Bielik tops ticket for Beacon Falls Democrats

Beacon Falls First Selectman Christopher Bielik, left, signs paperwork as Kevin McDuffie, who chairs the Planning and Zoning Commission, looks on after the Beacon Falls Democratic Town Committee’s caucus July 23 at Beacon Falls Town Hall. The committee endorsed Bielik for first selectman and McDuffie for selectman. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

BEACON FALLS — The Beacon Falls Democratic Town Committee threw its support behind First Selectman Christopher Bielik for re-election, but he will have a new running mate for the first time since ascending to the town’s top political seat six years ago.

The committee endorsed Bielik as its first selectman candidate at a July 23 caucus. Bielik served one term as a selectman before being elected first selectman in 2013.

As he addressed the committee, Bielik spoke of how municipal leaders in the 19-member Naugatuck Valley Council of Governments, a regional planning organization, work together seamlessly despite their political affiliations. That’s how he’s tried the run the town the last six years, he said, and hopes to continue to do for two more.

“That’s how it works best and that’s what I hope to continue doing, what we’re doing here. We look for the best ideas we can get, no matter where they come from. … We don’t have, necessarily, a monopoly on having the best ideas, but we have a responsibility, as the leadership of this town, to implement what we hope are the best ideas.”

Unless a candidate petitions to get on the ballot to challenge Bielik, he will run unopposed, as town Republicans didn’t endorse a first selectman candidate.

The Democratic Town Committee endorsed Kevin McDuffie, who is chairman of the Planning and Zoning Commission, for selectman.

McDuffie has served on the Planning and Zoning Commission since moving to town in the early 2000s. He said serving on the commission has given him a good feel for the town and he’s honored to serve.

McDuffie said his goal is that everybody knows they can come to him no matter who they are or what they need.

“I hope people in this town think of me as their selectman, not a Democratic or Republican selectman, but as their selectman serving the town itself,” he said.

McDuffie is taking the place of Selectman Peter Betkoski, who did not seek re-election, on the ticket.

“It’s going to be extremely hard to fill Pete’s shoes,” McDuffie said.

Betkoski, who is also the Democratic Town Committee chairman, has served on the board for six years. He has faced criticism during his tenure for owing back taxes on his business, Betkoski Brothers, while holding an elected office.

Betkoski, who is involved in organizations in town, said he chose not to run for re-election to concentrate on his business and family, but he plans to stay involved in the community.

“I loved serving the town. I’m not going anywhere. I’ll be active in the community. I’ll still be there for the people,” he said.

The committee endorsed longtime incumbent Priscilla Cretella and newcomer Richard Hageman for the Region 16 Board of Education. Incumbent school board member David Rybinski didn’t seek re-election, officials said.

The school board oversees public schools in Beacon Falls and Prospect. Each town has four seats on the board. Two Beacon Falls seats are up for election this year.

Board of Finance member Larry Hutvanger and Treasurer Wendy Rodorigo received endorsements to run for re-election. The committee endorsed Mary Ellen Fernandez and Tony Smith for Zoning Board of Appeals, and Annette Bosley Boyse for Library Board of Trustees.

“Our slate is solid,” Betkoski said.