Editorial: Vicki Tesoro for Trumbull first selectman

The campaign for Trumbull first selectman between incumbent Vicki Tesoro and challenger Michael Herbst has shown that any progress the town had made in putting aside its reputation for political hardball was short-lived.

The race has been characterized by accusations, charges and innuendo. Only some of it falls under the category of fair criticism. Much of it seems designed solely to inflame voters and rile up reactionaries.

But it would be wrong to accuse both candidates of contributing equally to the deterioration of local discourse. It has been Herbst and his campaign that have been flinging accusations at Tesoro, some of which have only the barest connection to facts. It has turned what should have been a conversation about the direction of a prosperous town with a bright future into a slog.

Herbst is the father of former First Selectman and gubernatorial candidate Tim Herbst. The current candidate says he’s not a politician, unlike his son. That’s a fair assessment. While Tim Herbst was known for sharp political elbows, he also was an effective leader for the town in his time in office, and left the town in a good position when he opted not to run for re-election two years ago.

Michael Herbst seems to have taken all the wrong lessons from his son’s career — he’s adopted all the attacks that characterized Tim Herbst’s campaigns without retaining anything of what made his son an effective leader.

Despite the negativity, Tesoro has proven an effective leader in her own right. She is a quiet presence in town, and does not attract attention to herself on a daily basis, but she has sound instincts and is working to keep the town on the right track. She is the best choice for the next two years as Trumbull’s first selectman.

The top issue in town is apartments — specifically the rezoning of former industrial or commercial space to support multifamily housing. This change has many residents concerned, but there’s no shortage of demagoguery going on. Zone changes are not the same as apartments, and much of what has been approved as possible is not close to reality.

But there’s nothing wrong with apartments in general. Many younger people and empty-nesters prefer alternatives to single-family, standalone housing, and if the town wants to remain vibrant it needs to adapt. There are concerns about resource allocation that must be answered, but that is true for any development. And because of the way Trumbull is designed, almost all the new residential development would be on the periphery, not in neighborhoods.

Trumbull is in an enviable position, and Herbst’s criticism of public safety in town was completely out of bounds, and borderline disqualifying. His response that his critics are political appointees does nothing to redeem his misstep. He should have apologized.

On issues from taxes to the school system to cooperation with neighboring communities, Tesoro has shown leadership and proven she is leading the town in the right direction. She is an effective first selectman, and earns our endorsement for another two-year term in office.