Candidates for the Columbia Board of Selectmen

By Melanie Savage - Staff Writer
Columbia - posted Tue., Oct. 29, 2013
- Contributed Photo

Running for First Selectman:

Dick Szegda (D)

Szegda was born and raised in Columbia. His father was a dairy farmer and he spent his first 17 years working on the farm and learning what having a strong work ethic was all about. Dick holds a bachelor’s degree in economics with a minor in math and a master’s degree in counseling. He worked for DCF from 1969 to 2003 and was in management from 1980 to 2003. Since he retired, he has been asked to stay involved through chairing various committees such as the LIST committee that addresses Juvenile Justice issues.

Szegda was the chair of the Columbia Recreation Council during the 1980s (starting the boys’ and girls’ basketball and the girls’ soccer programs). He started the Columbus Day Soccer Tournament in 1989 and was its director for 18 years. He has been on the Board of Selectmen since 2003, and has been Deputy First Selectman for a total of four years. He currently chairs the Brand Committee, the Columbia Youth Services Committee and the Windham County LIST Committee, is a current member of the AHM Youth Services Juvenile Review Board and a member of a disaster response team run by the Connecticut Department of Mental Health. Szegda has been involved in initiating several programs benefitting Columbia residents, including after-school programs and the TASKS program for senior citizens.

“My priorities will be to support the needs of seniors by putting in place additional programs similar to the ‘Teens Supporting Seniors’ program and to support children by supporting education and by supporting youth recreation programs and positive youth development programs.  I also understand that it is exceedingly important to keep town taxes as low as possible.  As a member of the BOS for the past 10 years I have been a member of a team that has been successful in doing that.  I intend to continue making that a priority,” said Szegda.

Carmen Vance (R)

"During the past four years as your first selectman, I have worked hard to represent all the residents of Columbia, to listen to your suggestions and to address town needs. I have worked with our town administrator to improve services while keeping Columbia affordable for all residents by judicious use of tax dollars and limiting Board of Selectmen budget increases," said Vance. "To date, we have been very successful and I will continue this approach if re-elected. Parents have asked that the town and school provide more after-school activities for our youth, particularly non-athletic activities. The school principal and I have been working together on this and will continue to develop the program during the next four years. Two years ago, the Leos (Lions Club youth group) and I started a new tradition, the Columbia-wide Easter Egg Hunt. The Leos have become an asset for our town," Vance said.

"Residents have continually stressed that they want to maintain the rural character of Columbia. Much effort has gone into this during the past years. I am pleased that the town and the state have partnered to purchase the development rights for two large parcels of land in town. We have also pursued ways of obtaining open space and preserving watercourse ways. If re-elected, I plan to continue these efforts.

"Over the past four years, I have met with the Planning and Zoning Commission and developers about rental housing for seniors. Recently a private developer purchased a large tract of land in the center of town that we hope can accommodate some senior housing.  I also initiated joint meetings with representatives of all of our land use boards to get an inclusive picture of how best to deal with future development and growth of the town, while preserving its unique character. Protection of the waters of Columbia is also a major priority. Multiple organizations provide services to residents, the fire department, the library, the recreation commission and the senior center, to name just a few. I believe one of the tasks of the first selectman is to work with staff to see that these organizations can do their jobs as efficiently and hassle-free as possible. To do this, the first selectman must be knowledgeable about what is happening with our boards and commissions. If re-elected, I will continue to attend meetings of these groups as I have during the past four years. I will also continue to keep you updated as I have in the past, through articles in the Crossroads, the senior newsletter, the town website, and the Porter School newsletter."

Running for Selectman:

Steven Everett (R)

Everett and his family have resided in Columbia since 1987. He spent 33 years in the Navy and the Navy Reserves, earning many commendation medals. He enlisted at age 17 and rose through the ranks to Master Chief Petty Officer. He was recalled to active duty in 2007-2008 serving in Kuwait and the UAE for Operation Enduring Freedom. Everett is a familiar face to many businesses, as he has worked as an account manager for over 17 years with telecommunications companies SNET and AT&T. Most recently he was employed as directory of service for ID Mail Systems, Inc. He holds a bachelor's degree in history from Eastern Connecticut State University.

Everett currently serves as a member of FIPAC. He has been active in the Columbia community as a member of the Republican Town Committee, served on the High School Exploration committee and Firehouse Utilization committee. He was a mentor of the Youth Ski Club, a coach for baseball and basketball in Columbia and RHAM football in Hebron/Marlborough. He is a member of St. Columba Parish.

Laurie Rogers (Green Party)

"My husband Rob and I moved to Columbia in 2004 to raise our 4-year-old daughter," said Rogers. "The first thing that attracted us to Columbia was what the school system had to offer. The small class sizes, the one-on-one attention, the caring staff and the fact that it is a Pre-K to 8 school were all factors that appealed to us. Another thing that appealed to us was the town square feeling. We love the fact that the school, bank, post office, church, library, and Town Hall are all situated in the town square with the Fire Department not far away. We also loved the lake, the beautiful park and the recreational offerings. We felt that this was a place our family could grow and a community we could grow with," Rogers said.

"My volunteer work has included being a parent aide in my daughter’s classrooms, a Girl Scout leader for three years, secretary of the PTO for one year, the VIPS program, coordinator of Field Day for four years and a member of the Principal Parent Advisory Committee. My volunteer work for the town has included serving on the Solid Waste and Recycling Committee, VP of Friends of the Library, member of the Youth Services Committee, working on elections and canvassing and the Recreation Department Golf Tournament," she said.

"I am not for a party, I am not for popularity, I am not for unnecessary higher taxes. What I am for is what’s good for the town of Columbia. My purpose as a BOS member is to utilize all resources available to enhance the appeal of Columbia to new families, bringing in a new tax base. I will do this by working with other town departments, unifying the community by enhancing our town and making our town appealing to new young families, making our tax dollars work for us by eliminating unnecessary expense and bringing in programs that will help with town growth, supporting decisions that are good for the town’s growth and tax base and being available to the townspeople to discuss ideas and concerns and educating myself on issues that are important to the townspeople so I can represent my town to the best of my ability."

Rob Hellstrom (D)

"My values as a selectman include supporting quality education as the foundation of a town and for our children’s future and a strong school system protects our property values and the community overall," said Hellstrom. I also believe in promoting a balanced, fiscally-responsible budget that maintains Columbia’s responsibilities such as our senior citizens, ensuring Columbia’s land use office is efficient and fair, maintaining the needs of first responders who provide us with the safety and public protection we need. Preserving open space and our limited remaining farm land to preserve the rural character of Columbia is also important, as is encouraging development of youth programs that are an investment in our future," said Hellstrom.

"I've served on the Board of Selectmen since 2009, helping to keep taxes under control while meeting the needs of the community. I'm a Columbia-area business owner and 36-year resident, and a licensed land surveyor bringing valuable knowledge on preservation of critical open space in Columbia. I'm also a former member of the open space committee, a youth coach and former president for the Columbia /Windham Soccer Alliance," Hellstrom said.

"I believe in maintaining the distinction of Columbia and making it the best for community as a whole. I am open to your concerns."

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