[wpaudio url=”http://www.mycitizensnews.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/10/Prospect-Mayor-podcast.mp3″ text=”Experience vs. Change”]
PROSPECT — Mayor Bob Chatfield, the state’s longest-tenured chief executive, hopes voters will think of an old catchphrase when they cast their ballots Nov. 3.
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” said Chatfield, 65, a Republican who has served 16 consecutive terms, spanning 32 years.
Democratic challenger Charles Mallon, however, is optimistic that a more contemporary buzz word will draw them into his camp.
“My strategy is simple,” said Mallon, 57, a first-term Town Council member. “I’m offering change.”
According to Mallon, Prospect needs a change not only in the mayor’s seat but also in other positions. He says many residents and some in local government have become complacent because Chatfield, who is also the town’s public works director and assistant fire chief, carries so much responsibility.
“Part of the problem is Mayor Bob does everything,” Mallon said. “So people say, ‘Why bother?’”
He said if he is mayor, he will seek new members of boards and committees and be more accountable to the Town Council than Chatfield is. Mallon claims Chatfield has, on occasion, used vague terms when allocating public money.
“It’s a problem when Bob comes to the council and asks for money for parts,” Mallon said. “We don’t get an explanation of what those parts are. Show us the bill. Show us what that $200,000 is being spent on.”
Chatfield countered that he’s willing to be transparent, but council members often don’t take him up on his offers.
“They’re open to ask questions,” he said. “I tell them of every [financial] transfer I make. … If you want to talk about parts, I offered to take them on a tour of the town garage to show them what everything costs, and no one went.”
One of the incumbent’s campaign messages is that his broad reach is not a detriment but an asset. In a video address posted on the Prospect Republicans’ YouTube channel, Chatfield says, “I have vast experience in the everyday running of the town in many subjects that only may have come once or twice a year, and I’ve already done the research and know I don’t have to do that and don’t have spend time on the job training.”
The video is also posted on Chatfield’s Facebook page.
Mallon too is using multimedia to appeal to potential supporters. Since July, he’s been keeping a blog, mallon2009.com, which includes a video called “Time for a Change.” In it, he cites securing money to replace Algonquin School among his top priorities.
“One of my objectives early on would be to find a way to get federal and state grants,” Mallon says. “You know, we’re not asking for $100,000 for swimming lessons; we’re asking for a school that’s been on the books for 25 years to be replaced.”
Chatfield has said he also supports replacing the school.
Even as Republicans nationwide have lost seats in recent elections, Chatfield remains confident that his record—both long-term and recent—will help him to hold his.
“People know what I stand for,” he said. “We held the mill rate [this fiscal year] and got the budget down.”
Indeed, Prospect’s mill rate for 2009-10 is 25, the same as it was last year, and the $6.57 million budget approved in April represents a $201,359, or 3 percent, decrease. Mallon qualifies those figures with some of his own.
“The town owes about $25 million in bonds,” he said. “That’s a lot of money for a small town. And [Chatfield] postponed the revaluation ‘til next year.”
Prospect was due for a physical revaluation in 2010, meaning an evaluator would have visited every property in town and assessed its value. Assuming most property values would have declined as a result of the recession, Prospect’s mill rate would have had to increase in order to collect the amount of tax dollars necessitated by this year’s budget.
Chatfield says the decision to postpone the revaluation was not his alone and was not motivated by freezing the mill rate during an election year.
“It was about saving the $200,000 it would have cost us to do the revaluation this year,” he said. “The council didn’t have a problem with it then.”