Washington, CT

October 2011 - Selectmen's Debate Held

Hileman Looks Ahead, Lyon Clutches Status Quo

[10/12/11]On Tuesday, October 11, at 7:00 PM, about 250 people came together at Bryan Memorial Town Hall to hear candidates for Selectman answer previously submitted questions concerning the future of Washington.

The four candidates in this on-again off-again debate were Republican incumbent First Selectman, Mark Lyon, and his Independent challenger, Wayne Hileman, as well as Selectman candidates, Republican Dick Carey and Democrat, Susan Luckett Jahnke.

Who Will Face the Future?

The main difference between the two First Selectman candidates that emerged during the debate was how they choose to face the future. Mark Lyon is very comfortable with the way business has been conducted in Washington and sees his role as maintaining the current operation.

On the other hand, Wayne Hileman has studied the Town's changing demographics and believes that the community needs to address the issues created by its changing population before they become a crisis. There are, for example, fewer young families and, therefore, fewer children in the schools and a growing number of seniors. Such changes have important implications for education, housing, and taxes, which will have to be addressed in the near future.

To Lead or Not to Lead

Mr. Hileman believes that it is the First Selectman’s role to create an environment where Town commissions work together to address the housing issue. Mr. Lyon disagrees, stating clearly that he does not believe it is his role to involve himself with the volunteer commissions.

Mr. Lyon believes in continuing to work with the Region 12 Board of Education and the other two Region 12 First Selectmen. In contrast, Mr. Hileman would take a more active role in developing an education plan that works best for Washington, instead of relying solely on Region 12 to develop options that may not be in the Town’s best interest.

Hileman Favors 'Open Government'

The candidates hold very different philosophies of open government. In the past, Mr. Lyon has voted against recording Board of Selectmen meetings. But Mr. Hileman believes that the Selectmen’s meetings should be recorded and meeting times changed to allow more community involvement.

The current Board of Selectmen has filled jobs without posting and advertising them--a practice Mr. Hileman would stop. Mr. Hileman’s goal is to open up Town jobs that are contracted out to the largest possible group of contractors, which only an open bidding process can insure.

Make Washington More Affordable

Keeping property tax low was a key answer to many of the questions posed to Mr. Lyon about how to make the Town affordable. Mr. Hileman countered that low property tax is only one of many solutions. An effort also needs to be made to provide a greater variety of housing options--modest, affordable and market rate, preferably in or near village centers, to attract young families and to appeal to seniors, so they can afford to stay in Town.

Status Quo vs. the Future

In summary, the two First Selectman candidates represent two very different management styles. Mr. Lyon is comfortable with the status quo and views his role as largely a custodial one--keeping things moving along on their current path.

On the other hand, Mr. Hileman believes that Washington faces many challenge that have barely been recognized, let alone confronted. They are largely the result of changing demographics. Mr. Hileman's goal is to mobilize the community to acknowledge these changes, confront the impact they have on our way of life, and adapt to the new reality they have created.