BERLIN - In the first event of itâ€™s kind, the townâ€™s two mayoral candidates took the stage in the auditorium of Berlin High School Thursday evening.
Republican incumbent Mark Kaczynski and Democratic challenger Richard Paskiewicz debated each other in front of town residents and high school students. The debate was moderated by Christian Damiana, a BHS junior and president of the BHS Speech and Debate Club, which hosted the debate.
Candidates were given a three-minute opening statement, three-minute closing statement and two minutes to answer each question.
â€śI think this is a good idea,â€ť said Kaczynski during the opening statement before going first by virtue of a coin flip. Kaczynski explained how he grew up in town, went to UConn and then attended law school in California before becoming a DEA agent working in Washington D.C. and Connecticut overseeing budgets and personnell.
â€śThanks for coming this evening,â€ť said Paskiewicz during his opening remarks, explaining his background as a superintendent in four school districts, with three of them inviting him to the position with no challenge.
Questions then ranged from how each candidate would address an unexpected area, economic development and the police station in town.
â€śWeâ€™re going to hire a town manger,â€ť said Paskiewicz as to what he would do in response to a question on what he would do in his first 100 days, referencing the departure of former town manager Denise McNair.
â€śWe plan to move forward with the progress we made in the past two years,â€ť said Kaczynski, before saying a permanent town manager hasnâ€™t been found yet because the search committee looking for one didnâ€™t want to rush things and the town manager has been in capable hands in temporary town manager Jack Healy.
In response to what each candidate thought about the police station in town, Kaczynski said, â€śWe voted that down purely on budget,â€ť adding the town was already service a high level of debt because of the high school renovation project, but that he understands an upgrade is needed.
â€śRetail in this country is changing,â€ť said Paskiewicz, saying the hope of businesses coming to the potential mixed-use retail and residential development around the train station, which was once considered the site for a new police station, may be a challenge with online shopping.
â€śItâ€™s a frustrating thing during budget time when I can go line by line in the budgets for the other half of townâ€¦.we canâ€™t do that in the Board of Ed.,â€ť said Kaczynski, in response to a question on if the board of education should remain independent from the Town Council, of a state mandate stipulating such actions, but stating education is important to the town.
â€śThe people were aware that politics doesnâ€™t mix with education,â€ť said Paskiewicz in response to the same question.
â€śMy position is I will work with anyone, in any group at anytime,â€ť Paskiewicz said in response to what the relationship with the Board of Finance brought back as part of charter changes last year, but adding it may be hard with the 3 and 3 partisan seats.
â€śThey will be the financial analysts,â€ť said Kaczynski, saying the council would be able to discuss financial matters with the BoF in a bipartisan fashion.
When asked about their leadership styles, both candidates
â€śI want to hear public input,â€ť said Kaczynski, citing the recent actions to resolve a blighted property on Elton Road he initiated after previous stalling on the issue.
â€śI led by example, I worked hard, I told the truth and I was factual (with) what I said,â€ť said Paskiewicz of his time as superintendent and efforts to work as a team with administrators.
At the conclusion of it, Christine Sarrzin, said, â€śI thought it was outstanding. Itâ€™s nice to hear such a civil debate.â€ť
â€śI feel like local elections are often underrepresented and they impact us the most. I think the opportunities to hear the candidates directly was really good,â€ť said Audrey Feldman, a sophomore at BHS.
Charles Paullin can be reached at 860-801-5074 or firstname.lastname@example.org.