Just 15 months into her term as first selectman, Vicki Tesoro is once again on the campaign trail. Tesoro launched her re-election bid Wednesday, telling supporters that her first term could be characterized in one phrase: Promises made and promises kept.
“We promised to keep taxes stable and spending in check while maintaining our vital municipal services including education and public safety,” she said. “Our opponents said we could not do it. We did.”
Tesoro added that her administration had demonstrated that Democratic beliefs were not inconsistent with fiscal prudence, and that she had made better use of town staff. She specifically mentioned town attorneys.
“Instead of wasting our town attorneys’ time on creating legal opinions of dubious value, we put them to work on those things that create real value for our community,” she said. “The result? Our town attorneys were able to preserve expiring state grants worth millions of dollars. Those grants built the new kitchen at our Senior Center.”
Tesoro also commented on a campaign promise to restore balance to town boards and commissions.
“In two years I have appointed or reappointed more Republicans than my predecessor appointed Democrats in eight years,” she said.
Tesoro also made a point of introducing former First Selectman Ray Baldwin, whose long-time desire to serve on the town’s Police Commission had been thwarted by the fact that he collects a pension from his years on the town’s Police Department.
“The so-called ‘Baldwin Ordinance’ that prevented him from serving on the Police Commission was repealed,” Tesoro said. “The result is, I am proud to say, that Ray is on that commission and is serving with distinction as he did in the past as a United States Marine, as a police officer, as a Town Council member, and as our first selectman. As long as we are in office there will be no politically motivated ordinances that target individuals. That is simply wrong.”
In addition to listing some highlights of her first term, Tesoro looked forward to other projects, including development of the proposed senior facility at the former United Health property, and the Oakview Drive properties that are planned to be redeveloped into 132 units of independent senior housing.
“When all this comes to pass we will have taken approximately 360,000 square feet of underperforming or vacant space and transformed it into a vibrant part of our community generating significant tax revenue for all our citizens,” she said.
Before her current term is over, Tesoro said, she will submit a proposal to the Town Council to return to seven Town Council districts.
“I strongly believe in equal representation,” Tesoro said. The 21-member Town Council had been divided among seven districts for many years until 2012, when the council voted to change to four voting districts. Republican Registrar of Voters William Holden had recommended the change on the grounds that it saved the town about $8,000. But the change also reduced minority representation, and created districts of unequal size, with three districts having five council representatives, and one having six members.
“It just never made any sense,” Tesoro said.
Should she win re-election, Tesoro said her priorities would include opening the Town Charter to strengthen referendum language for large projects, enact term limits where allowable, and to return the Board of Education to staggered four-year terms with a 3-3 split between the parties. In addition, she also said she would work to establish more shared services between the schools and the town, and the develop a plan to implement the recommendations of the Aquatics Committee and the senior center and library committees.
“It will not be easy but, as President Kennedy said, ‘we do these things not because they are easy but because they are hard,’” she said.