample ballot.
Wilton’s three polling places will be open from 6 a.m to 8 p.m. on the day of the municipal election:
- District 1 will vote in the Clune Center at Wilton High School, 395 Danbury Road.
- District 2 will vote at the Cider Mill School gym, 240 School Road.
- District 3 will vote at the Middlebrook School gym, 131 School Road.
Click here for a voter look-up service and a map of Wilton’s district division .
Board of Selectmen
Question: The town is looking at less money from the state, sluggish real estate values, and more possible building expenses. What is the best way to respond to in terms of the town’s budget?
Deborah McFadden (D)
1A on ballot
We need to have a sense of urgency in addressing our economic development, so that Wilton continues to be attractive to businesses and families alike. Wilton must both increase income and curtail costs. Updating our Plan of Conservation and Development with citizen input will be a key component.
We must increase revenue by growing the grand list, with economic development sensitive to our history of open space and historic preservation. New kinds of growth — for example, multi-use development in town center — should be considered. Promoting our town to investors is essential. It is also time to review user fees for town services and to seek appropriate grants.
All of this begins with fiscal responsibility and budget scrutiny. This means not only trimming budgets, but also looking for ways to share services between schools and town government. A review of purchasing is warranted. Regionalization of services should be considered, in cooperation with other municipalities where appropriate, as well as a study of how other towns like ours have overcome similar economic challenges.
Biography: Deb McFadden, a 20-year Wilton resident, is a past member of the Board of Selectmen, Security Task Force and Trackside besides many local volunteer organizations. She serves on the Norwalk River Valley Trail board and as chair of the DTC. Deb has been a Wilton Constable and a member of the Electoral College.
Joshua S. Cole (R)
1B on ballot
In today’s current fiscal climate, I believe that the town needs to attack the budget issue on multiple fronts. Unfortunately, there is no one simple solution. We need to continue to keep spending in check for non-essential services, make cuts where appropriate where essential town services will not be compromised, further investigate opportunities for shared administrative expenses between different town departments, and continue to explore possibilities for the consolidation of services with neighboring towns. We also need to recognize that budget cuts alone will not be sufficient to solve the problems we face.
Dysfunction in Hartford has left Wilton and other towns on their own, and responsible for the state’s failure to properly plan. Everyone will tell you we need solutions, but what can we do? I believe we need to: expand on existing programs for town events that drive visitors and support our local businesses; encourage the growth of our town’s grand list through responsible development that does not negatively affect the history and character of our town; consider and develop new revenue streams that attract tourism, film, and other uses of our beautiful scenic town; compile presentation packages for various types of business so that when opportunity knocks, we are ready to answer; and conduct a review of town-owned properties to determine where, if at all, a public- private partnership would be appropriate, perhaps leading to an active recreation facility, arts venue, housing or business enterprise, or another opportunity that might benefit the town.
Biography: My wife and I moved to Wilton 10 years ago, and have two children under 6 years of age. I am a practicing real estate, lending, and commercial finance attorney, chair of the Zoning Board of Appeals, and served on the Board of Selectmen subcommittee to choose new town counsel.
Lori Bufano (R)
2B on ballot
Due to increasing pressures from our state fiscal situation, Wilton will require respectful thoughtful leaders to work as a team in a non-partisan manner to deal with the budget crisis. I will be one of those leaders. Every opportunity must be investigated for possible cost savings. This fiscal year we have already identified more than $200,000 in savings by improving internal efficiency.
Vacancy review should continue to occur as we have obtained savings from shared management in the Facilities and Finance Departments. Each open position should be discussed and looked at for greater efficiencies. Contract negotiations and purchasing practices are also key areas of opportunity.
Grand list growth must accelerate in order to have impact on our property tax revenue. Interest is growing from developers and recognizing this the Plan of Conservation and Development has been accelerated. With input from our citizens, it will become our roadmap for future projects.
Increasing revenue is also an integral part of the solution. Projects such as stadium advertising will generate dollars needed for future repair and replacement thus lessening the burden on the town.
The current fiscal crisis must force us to have discussions about what services we value and those that can be reduced. There must be a balance between controlling costs and maintaining our town character. A focus on cost savings and restraints, while maintaining quality of services will continue to be in the forefront of my decision-making.
Biography: Currently serving on the Board of Selectmen. I have experience on ZBA and P&Z commissions. I graduated from Wilton High School and have a BA from Villanova University and an MBA from the University of New Haven. I am employed by Yale New Haven Health System in the Corporate Supply Chain Department.
Al Alper (Petitioning candidate)
1C on ballot
With Hartford in turmoil and no end in sight, and their looking to “wealthy” towns like ours to pay for their failures, there is no immediate or short-term panacea for the budget crisis we face here in Wilton.
Wilton has to solve its own spending and grand list problem; this is something I have advocated for during my eight years on the Board of Finance, and my votes demonstrate that.
As selectman, I will move policy on two fronts to bring Wilton’s taxes and budget in line with what our community can afford and to make Wilton competitive again.
To realize short-term cost savings I will promote efficiency, shared services and budget transparency. Lynne [Vanderslice] and the board have begun this, but the fiscal crisis is outpacing their efforts. My experience will accelerate and expand the process to include the largest and most expensive items in the budget.
Long-term solutions are actually easier to achieve but will take many years to impact the budget and reduce the tax burden. This includes forming a working group made up of members of the Boards of Selectmen, Finance, Education and Planning and Zoning to evaluate and consider different zoning changes to expand commercial opportunities and increase densities. This group would evaluate each iteration through the lenses of the character of the town, the impact and costs on town and school services, and the expected increased grand list/additional tax revenue.
We would then have the information to foster growth and revitalize our community.
Biography: My wife, three children and I have lived in Wilton for 16 years. I’ve served on four boards spanning 13 years including SWRPA, ZBA, P&Z and Board of Finance, and as a committee chairman for nearly 10 years. I’m a local business owner who lives, works and plays in Wilton.
Board of Education
Question: With less money likely coming from the state and continued predictions for declining enrollment, what is the best way for the school district to respond in terms of its budget?
Deborah Low (D)
6A on ballot
The BOE’s challenge is to budget within serious fiscal constraints while still meeting district needs.
Meeting the challenge starts with rigorous management. This requires ongoing review of operational practices with an eye towards greater efficiency. Also, Board members must search for creative cost-savings including collaborating with the town (as has been done with the facilities and finance departments). Working with neighboring districts, we could investigate possible shared service agreements and purchasing contracts that might lower costs.
The challenge also requires budgeting with a sharp focus - choose limited, clear annual educational initiatives and ensure their efficient implementation. In addition, fiscal restraint is helped by long term planning for enrollment and capital needs, forecasts, and data analysis. It takes good information to make wise decisions about limited resources.
Through this, the Board must fulfill its educational mission. This requires commitment to continuous improvement. Like other professions and businesses, change is rapid and best practices evolve. Although tempting to halt new work in difficult times, this creates a backlog of needs. If we postpone improvement, we fail to do our best for current students and we face untenable increases in the future to catch up.
Fiscal responsibility ultimately means protecting our investment. Wilton’s reputation for excellent schools was built over decades of careful work and thoughtful expenditures. Our school system is a major reason families move here and a determining factor in home values. I support targeted, steady, and well-researched investments to protect our tradition of educational excellence.
Biography: Deborah Low is a long time Wilton resident and former educator with 38 years experience. She was Ridgefield Superintendent for 8 years. Before that, Deborah worked 20 years in Wilton including as WHS Principal and Assistant Superintendent. Deborah serves on the Social Services Commission. She is the mother of two Wilton graduates.
Gretchen Jeanes (D)
7A on ballot
If enrollment continues to decline, and if Wilton’s funding from the state is drastically reduced, the BOE budget may need to be reduced, but any cuts must be made smartly, in non-essential services, and I believe that is possible.
During my career I have worked with multi-million dollar budgets and know that you need to look at every line item, dig into every expense and prioritize needs to figure out where costs can be cut. We should also develop revenue opportunities to offset expenses, including maximizing WHS field house and Clune Center rentals, and thinking outside the box for new ideas as the group who secured advertising for the WHS stadium has just done. We should also think strategically and plan beyond this school year by developing 3-5 year financial forecasts.
Biography: Gretchen Jeanes is a consultant in corporate design and construction in NYC. She is a real estate agent with William Raveis. Gretchen has two girls in the Wilton Public Schools, in the fourth and sixth grades. She has served on exec boards with PTAs and serves on the Miller-Driscoll Building Committee.
Andrea Preston (R)
6B on ballot
Wilton is facing some significant challenges that will no doubt put a strain on the school budget. Important to recognize though, is that there is no quick and painless way to address these challenges. Enrollment is a good example.
While declining enrollment projections should certainly be considered during the budget process, it’s important to keep in mind that we’ve seen expansion and contraction in enrollment in years past. Just this year, we had 70 more students enroll in our schools than had been forecast. We need to be careful that decisions aren’t based on knee-jerk reactions that could ultimately have a negative impact on our students.
Instead, we need a more pragmatic and thoughtful approach that will preserve the excellence of our schools while putting the least amount of pressure on taxpayers. A good place to start will be to continue to identify opportunities to share costs between the Wilton schools and town government, and with other districts. Examples of this can already be found, including shared headcount between the Board of Education and Town Hall.
We must continue to look for greater efficiencies, and leverage our buying power to potentially control utility, transportation and health care costs.
As a member of the Board of Education, I will work tirelessly to protect our town’s greatest asset – our schools. But as a resident and taxpayer, I will ensure that every dollar is spent wisely, and that Wiltonians receive good value for their investment in our schools.
Biography: I moved to Wilton in 1999 and have a daughter who is a sophomore at the high school. I’m a public relations consultant and have vast town experience. I’m a P&Z commissioner and member of the SIMM study committee. I’ve also served on the ZBA and WPCA.
Glenn Hemmerle (R)
7B on ballot
The annual development of a budget for the school system is no easy task. It is driven by a number of factors, enrollment projections, contractual obligations for the personnel, state mandates and funding particularly related to special education, our guidelines for class sizes and the need to continue to move forward in achieving our vision for Wilton schools.
All of the above come into play when developing the budget along with the awareness of the fiscal realities faced by the town and the impact our spending has on the property taxes faced by our citizens.
Enrollment plays a large part in our planning. On a regular basis we retain the services of an outside firm to give us guidance regarding our enrollment projections. Many factors are taken into consideration in their work but as we saw this year these numbers are not perfect and only serve to guide us in our planning. We are currently going through a review of our guidelines for class sizes and will make adjustments where they make sense, always keeping in mind what is in the best interest of our students and teachers.
Our associates are covered by union contracts that are negotiated for a period of time and these agreements must be honored. Our efforts over the past few years have delivered contracts that are extremely competitive when compared with other systems in our area. Keep in mind we are clearly in competition with surrounding school districts in attracting the best possible teachers and staff.
Biography: I am a retired executive having been CEO of several international companies. Louise, my wife, and I are 13-year residents of Wilton and parents to two children who are graduates of Wilton schools. I am a member of the Board of Education and Wilton Energy Commission, and co-chair of the Miller- Driscoll Building Committee.
Board of Finance
Question: Please tell us why you are running for this seat.
Richard Creeth (D)
3A on ballot
My top priorities are to keep property tax increases to a minimum while making sure that essential services do not suffer. This entails encouraging the Board of Selectmen and the Board of Education to strive for ways to maintain or improve the quality of service without increasing costs.
Biography: Lived in Wilton for 25 years with wife Margaret. Three sons went through the Wilton school system. Served eight years Board of Selectmen and four Board of Finance.
Stewart Koenigsberg (R)
3B on ballot
Jeffrey Rutishauser (R)
4B on ballot
I am running for re-election to the Board of Finance to continue the emphasis of controlling the town’s operating expenses and tax increases. This will involve finding ways to deliver town services more efficiently. A major challenge in the coming years will be handling anticipated cutbacks in state aid.
Biography: My wife, Jennifer and I have lived in Wilton for 26 years and have three children, all of whom graduated from Wilton Public Schools.
Planning & Zoning Commission (Full term)
Question: What kind of development, if any, do you see in Wilton’s future? How would any new development improve the town’s quality of life?
Eric Fanwick (D)
10A on ballot
We need to create zoning laws that encourage new development in the proper areas of town while maintaining the historic nature of the town. This means looking at the Plan of Conservation and Development and maybe even having regulations that encourage old historic homes with new setback and coverage while at the same time loosening them in the commercial areas of town.
Also, we need to do a better job on the affordable housing issue so developers can’t use it as a weapon in town. And we need to listen and encourage all to participate in this process.
Biography: Senior Systems Analyst at Orthonet, married with four children. BA economics George Washington University, MS computer science Pace University. Served a full term on ZBA, finishing second appointment on the Water Pollution Control Authority.
Doris Knapp (D)
11A on ballot
I feel it would be important for Wilton to encourage more mixed-use development which could make Wilton more attractive to families of all ages, both with and without children, thus improving the quality of life.
For example, there could be places in Wilton Center as well as in the strip shopping center across from Gateway Shopping Center where developments that have retail on the ground floor, business on the second floor and residential on the top floor would be an asset both to the commercial and the residential communities. This would increase the tax base as well as offer a variety of business and residential opportunities to current and future citizens.
Biography: I am a 45-year resident of Wilton, who is presently serving as secretary of the Planning & Zoning Commission. This is my 10th year on the commission, spread over two terms. I am an attorney specializing in Child Protection law.
Peter Shiue (R)
10B on ballot
There are two types of development that I see as being critical to the continued vitality of Wilton, the first being an overall increase in commercial development to mitigate the tax burden on homeowners and the other being the addition of diverse housing that will allow our aging resident population to remain in town as well as encourage potential younger residents to move here.
As we continue to contribute to the state’s coffers without receiving equitable funding from the state in return, we need to look to other sources of revenue to make up the difference. For example, the proposed cut of $462,382 in education funding to Wilton would result in the complete elimination of any contribution from the state to our schools, and this is after two consecutive years in which we had to already absorb significant reductions.
To mitigate the tax burden that state funding cuts such as this would place upon Wilton homeowners, we need to expand our commercial tax base by supporting the development of new commercial projects and encourage the leasing of existing available commercial space. We might be able to make progress towards achieving these goals by simply reviewing whether any of our existing zoning regulations have unnecessarily hindered this type of activity.
Also worth noting, although not under the purview of P&Z, is that several other towns and municipalities in Connecticut attempt to attract new qualified commercial tenants by offering personal property tax abatements, which step up to 100% over five years.
Biography: Resident of Wilton since 2005. Served on ZBA from 2006 to 2012 and on P&Z since 2012. I received my BA from the University of Chicago and an MBA from UConn. Senior broker at Colliers International working in commercial real estate since 1997. My wife Vivian (WHS ’91) and I have twins in the first grade at Miller-Driscoll School.
Sally Poundstone (R)
11B on ballot
Christopher Pagliaro (R)
12B on ballot
My architectural career has been based on my ability to listen and assess, and to creatively think beyond the limits of satisfactory. It starts with the proper analysis of a site’s given features, the identification of the questions, finding unrealized opportunity. That is design. Good town planning is no different. Wilton is our home — we chose to live here for a reason. But like an old home, some things change over time, our needs slightly change, and we may choose to renovate as necessary to accommodate.
The upcoming POCD will be an important guideline that may impact decades. Where do we want to go, and how will it shape us, from housing-to-retail-to-social lives-to-tax base. We must work to find where we can live as empty nesters, how to attract the next generation. I believe we must protect our assets while finding ways to create diversity in housing. How can Wilton be shaped by planning, not arbitrarily upsetting each other for the sake of dire need or tax base. People equal success to retail, which equals success to a community. Whereas a successful commercial tax base is necessary, medical offices aren’t supporting stores and restaurants — a community of people do.
My goal as a member of P&Z will be to think, plan, create — to challenge the POCD consultant with the right questions, extracting their expertise through my own, through the desires and needs of the people of Wilton.
Melissa-Jean Rotini (Petitioning candidate)
10C on ballot
To me, it isn’t what development I see, it’s what development the citizens want. I hope everyone will participate in the Plan of Conservation and Development, and I believe that should guide all development.
The citizens should decide whether we should become a destination for restaurants or cultural events, alter the design of the town to create smaller lots and more density, focus our commercial development, or create enclaves of mixed-use areas.
From what I’ve learned by having conversations with the citizens, it seems people want the same things, but perhaps don’t see the common ground they have with their neighbors. People have told me they want more quality choices downtown and along Route 7, active as opposed to passive recreational facilities, and walkable residences.
Walkable housing serves both our elderly population and youth, while providing additional tax support for other residents.
I believe that keeping our population diverse and maintaining our status as an athletic and recreation-based town will enhance all residents’ experience. Our history is one of a semi-rural town and, while the citizens may choose to change that, if they opt to keep that cultural experience alive, I believe it can be done. There are several towns in upstate New York that have embraced their semi-rural feel, mom and pop shops, and natural and artistic roots.
If Wilton opts to do the same, I believe we could become a destination, attracting new residents, enhancing our property values, and bringing additional tax and visitor revenue.
Biography: I moved to Wilton 10 years ago with my husband. We have two little girls under 6. I am a municipal attorney, have worked with engineers and planners, and have familiarity with environmental reviews, water and wastewater plans, septic regulations, building code review, and other matters relevant to P&Z.
Planning & Zoning Commission (To fill vacancies for two years)
Question: What are your top three issues to work on?
Basam E. Nabulsi (D)
15A on ballot
1) Preparation of Wilton’s Plan of Conservation and Development that addresses development priorities and the Town’s shared vision for the coming years.
2) Consideration/ implementation of regulation changes as necessary to reflect the town’s vision.
3) Increase community confidence in the work of the commission through thoughtful consideration of applications brought to the commission, and clear statements as to the basis for decisions that are reached by the commission.
Biography: Wilton resident 25 years. Previous member of Planning & Zoning Commission more than 10 years. Is an intellectual property lawyer with McCarter & English in Stamford, and serves on the boards of the World Affairs Forum, as chairman, and Connecticut Legal Services.
Richard Tomasetti (R)
15B on ballot
1) The upcoming revision to the Plan of Conservation and Development.
2) Age-restricted housing.
3) Commercial signage.
Being a local architect I see firsthand how zoning regulations impact property owners and businesses.
Being a commercial property owner I see how other small businesses struggle and thrive and the impact regulations have on them.
Being a father, husband, coach and business owner I understand what it takes to have patience, be a partner, build consensus, be a leader and get the most of people.
Biography: Tomasetti is an architect, principal in Lovas & Tomasetti Architects LLC. He serves on the Planning and Zoning Commission. He is a 1985 graduate of Wilton High School, studied engineering at Syracuse University, and holds a bachelor’s of architecture degree from Roger Williams University. He lives in Wilton with wife Patty and son Ricky, a senior at Wilton High School.
Matthew Murphy (R)
16B on ballot
1) Addressing the needs for responsible commercial development.
2) Making the town center and Route 7 more cohesively integrated.
3) Preserving the charm and character of town.
I am the sole member of 267 Greenwich Avenue associates, a real estate management and development company. In this role I have overseen renovation and development of properties in the Fairfield County area.
Biography: Has been a Wilton resident 24 years. He and wife, Sharon, have three children enrolled in Wilton public schools. Owner and manager of Fred D. Knapp & Son Funeral Home in Greenwich. Active member of Rotary International.
Zoning Board of Appeals
Question: Please tell us why you are running for this seat.
Tom Gunther (D)
18A on ballot
After attending a Town Hall meeting of one of our representatives telling us to “get involved at the local level” to foster positive governing, I answered the call for ZBA candidates. The DTC Platform "Listen to Wilton" is what I stand for. I will always be respectful, open and transparent toward everyone appearing before the ZBA while executing the laws of Connecticut and Wilton.
Biography: I am an 11-year Wilton resident, active in Wilton CERT and former 10-year ZBA chair in Westchester. I work in the technology field and am an active HAM (W1TEG).
Kenny Rhodes (R)
18B on ballot
I’m running for reelection to the Zoning Board of Appeals. Homes that pre-exist or don’t conform to current zoning regulations are prevalent throughout Wilton. Residents need a board member who can listen objectively and make fair decisions regarding the numerous Connecticut zoning statutes that affect improving their homes.
Biography: Moved to Wilton in 2005. Community activities: baseball, soccer and football coach, Cub Scout leader, Kiwanis member and youth mission trip leader with the Congregational Church.
Zoning Board of Appeals (Alternate)
Question: Please tell us why you are running for this seat.
Jaclyn Coleman (D)
20A on ballot
My 15 years experience as a real estate attorney has made me both adept at interpreting zoning regulations and aware of the importance of balancing implementation of these regulations with the unique nature of certain real property. As a member of the Zoning Board of Appeals, I can use my skill set to benefit the Town of Wilton which has been a wonderful place for my family.
Biography: I am managing member of the Law Office of Jaclyn S. Coleman, PLLC, which was established in 2009. I represent purchasers and sellers in in both commercial and residential real estate transactions in New York and Connecticut.
Tracy Serpa (R)
20B on ballot
Question: Please tell us why you are running for this seat.
Bo Mitchell (D)
22A on ballot
Ernest G. Ricco (D)
23A on ballot
My top three issues to address are: education, town character, and fiscal responsibility.
Biography: I have owned Ricco Enterprises, a construction management and property operations and management firm since 1988, and have been chairman of the Wilton Democratic Platform committee since 1999.
Warren L. Serenbetz Jr. (R)
22B on ballot
Christopher Gardner (R)
23B on ballot
I have served responsibly as one of Wilton’s Republican constables since 1984. I own my own Wilton-based business selling and servicing automated external defibrillators (AEDs). I am a Connecticut-certified emergency medical services instructor and American Heart Association First Aid and CPR/AED instructor, training many of Wilton’s residents.
Biography: My wife and I are 40-year Wilton residents. I am a Republican constable and member of Wilton CERT.
Raymond T. Tobiassen (R)
24B on ballot