First, Patch sat down with first selectman candidate Kevin Ziolkovski, a petitioning independent, for nearly .
Wednesday, Patch sat down with incumbent Republican First Selectman Dan Steward, who is seeking his fourth term. Steward was first elected in 2005.
The first selectman gave his take on a variety of issues and also shared his philosophy on the job. The first selectman position is really two jobs in one, one part managing the town and the other representing the town of Waterford at a variety of public events, Steward said.
Steward said he is and has been successful at managing the town because he has 27 years of experience managing people at the phone company and Dominion (and now six with the town), and a bachelor’s degree in communications and a master's degree in organizational industrial psychology.
Without further ado; here are some sound bites from the interview.
Steward on extending the hours of town hall (Ziolkovski’s idea):
“Normally, it’s based on what people need. And if there is not a need for it, show me the need. How many people want it to stay open? And then who are you going to staff it with?
“If somebody needs an appointment with the building inspector, or the planner, or anybody, and it needs to be at four or five o’clock, that can be arranged without a problem. And it’s happened many times.”
Also, Steward worried about safety:
“Some of the people who come in aren’t the everyday citizen -- they might be a little off -- and then you might end up with a situation where you have somebody who isn’t appropriate. And who is going to manage that inappropriate person?”
Steward raised an eyebrow when he heard of Ziolkovski’s idea to have the selectmen sit in town hall for eight hours a week each.
“People don’t come here looking for the selectmen. Generally they are looking for me. I don’t think you would have many visitors.”
Replacing the first selectman position with a town manager (Ziolkovski’s idea):
“This job is effectively a town manager position. Since the early '80s this job has been staffed with people who had manager experience. There is experience behind us which allows us to do this job.”
Steward did agree that there should be qualifications for the job of first selectman.
“They should have to have managerial experience. They have to be able to manage people. They need to have some fiscal responsibilities. They need to understand the fiscal society and how we manage monies.”
On installing 24-hour-a-day fire services (Ziolkovski’s idea):
“A professional fire service is not something I would recommend. Waterford is built on volunteerism. We have volunteer firefighters who serve the town very well.”
On the board of education:
“I think they are somewhat out of touch with the educational system we offer. The board itself, I don’t think has enough hands-on within the schools. They depend on the staff, the superintendent.
There are an awful lot of good people who work on the board of education, and they work really hard to try to make it the best educational system we can have. But when I look at them, they’re not your younger parents.
There is a couple on there who have younger children in the system. Many of them don’t have children in the system, because their children are grown. I think there is a need for younger people to be more active on it, and to understand some of the fiscal responsibilities associated with education.
I’m not sure we are making good fiscal decisions all the time.”
Board of finance should have line-item control, he said. “I think there should be more oversight of their line-item spending.”
On a new animal shelter:
“We are not building a new animal shelter for the next four years. I’ve . I think I’ve made that clear.”
Steward added no new buildings or renovations to existing buildings would take place for at least another four years, as the town has to pay off school construction.
“I’d like to see something done with it, beyond having the state hold it, and not take care of it. ... I’m happy if they would sell it to a developer who would at least manage the property and try to offer better services down there to make it habitable and safe.”
On regionalization, which he says will be the focus of his campaign:
“County government would be a better form of government than what we have today. But the municipalities won’t allow it. There is a provincialism that exists in municipal government that says ‘We’re better than the next town.’ We’re not; we are all the same. ... To live on our own and to live on our own little island, it’s not real.”
Steward said he is currently in negotiations to regionalize with East Lyme on both the new and the .
On representing the town and why he goes to so many events:
“You are the person that they ask to represent this town. And you are the person they can complain to. And you need to listen. … I think living by the rules is a very important aspect of what I do. When I’m here, I live by the rules. When I’m not here, I live by the same rules. I still represent this town. ... I’m who I am. If you don’t like me, I’m sorry. If you do like me, good. I’ll do what I can for whomever.”
“I support Millstone as long as Millstone does what is correct.”
Why should people vote for him:
“I believe I have accomplished things in the town of Waterford over the past few years, one of those being the merging of (human resources), doing some things that are beneficial to the community. We have constructed five schools. We have done that in a fiscally responsible process.
It is not to everybody’s liking that we are spending money; our schools were in terrible condition and we needed to get them renovated. I have generated funds to help support the cell towers for the radio system. We were able to replace the entire radio system.
We have lowered some of our expenses, we have done some attrition to be more efficient with our personnel. We’ve done that without necessarily damaging services to our community. I believe that I represent the community at functions professionally and appropriately. And I do that with the desire to make Waterford seem like the best place you could have to live.”