Local towns gear up for Nov. 5 municipal elections

By Janice Steinhagen - Staff Writer
Region - posted Tue., Oct. 29, 2013

As the Nov. 5 municipal elections draw near, local residents are pondering their choices for the slates of local candidates.

In Lisbon, town officials are waiting for word on an unusual situation involving Lisbon Senior Center director Judith Jencks. Jencks, a Democrat, is opposing incumbent Republican First Selectman Tom Sparkman for his seat, but is also running for re-election to the Board of Education, where she was appointed to fill a vacancy.

Town Clerk Laurie Tirocchi said that if Jencks is elected to the first selectman post, she must resign her job at the senior center, since it would be a conflict of interest. If, however, Jencks is the second or third highest vote-getter and wins a different seat on the Board of Selectmen, the state statute is less clear, said Tirocchi. “We’re waiting for word from the secretary of the state’s office,” she said. It’s also unclear whether Jencks could legally serve on both the boards of education and selectmen, she said.

Jencks, however, contends that her current job would not constitute a conflict of interest with the first selectman’s post. She said that Sparkman also serves as the town’s highway superintendent and chief of police, and she cited several other local municipalities where members of the Board of Selectmen have simultaneously served as town employees. “I think it’s pretty common,” she said. “I have to win both of [the races] and then we can deal with it once the dust settles.”

Sparkman said that he receives no additional salary for his work as highway superintendent or police chief, which is a nominal title with no real powers. But if Jencks were elected first selectman, he said, “she’d be a union employee, and she’d be supervising herself. How do you do that?”

The remaining candidates for the Lisbon Board of Selectmen are Democrat John Gwiazdowski and Republican Robert Browne, both incumbents. For Lisbon’s Board of Education, candidates include Republican incumbent Ian Rogers, Democratic incumbent Jenny Danburg, and Scott McCabe, a previous BOE member. Voters are asked to vote for two of the four candidates, but the top three vote-getters will be awarded seats on the board.

A similar situation occurs in Sprague. In that town, Democratic First Selectman Catherine Osten, who also serves as state senator for the 19th District, is again being challenged by Edward “Buddy” Meadows, a Republican and former selectman, who is currently the Sprague Senior Center director. Meadows has said he will resign his non-union municipal job at the senior center if he is elected first selectman, even though both jobs are essentially part-time. “If you want to give it your all, how can you do two jobs?” he said.

Republican Cheryl Blanchard and Democratic incumbent Denise Dembinski are running for spots as selectman.

Running for full terms on the Board of Education in Sprague are three incumbents: Democrats Terri Woroneki, the board’s current chairperson, and Janet Piezzo. Republicans Michael Smith, an incumbent, and Kathryn Sims are running for a seat on the BOE as well. Voters will also choose two of three candidates to fill two-year vacancies on the BOE: Republicans Geraldine "Gerry" Meadows and Joseph Osowski, and Democratic incumbent Linda Stefon.

In Preston, Robert Congdon, a Republican, is running for re-election as first selectman. His opponent is petitioning candidate Vincent Eleazer; the Democrats are fielding no candidate for this post. Running for the remaining seats on the board are Democrat Lynwood Crary  and Republican incumbent Michael Sinko.

For Preston’s Board of Education, candidates include Republicans Jennifer Harris and incumbent board vice-chairperson Charles Raymond; Democratic candidates Pauline Andruskiewicz, an incumbent, and Karin Davis; and petitioning candidate Cynthia Luty.

In Voluntown, current First Selectman Ronald Millovitsch, a Republican, opted to run for a post on the board rather than seek re-election to his current office. The sole candidate for First Selectman on the ballot is incumbent Selectman Robert Sirpenski, a Democrat, who has served on the BOS since 2005 and previously served a two-year term starting in 1989. However, Sirpenski is opposed by Tom Sweet, a lifelong town resident and Republican who is running as a write-in candidate. Sweet has served on the town’s zoning board and wetlands commission, which he chairs, since the 1970s.

Millovitsch’s Democratic opponent for selectman is Tracey Logan Hanson, who currently serves on the Board of Assessment Appeals and the library board of directors.

Voluntown voters are asked on the ballot to vote for two Board of Education candidates, but all three – Republican April Woodcock and Democrat incumbents Victoria Smith and James Hutchins – are guaranteed a full-term BOE seat, said Town Clerk Cheryl Sadowski.

In Bozrah, the current Board of Selectmen is running unopposed. Democratic incumbent First Selectman William Ballinger III is up for re-election, as are Republican Carl Zorn and Democrat Catherine McCue for the remaining two seats on the board.

For the Bozrah Board of Education, the two sole candidates, Jeanne Caplet and incumbent BOE chairperson Deborah Smith, both Democrats, are also guaranteed a seat.

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