Smith to lead Beacon Falls GOP slate

Republican candidate for Beacon Falls first selectman Gerard Smith, left, says the pledge of allegiance during the Republican caucus June 20. LARAINE WESCHLER

BEACON FALLS — The Republican Town Committee endorsed a full slate of candidates for the upcoming election at its caucus Wednesday night.

“I’m excited,” RTC Chair Ronald “Jeff” Holzman said. “Each person has unique qualifications.”

He said the party is unified behind its slate, which was endorsed unanimously by the 36 members in attendance.

Holzman said the candidates all have a good relationship with Gerard Smith, the party’s choice to run for first selectman, and will work well as a team.

Smith served as chair of the Board of Finance before he resigned earlier this year due to work obligations. He also served a term as selectman from 2005-07, and served on the Planning and Zoning Commission, which is by appointment, from 1988-98, eight of those years as chair.

Smith said he now has time to serve as first selectman because he is no longer commuting to New York City three to five days per week. Smith works as a commercial real estate broker in Stamford.

“The time is right,” he said about his run at the town’s top spot. “We need a change in town.”

Smith told the committee that he would be proud to serve as first selectman and push the entire slate to be elected.

If elected as first selectman, Smith said he would work with landlords to broaden the tax base and bring more businesses to Beacon Falls. He said he wanted to look at the budget in the long term, planning three to five years ahead, and come up with a plan to replace capital equipment. He also said the town must adhere to purchase orders to control spending.

Filling out the Republican slate is Dave D’Amico for selectman, Ed Groth for tax collector, current Selectman Michael Krenesky for treasurer, former Selectman Jack Levine for Board of Finance, former Republican Town Committee Chair John Blesse and incumbent Priscilla Cretella for Board of Education, Kathy Brown for Board of Assessment Appeals, incumbent Douglas Bousquet for Board of Zoning Appeals, and Jen Warren and James Moffet for Library Director.

D’Amico, whose father, Leonard D’Amico, served as first selectman for 17 years, said he was asked to run and felt it was time to get involved. He’s never run for office before. Although he said he had no specific plans for the town, he would work together with whoever is elected. He said he would bring common sense, and good, honest values to Beacon Falls.

D’Amico said good change will take time, but he will start by looking at town roads, which are in need of improvement. D’Amico works in the paving industry and has lived in Beacon Falls his whole life.

Krenesky will not be running again as selectman because of new work obligations. He said, going forward, he will not be able to spend the amount of time needed to serve as selectman.

However, Kreneksy is not ready to completely give up on Beacon Falls politics. He hopes to lend his experience to the new board if elected as treasurer, he said.

“I’m pretty excited about this whole slate. … There’s a very deep level of experience,” Krenesky said. “It’s the strongest slate of candidates since Len D’Amico left office in 1995.”

Groth is also running for office for the first time. He said he is running for tax collector because of his previous experience as an IT project manager in credit and collections. Groth retired from Capital Card Services and has lived in Beacon Falls for two years. He said he wanted to work to collect the large amount of back taxes property owners owe the town. He said he will have to become more familiar with the process.

“Working in the private sector is a lot different than the public sector,” he said.

Beacon Falls Republican candidates for office, from left, Michael Krenesky, Dave D’Amico, Jen Warren, Gerard Smith, Kathy Brown, and Ed Groth pose for a group photo following the Republican caucus June 20. LARAINE WESCHLER

Jennifer Warren is another newcomer to Beacon Falls politics, but not to civic organizations in town. Warren is involved in her church, Cub Scouts, Kids Care, and she’s a charter member of the Beacon Falls Rotary Club, she said. She is running for one of six director positions on the Library Board of Trustees. She said her position makes sure things are done right at the library and money is spent well.

“I just want to put my foot in different areas of Beacon Falls,” she said.

Warren works as a part-time substitute teacher, paraprofessional, and cafeteria aid in the Region 16 school district.

Brown ran an unsuccessful campaign for state representative last year, but is stepping up again to fulfill what she sees as her civic duty.

“I’m a strong believer in citizen participation,” Brown said.

She said, if elected, she would bring impartiality to the Board of Assessment Appeals, assure people have a voice and that they can exercise their rights as property owners in Beacon Falls. She said she believes in property rights and individual liberty.

Cretella, who is unaffiliated with any party, has served 25 years on the Board of Education.

“I always, always, make sure the kids get the best we can possibly afford,” she said.

She said she tries to be a fair negotiator, but always errs on the side of students.

Even though her own sons have already graduated from the Region 16 school system, Cretella said she is still committed to education.

Despite her long tenure on the board, Cretella said her work is not done. She said she wants to see through the replacement of Algonquin and Community schools with a new facility on Talmadge Hill Road.

“I feel that I still owe the town that,” Cretella said. “We’re finally within reach of this.”

Cretella said she hopes the new school can go to referendum shortly so the district can fill out all the paperwork it needs for the state by next June. The whole process will take about three years, Cretella said.

“It won’t happen over night. … I’m hoping to see it out,” Cretella said.

Levine served on the board of finance for three years, two of which he was its chair. He also served as a selectman for two years, treasurer for eight years, and a member of the Board of Education for four years.

“I’m looking forward to going on the Board of Finance and helping to provide sound fiscal management,” Levine said.

Levine is the Amity Regional school district’s finance director and has a master of administration and accounting background, he said.

Levine said he decided to come back into the fray of local politics when Smith asked him to join his team.

“I support Jerry very much, so I said okay, I would be glad to be part of his team,” Levine said.

Levine said he has a lot of experience in forecasting and doing five year capital plans as well as finding cost savings in budgets.

“I’d like to bring to bear my experience and knowledge,” Levine said.

Blesse is a charter member and past-president of the Rotary Club of Beacon Falls, according to Smith. Smith said that Blesse is very active in town, especially with kids.

“He will do an excellent job on the Board of Education,” Smith said.

Bousquet is the incumbent on the Board of Zoning Appeals.

“He has been doing a great job on the board for many years,” Smith said.

Smith also said that Moffet was highly recommended by friends to serve on the library board.

“He’s got a passion for literacy. … He’s new to politics, but willing and ready to serve,” Smith said.

Blesse, Bousquet, and Moffet could not be reached for comment as of this post.