While the debate over the 2016 Presidential election and national politics still may be center stage, Wilton does have local politics to think about. Next November 2017, Wilton will hold municipal elections to fill a long list of board and commission positions that are up for grabs. GOOD Morning Wilton has begun taking a look at what seats will be up, who can run in the coming election–and how you can throw your hat in the ring.

Of course, it wouldn’t be an election without politics and parties. At the end of the article we have a section about how to volunteer to run for any of the positions through either the Republican Town Committee or the Democratic Town Committee, or as an unaffiliated candidate.

One factor that impacts who can serve is Connecticut’s minority representation rule, which takes into account a board or committee’s party affiliation makeup. According to Sec. 9-167a of the CT General Assembly election ordinances, there are limits set for the maximum number of members of any board or commission who may be members of the same political party. For each board or commission we list how many spots are open and how many are potentially available to each political party–Democrat or Republican.

Board of Selectmen

Total Seats:  5
Open Seats:  2
What’s the Scoop:  Current terms are ending for two current selectmen–Lori Bufano and Richard Dubow.

  • Bufano, a Republican, was appointed to fill the seat vacated by Ken Dartley (who previously had been appointed to fill the seat vacated by Jim Saxe). She is currently undecided about whether to run again, saying, “I am concentrating on the budget and other town issues. I will decide over the next few months.”
  • Dubow, a Democrat, announced in earlier this year that he will not be seeking re-election. (A little inside baseball for people who follow municipal government:  In the opinion of the town counsel Ira Bloom, Dubow has technically ‘termed out’ and even if he wanted to run again, he couldn’t. Dubow was first elected to serve a transitional two-year term. Now completing his second term–a full four-year one–town counsel determined that he had termed out after completing two elected terms. But, with Dubow’s announcement, it’s now a moot question.)

Who can run:  The other three seats on the board are held by one Republican (first selectman Lynne Vanderslice) and two unaffiliated selectmen (Dave Clune and Michael Kaelin), and no Democrats. The two candidates receiving the most votes in November will be seated. With the minority representation rule (as our Town Charter defines it for the BOS), up to two Republicans, two Democrats (or other party) or two unaffiliated candidates could win the seats. In other words–these seats are completely up for grabs.

Board of Education

Total Seats:  6
Open Seats:  3
What’s the Scoop:  Current BOE members Christine Finkelstein (R), Lory Rothstein (R) and Laura Schwemm (D) were re-elected in 2015 and are able to watch from the sidelines this round. Terms are ending for Republican Glenn Hemmerle (who is undecided about running again), Republican BOE chairman Bruce Likly (who is unable to run again after terming out) and unaffiliated Chris Stroup (who has decided not to run again).

Who can run:  The top three vote getters will win seats; at most up to two additional Republicans, three Democrats (or other party), or three unaffiliated candidates could be seated.

Board of Finance

Total Seats:  6
Open Seats:  3
What’s the Scoop:  Current BOF members Peter Balderston (R), John Kalamarides (D) and Walter Kress (R) were elected in 2015 and will hold onto their seats.  Democrat Richard Creeth did not reply to an email asking if he will run again; Republican BOF chair Jeffrey Rutishauser would not say whether he will seek re-election; and Republican Warren Serenbetz has termed out and cannot run again. [UPDATE:  Creeth says he is undecided, and will make a decision after the FY18 budget is finalized.]

Who can run:  The top three vote getters will win seats; at most up to two additional Republicans, three Democrats (or other party) or three unaffiliated candidates could be seated.

Planning & Zoning Commission

Total Seats:  9
Open Seats:  8
What’s the Scoop:  Wow! There are eight spots up for election out of nine–the only commissioner who doesn’t have to run is Republican Scott Lawrence. It’s an unusual situation, but it happened because three current P&Z commissioners had been appointed to fill vacancies mid-term and now would need to run for election to fill those terms if they want to continue serving. Those three seats are for two-year terms, the other five open seats are for four-year terms. Of the current commissioners, here’s what we know of their plans:

  • Joseph Fiteni, R (chairman):  Intends to run again
  • Doris Knapp, D:  did not reply to an email asking if she will run again
  • Sally Poundstone, R:  did not reply to an email asking if she will run again
  • Peter Shiue, R:  Intends to run again
  • Franklin Wong, D:  did not reply to an email asking if he will run again
  • Tierney O’Hearn, D (2-year term):  Considering the possibility of running again
  • Andrea Preston, R (2-year term):   Intends to run again
  • Rick Tomasetti, R (2-year term): [UPDATE:  intends to run again]

Who can run:   Under minority representation rules, the maximum number of seats one party can hold on this 9-member commission is six. That means up to five Republicans or six Democrats (or other party) could hold seats, or as many as eight unaffiliated candidates.

Board of Assessment Appeals

Total Seats:  3
Open Seats:  1
What’s the Scoop:  Current representation is split between one Republican–Donald Drummond–and one Democrat–Charles Lewis. They don’t have to run for re-election  The third member is Republican Frank Oliveri. who could run again. 

Who can run:   With one open seat on this board, it’s up for grabs by anyone–Republican, Democrat or other/unaffiliated.

Zoning Board of Appeals

Total Seats:   5 regulars, 3 alternates
Open Seats:   2 regulars, 2 alternates
What’s the Scoop:  

  • On the ZBA, the three members who aren’t up for re-election (Gary Battaglia, Libby Bufano and Joshua Cole) are all Republicans. No word yet on whether fellow Republican Raymond Tobiassen or Democrat Brian Lilly are thinking of running for re-election.
  • For the alternates, Republican Kenny Rhodes is set for the next two years, but the other two current alternates would need to run again if they want to continue serving–Democrat Jaclyn Coleman and Republican Tracy Serpa. So far, Coleman has said she intends to run again.

Who can run:  Think of the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) and the ZBA Alternates as two separate committees when looking at minority representation and who can run.

  • A committee of five can have up to four members from the same party, so up to two petitioning unaffiliated candidates or two Democrats (or candidates from another party) can be elected and seated. Only one additional Republican can be seated and elected.
  • For the Alternates, up to two unaffiliated candidates or two Democrats (or other party candidates) can win seats; only one Republican could be elected.

If You’re Interested in Serving, Now What?

We checked with both the RTC and the DTC for what they ask residents who are interested in running for election to serve on town boards and commissions to do.

Republican Town Committee

RTC chair Al Alper says that anyone interested in a running for a seat on one of the boards and considering putting a name in contention to volunteer this way should reach out to RTC leaders or any other RTC member. They’ll be put in touch with subcommittee chairs who would conduct an interview before making an endorsement to the entire RTC.

Alper’s says now is the time for any interested candidate to reach out, through April so there is time for vetting and for anyone to speak to the RTC if possible. Endorsing of an official slate by the entire RTC happens at a meeting in May.

“Republicans, unaffiliated [candidates] and Independents are all welcome to participate in the process and are welcome to seek [RTC] endorsement,” says Alper, who adds, “The RTC has endorsed many non-Republicans in the past.”

Democratic Town Committee

Residents interested in serving as a candidate with the DTC should reach out to Paul Burnham, chair of the DTC Nominating Committee. “The sooner, the better,” Burnham says.

To run for an elected position, membership in the Democratic party is not essential, “but is certainly preferred,” according to Burnham.

The final slate needs to be put together by the nominating committee by the end of June, and then the DTC will consider it at its July meeting. Then the Democratic Party Caucus will vote in probably the third week of July to finalize the slate.

Unaffiliated Candidates

Residents who are unaffiliated and wish to run for municipal office can do so independently of the political town committees or any party by petitioning onto the ballot. Petitions and forms are available now on the CT Secretary of State‘s website. Candidates must use the official state forms provided.

Unaffiliated candidates need to collect petition signatures from Wilton electors. The total number of signatures required is 1.0-percent of the total votes cast for the same office (or, if multiple-opening office, one percent of the total number of names checked as having voted) at the last preceding election. The town clerk’s office can confirm the number needed.

In order to get petition forms, candidates need to fill out an application in writing. Contact the Wilton town clerk Lori Kaback for more information.

The last day for filing those nominating petitions with the town clerk or the Secretary of the State is Wednesday, Aug. 9, 2017 (deadline 4 p.m.).