Enfield candidates meet with local students

By Jennifer Coe - ReminderNews
Enfield - posted Thu., Oct. 27, 2011
Republican candidate for Council-at-Large William Lee spoke with Nick, a student. Photos by Jennifer Coe.
Republican candidate for Council-at-Large William Lee spoke with Nick, a student. Photos by Jennifer Coe.

This time of year, there are many “meet and greet” events for local candidates to talk to their constituents and find out about pressing issues in the community. On Monday, Oct. 24, the candidates were ready to be intensely questioned, but this time it was by local students in fourth through 12th grade. The annual Youth Vote “Meet the Candidates” event is part of the curriculum used by the district to teach students about the democratic process.

“It’s a written curriculum that they do in the classroom,” said Amy Witbro, the partnership coordinator for Enfield Public Schools. “We have all of the candidates fill out a profile,” she said. The students then are asked to attend this event and ask the candidates questions - lots and lots of questions. The students were busily walking around the room, standing patiently by while another student finished his or her conversation and politely asking questions of the candidates.

“How do you decide your goals?” asked Nick, a student who was speaking with candidate for councilman-at-large, William Lee (R). Lee then described to Nick how once the election is over, the goal-setting begins almost immediately, so that when budget season arrives, they will have a plan.

Candidates seeking re-election and/or election for the first time were discussing what mattered most to them, even if it was the students who were doing the asking.

Lee’s concerns center around infrastructure. “The council is really taking seriously its role [in maintaining] the school buildings. The town has been increasing its investment in school buildings and dealing with them more comprehensively,” he said. He also foresees dealing with water pollution in the new year as “one of the most easy things to package and address.”

Councilman-at-large candidate Patrick Crowley (D) sees the focus as continuing to be on “budget and education. One intertwines with the other,” he said. Like most of the candidates, on both sides of the aisle, Crowley sees a very tough budget year coming. With no tax increase for four years, “something has to happen,” said Crowley. “Tough decisions will have to be made; new revenue sources, increase taxes or make cuts,” he said.

Democrat Tom Arnone’s focus seems to be getting businesses to return to Enfield. “Surrounding towns are increasing in size, Enfield is decreasing,” he said. He believes that Enfield has gotten a bad rap in the media with the uncertainty going on around the high schools and the budget cuts that have occurred in the last few years. “We have to improve our image,” he said. Also running for the councilmen-at-large positions are Democrats Bob LeMay and Cynthia Mangini, and Republicans Ken Nelson, Carol Hall and Greg Stokes.

New Board of Education candidate Kevin Fealy (R) thinks he has the right motivation to lead in Enfield. “I watched my kids come to Enfield as honor roll students and lose their love for learning,” he lamented. “I believe my kids needed to see from my example that I was willing to go fight for them,” he said. “It’s not what experiences you have, it’s what you do with it.” Other Board of Education candidates include Democrats Timothy Neville, Jennifer Rancourt, Vincent Grady, Tina LeBlanc and Joyce Hall, and Republicans Peter Jonaitis, Donna Szewczak, Chuck Johnson and Tom Sirard.

One thing all of the candidates agree on is that 2012 will have a leaner-than-lean financial outlook.

"My favorite part of the whole event is that here [students] can come and see [the candidates],” said Witbro about the Youth Vote program. “They can see that they are real people that they see in the grocery store. It makes voting so much more important,” she said.

“It gets the kids thinking,” said District 1 councilman candidate Joseph C. Bosco (R). While he admits that this program really isn’t a campaign event for either side of the aisle, he sees the community value in speaking to students, and perhaps their parents, in turn. “It gets the kids thinking,” he said. Also on the ballot for that office is Jill Krawiec (D).

Come election day, Nov. 8, students will be able to cast a vote alongside their parents. Each voting location will also offer a computer for students to log in and vote for the candidates they think are the best choices for Enfield.

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