The live debate was sponsored by EWML and the Monroe Chamber of Commerce.
Pizza & Politics Pack the Room at EWML
The first debate among the three candidates running for the office of Monroe First Selectman drew a “sell-out” crowd within two days of the announcement. By 5 o’clock, 15 minutes before the publicized opening of the doors on Sept. 27, the room was already three-quarters full of eager residents with pizza in hand.
The three candidates are democracy at work. Republican candidate and Town Council member, Ken Kellogg, announced his run for First Selectman in January and is endorsed by the Republican Town Committee. Democrat candidate and Town Council menber, Dan Hunsberger, announced his candidacy in April and is backed by the Democratic Town Committee. Unaffiliated businessman Frank Bennett decided to run after learning that First Selectman Steve Vavrek would not be running for another term and officially threw his hat in the ring in August by filing his papers to run.
The differences between the three candidates were evident in their opening statements and demeanor.
“How we make money and how we spend it is my platform,” said Dan Hunsberger, an attorney. “It includes Town Hall, Taxes and Schools.” He supports hiring an Economic Development Director to bring more business into Monroe. He also said “My decisions will be based on what’s good for Monroe.”
Ken Kellogg, a businessman and administrator aims to “make a greater and positive impact on our town. He plans to focus on government efficiency while holding taxes down in the face of Gov. Malloy’s cuts to school funding and anticipated bill to the town for some three million dollars for teacher pensions. His plan included People – to deliver solutions; Process – to speed up that delivery; and Partnerships – working with Monroe’s Economic Development Commission to market Monroe.
Frank Bennett, a businessman, intends to focus on what’s good for the town by considering the “three pillars of business - Cost, Cash and Service.” “Running a Town is like running a business,” he said. He would “vote for “Community over Party. As for hiring a Director of Economic Development he said, “I support hiring a director, but we would have to structure the cost so as not to hurt the community in the face of Gov. Malloy’s cuts.”
Serving up the pizza are from left Carrie Milks, Jan Snyder (Treasurer of the sponsoring Chamber of Commerce) Debbie Bojnec and Megan Bernard, all Newtown Savings Bank volunteers.
Before taking on their roles as co-emcees (from left) Citizen of the Year Lee Hossler and Chamber of Commerce President Ray Giovanni get their slices from Carrie Milks.
Why Did They Come?
“I’m here primarily because partisanship is at an all time high. I want to know who’s got a plan that’s more than ‘What’s in it for my party.’” said Jim Winkler. Winkler has two sons. One just graduated from Masuk High School in June after several years participation in Masuk’s award winning Robotics Club, and one is a freshman this year. He’s concerned about education funding and rising taxes.
“This is an important election year,” said Marty Palange, “with the loss of funding from the state. I want to hear their (the candidates’) plan for the loss of revenue.”
Lori Bennett and son John attended to support husband, dad and candidate Frank Bennett. The family has been residents of Monroe for some 45 years.
Sam Gertner can’t vote. He’s only a junior at Masuk High School, but is interested in politics. He brought his mom, Camela, to the debate who admitted she was “pretty much a party-line voter.” Still she agreed to listen to what all the candidates had to say. “And I might change my mind,” she said obviously proud of her son’s interest.
Veronica Condon said “I’m primarily here to see Ken Kellogg, support him and my husband.” Dennis Condon is a Town Council Candidate.
Mary Kellogg (left) and her friend Deborah Mattingly came to support Ken Kellogg. Mary is candidate Kellogg’s wife.