By SHERIDAN ROY
The Southington Republican Town Committee held their caucus on July 22, officially selecting their candidates for the 2019 municipal election.
Two long-time representatives—town councilor Mike Riccio and board of education chair Brian Goralski—have decided not to run for reelection. And, two long-time planning and zoning commissioners—current chair Mike Del Santo and vice chair Paul Chaplinsky Jr.—have made a leap for the town council, along with fellow PZC member James Morelli.
For town council, the SRTC nominated Del Santo, Chaplinsky Jr., Morelli, and incumbents Tom Lombardi, William Dziedzic and Victoria Triano.
For board of education, the SRTC nominated incumbents Joe Baczewski, Terri Carmody, Colleen Clark, and newcomers Missy Cipriano, James Chrzanowski and David Falvo. Patricia Queen will not be seeking reelection.
For board of finance, the SRTC nominated incumbents Joe Labieniec, John Leary, Tony Morrison and Ed Pocock Jr.
For planning and zoning, the SRTC nominated Bob Salka and current PZC alternate Peter Santago.
For board of water commissioners, the SRTC nominated Ron Lamoreux Jr. and incumbent and current vice chair Erika Pocock.
For town clerk, the SRTC nominated current clerk Kathy Larkin.
Candidates for town council are eager to push to take back majority.
“The current leadership, nothing against them as individuals, but they have not been able to run the town like it should be,” said Lombardi. He has served the council for six years. “This slate of candidates offers experienced, responsible leadership for Southington.”
Del Santo said the PZC has held a supermajority for the past 10 years, and it has been “wonderful.”
“I’ve served on the other side, on a super-minority, and we got nothing accomplished, and that’s what I feel when I watch the town council meetings,” he said. “They can’t get anything going. I have two more years to go—I can’t sit back and do nothing. Let’s take the town council back and get to work.”
Del Santo first ran for election in 2001 and has served ever since. He said he would put in 20 years and be done after that.
The PZC serve staggered, four-year terms. Because Del Santo is up for reelection on the PZC in 2021, as is Chaplinsky, Jr., if the two of them are elected to council, their seats on the PZC will be left vacant. Two Republicans would need to be appointed by the board to fill those seats. If they are not elected to council, they will remain on the PZC until 2021.
There are only three seats open in the PZC in 2019—seats currently held by Morelli (running for council), Republican Jen Clock (not seeking reelection) and Democrat Dagmara Scalise (not seeking reelection).
“Mike and Paul have had a great tenure on the PZC,” said SRTC chair Steve Kalkowski. “We have a strong bench of people interested in going on the PZC, so we’re excited. We’re going to have some seasoned leadership, so we continue to have experience that is really vital on the PZC.”
While excited about having many newcomers interested in running for various positions, Kalkowski said both Riccio and Goralski will be missed.
“We are sad about not having Mike, but he has some great things going on in his professional life and this will definitely give him the time to focus on some of the great things he’s doing,” said Kalkowski. “We fully support him. He continues to be engaged with us, and continues to provide guidance, coaching and mentoring to others, which will always be welcomed.”
Though he is not running for reelection in 2019, Riccio may not be out of politics for good.
“I have always believed that government, at all levels, needs term limits. It is the only way to get new ideas into the mix and keep government and leadership vibrant,” he said. “Since we don’t have term limits in Southington, I self-impose them.”
Riccio said far too many people in government “make it a life career,” and it is damaging to their town, state and country.
“Will I be back one day? Maybe,” he said.
As for Goralski, Kalkowski said he had a great run on what can sometimes be a “difficult board.” He said the BOE often is the check-and-balance between the board of finance and town council.
“Brian, I think, is at a point where he has done his run. He is going to stay engaged with us, but probably will take some time to recharge his batteries,” said Kalkowski. “He’s had a great run. He’s had a majority for the last 10-plus years, and we’ve had a really strong team on the BOE.”
Goralski said he is proud of his 16 years on the board, 12 of which he served as chair.
“I hope my legacy is one of dedication and honesty. I try to always do what’s in the best interest of students and of our community,” he said. His advice for his colleagues and any newcomers is to continue to do what’s best for the schools, and to “be proud that schools are the foundation of all communities.”
Goralski said he is proud of the improved relations between elected boards, along with the middle school renovation projects that were completed during his tenure. He is optimistic that the board will continue to move forward with discussions and plans regarding renovations at two of the elementary schools, as well.
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Sheridan Roy, email her at SRoy@SouthingtonObserver.com.