Petitioning candidates secure spots on Beacon Falls ballot

BEACON FALLS — The Board of Selectmen race has gotten a lot more interesting.

Three candidates — two for first selectman and one for selectman — have secured spots on the ballot in November as petitioning candidates.

Gerard Smith and David Rybinski are challenging First Selectman Christopher Bielik, a Democrat, for the town’s top spot. Smith and Rybinski are unaffiliated.

Smith, 58, served as first selectman from 2011 to 2013. Before that, he served as a selectman and the chairman of the Board of Finance and the Planning and Zoning Commission.

Smith ran and served as selectman and first selectman as a registered Republican. He was an unaffiliated voter before serving and switched back in 2014. Smith said he experienced political partisanship firsthand when he served as a Republican, and that’s why he’s running unaffiliated.

“It hasn’t changed,” he said. “I’d like to see that changed.”

Smith, an insurance agent, said he’s been watching how things have been going in town since leaving office, and he feels he can do a better job.

Rybinski, 61, is a member of the Region 16 Board of Education and a past fire chief of Beacon Hose Co. No. 1. He was a registered Democrat until recently switching to unaffiliated.

Rybinski, a service manager with Servpro, said he approached the Democratic leadership in town about running for first selectman but he wasn’t considered for the endorsement. He feels the leadership in town isn’t listening to the people and is more concerned about time limits for public speaking at meetings.

“I want to give the people a choice to have the chance to be heard,” Rybinski said.

The number of selectman candidates is now three, as well, after Shawn Styfco petitioned to get on the ballot. The Republican Town Committee endorsed incumbent Selectman Michael Krenesky and the Democratic Town Committee endorsed Kevin McDuffie, who chairs the Planning and Zoning Commission, for selectman.

Styfco, 35, was a registered Republican and member of the Republican Town Committee. He changed parties to unaffiliated last week and resigned from the town committee and the Ethics Board, due to switching parties.

Styfco, a technical business analyst, said his goals differ from the Republican Town Committee and feels it’s best for him to run unaffiliated.

Styfco said spending decisions in town haven’t been made in the best interest of the taxpayers and there has been poor communication of critical town information with residents.

“The Beacon Falls taxpayers deserve to have town leaders and employees that are held accountable for their jobs and responsibilities, which is not the current state,” he said.

Bielik, McDuffie and Krenesky were the only candidates endorsed by the town committees for first selectman and selectman during caucuses in July. If they remained the only candidates, they would have been unopposed for the Board of Selectmen.

With more candidates in the mix, there’s now a race. The winner of the first selectman race wins the seat, and the selectman candidate with the most votes earns a seat on the board. The next highest vote-getter among the remaining candidates for first selectman and selectman wins the second selectman seat.