[NOTE : This post was updated August 3 to include comments from the candidates]
PROSPECT — Town Democrats have until Sept. 10 to find a challenger to Republican Mayor Robert Chatfield in the November elections.
Democrats left their caucus July 26 with that seat open, as well as the seats for town clerk, treasurer, and tax collector.
“There’s still time. We could find somebody,” said Michael Scaviola, Democratic Town Committee chair, who is also running for reelection to the Town Council.
If the Democrats don’t come up with a challenger, this would be the first time in Chatfield’s 34-year reign that he will run unopposed.
Two of those years there was no Democrat-endorsed challenger, but someone else stepped up to run against Chatfield both times.
Scaviola said that without anyone leading the Democratic ticket for mayor, it will be difficult for the rest of the candidates to get out the vote.
He said it’s not right that Chatfield should go unchallenged.
“The people of Prospect should have a choice,” Scaviola said.
Scaviola will be running for his second full term on the council after filling a partial-term vacancy his first time on the council.
“The people of Prospect still need to be represented, even though it’s a minority representation,” Scaviola said.
Scaviola felt there are lot of things Prospect could be better at, such as more transparent hiring practices and how the town awards contracts.
“It’s time to change the way we’ve always done it because there are better ways,” Scaviola said. “If we keep doing what we’ve been doing, we don’t need a mayor.”
He said the way Prospect does business should be more open and involve more people in town.
“If more people knew what was going on, more people would get involved,” Scaviola said.
As a council member, Scaviola said he tries to be fair and open, looking at how issues will affect the overall welfare of the community.
The rest of the Democratic slate for Town Council is filled with a lot of familiar faces. Incumbents Theresa Graveline, Carl Graveline, and Patricia Geary as well as newcomer Eileen Cranney fill out the council candidates.
Geary, a teacher at Long River Middle School, is running for her 14th term in office.
“I’m running again because I really like being part of the government of the town,” Geary said. “Hopefully I can affect issues that come up so that they better the citizens of the town.”
She said she helps provide balance on the council and is good at asking questions and getting to the facts.
“I am objective. I am experienced. … I think I’m very representative of the majority of the citizens in Prospect,” Geary said.
She said she is a long-time resident of Prospect and raised her children and grandchildren in the town.
“I definitely have a vested interest in the town and what direction the town takes,” Geary said.
Running for her 9th term in office, Theresa Graveline, a finance manager for a small auto-sales finance company, said she still feels she can add value to the operations of the town.
Over the years, Theresa Graveline said she was instrumental in building the new firehouse, building a playscape at Hotchkiss Field, passing the referendum to build Woodland Regional High School, and acquiring properties for open space as chair of the Land Use Subcommittee.
“We are so fortunate here in town that we have the water companies that own so much land. It keeps us green, but that will not always be the case,” Theresa Graveline said, adding it is important to preserve open space to insure Prospect stays beautiful.
If elected to another term, Theresa Graveline said she hopes to address concerns for seniors in town and take a look at possibilities for “true” senior housing.
She said she will promote and maintain fiscal responsibility and also work to inform the public of the town’s budget. Theresa Graveline said public input is important and that understanding the town budget is key to taxpayer support.
“I feel that the Democratic ticket has people who are very well qualified to actually have an impact on our town’s future. It’s not enough just to have a body in place. It matters how capable the people who fill the positions are in doing their jobs. And I think this go around we have very, very strong and capable people to fill those positions,” Theresa Graveline said.
Carl Graveline said he is running for his fourth term on the Town Council because it’s his way of giving back to the community. Carl Graveline has been on the council for the last two terms and also served in 1993. He was also vice chair of the Zoning Board of Appeals for 12 years and vice chair of the Pollution Control Board for six years.
Carl Graveline, a self-employed real estate broker, said his main goal is to keep a sharp eye on the budget.
“So I know how to budget and get the best bang for the buck,” Carl Graveline said. “Being self employed, you have to be on top of that all the time.”
He said his other goal, if reelected, is to get the amount the town pays in health care premiums down. Carl Graveline currently serves on the subcommittee for pensions and benefits. He said the town currently pays nearly $500,000 in premiums.
Cranney recently returned to her hometown of Prospect and decided it’s where she wants to spend the rest of her life. Her father was on Prospect Town Council and now, Cranney said, it’s her turn to contribute. She majored in political science at the University of Connecticut and enjoys a good, spirited political discussion.
“I’m ready to put my money where my mouth is,” Cranney said of her first bid for political office.
She said Prospect is at a crossroads for good growth and opportunity.
“I think we just need the right momentum,” she said.
She said she’d like to see more people participating in government and wants to listen to the citizens to start a town-wide conversation. She serves on the Community Council for Regency of Prospect.
Democrats also endorsed Chip Aldrich and Jeffery LaMontagne for Board of Education (four-year term), and Trish Spofford for the Board of Education (two-year term).
LaMontagne said he has been involved in education for 10 years as a teacher in Bristol and a tutor, and has two nieces in the Region 16 school system.
If elected, LaMontagne said he would like to get parents and citizens more involved with the schools, and use social media to bring the school board to the public.
“I just feel that there’s not enough outreach,” he said.
LaMontagne has previously served on the Conservation Commission and Emergency Management Commission, and is currently on the Economic Development Commission.
Aldrich has been a special education teacher in Naugatuck for 21 years. Now he wants to step to the other side of the fence and serve on the Region 16 Board of Education.
“I think it’s important to have a good understanding of curriculum and how the system does work,” Aldrich said.
Aldrich said his experience in the classroom offers an advantage for making decisions for how to use resources, and where to spend budget dollars.
“Personally, I feel that it’s important to try to provide the best opportunities for the students,” Aldrich said.
At the same time, Aldrich said it’s important to keep budget costs reasonable, especially since Prospect and Beacon Falls are small towns with no large manufacturing or commercial base, meaning any budget increase will be paid mostly by homeowners.
“I’m a homeowner and I don’t like to pay higher taxes than anybody else does” he said.
As a special education teacher, Aldrich said, he feels strongly that a lot of basic foundational education is important on an elementary school level and up into middle school.
He said many of his students struggle with more advanced materials that are being pushed down to lower grade levels before they’ve mastered the basics.
Aldrich has a degree in assistive technology, and said it is important to prepare students for 21st century work.
“I am a big advocate in trying to tap into technology,” Aldrich said.
Aldrich said his own sons, one of whom is entering fifth grade while the other is attending Massachusetts Maritime Academy after graduating from Woodland Regional High School, benefited from a strong curriculum at Region 16.
Although this is his first time running for public office, Aldrich said he has been involved in the teacher’s union in Naugatuck and presented at state-wide educational workshops.
Aldrich and his wife, Sharon, have been living in Prospect for six years.
“We feel that our children have benefited greatly from Region 16’s educational system. I wanted to be able to try to participate to help to improve it and just continue to steer things in a positive direction,” Aldrich said.
Board of Education candidate for the two-year term, Spofford, has two children in the Region 16 school system, one entering middle school and the other entering high school.
“I’m very passionate about education. I care very deeply about Region 16,” Spofford said.
Spofford said she first became interested in participating in education four years ago when she formed the Beacon Falls Prospect Parent Power group to pass a referendum to secure land for a new elementary school. The group has since disbanded, but Spofford said it’s time for her to get reengaged in the schools.
“I thought this would be the perfect way to use some of my talents to bring my passion for education back into the community in a formal way,” Spofford said.
If elected, Spofford said she’d like to find ways to help parents become more engaged in the school system and make sure they are aware of all the resources available to them.
Spofford is unaffiliated with any political party and said she was honored that the Democratic Committee placed her on their ticket.
The Democrats also endorsed Peter Blinstrubas and Janice Mallon for Board of Assessment Appeals; Gil Graveline, and incumbent Gregory Ploski for Planning and Zoning Commission; David Michaud and Gina Mann for Zoning Board of Appeals.
“I think they’re good, solid people,” Scaviola said of the Democrat slate. He said they are all conscientious and want the best for the community.
Town Clerk: vacant
Town Treasurer: vacant
Tax Collector: vacant
Town Council: Eileen Cranney, Theresa Graveline, Carl Graveline, Patricia Geary, Michael Scaviola
Board of Assessment Appeals: Peter Blinstrubas, Janice Mallon
Planning and Zoning Commission: Gil Graveline, Gregory Ploski (incumbent)
Zoning Board of Appeals: David Michaud, Gina Mann
Board of Education (four year term): Chip Aldrich, Jeffery La Montagne
Board of Education (two year term): Trish Spofford (unaffiliated)