WILTON — Five candidates vying for two open seats on the Wilton Selectboard voiced their hopes for the future of the town at a meet and greet event Monday night.

Select board candidates Ruth Cushman, Irving Faunce, David Leavitt, incumbent Tiffany Maiuri and Betty Shibles shared their backgrounds and answered questions from residents at the event Monday night held at Calzolaio’s Pasta Company from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m..

The five candidates all agreed that despite the town’s issues with rural poverty, Wilton has been gaining positive momentum in recent years, and all stated that they wanted to be a part of building off of that momentum.

Resident Mark Shibles stated that the comments of the candidates were all too positive considering that he believes Wilton looks like “a third world country,” but candidates rebutted this statement by saying that it will take time for the town to bounce back from the loss of the Bass Shoe factory over a decade ago.

Faunce, who has served previously on the selectboard, touted the work of town officials in pushing development, citing specifically the $200,000 federal grant the town received to begin demolition of the Forster Mill.

“I’m running because I love Wilton, because I think that Wilton is at a really rare moment in time where we see hope,” Faunce said.

Maiuri, who has served on the selectboard for the last three years, urged that it will take time to turn around Wilton’s business climate, but that people should focus on the positive developments that come along, such as Barclay’s establishing a call center in Wilton.

“I don’t agree that we look like a third-world country. We have done a lot,” Maiuri said. “It’s going to take a long time for us to get back to the days we were prosperous.”

She also said that it takes time for the town to apply for and receive grants to implement the development that the town needs. Aside from the $200,000 grant going towards the demolition of the Forster Mill, Maiuri used the $400,000 community development block grant the town of Wilton is putting to use later this summer to enhance the walkability of downtown as an example of small steps forward.

Leavitt spoke about the important economic aspect that grants play in development, reminding residents that while grants often take a longer time, the alternative way to develop a town would be raising taxes.

“It takes time and effort. And we have to wait on grants because we could increase taxes on everybody to tear down the Forster Mill, but that’s not the way to go,” Leavitt said.

Leavitt said that looking after the taxpayers is why he entered the selectboard race. When he saw the debate about a possible town contribution to the wastewater treatment plant’s debt payments, he said he was inspired to run.

Shibles, who drew strongly on her personal ties to Wilton at the event, said that she wants to see more people getting involved in moving the town forward. In an attempt to get the community more aware of the issues facing Wilton and involved in the process of moving the town forward, she suggested having the town manager meet with community members four times a year to brief them on the state of the town.

“The thing is we have to act … And it’s not just the selectboard. It has to be everyone. You can’t just have one person do something,” Shibles said.

Cushman advocated that her experience in local government would make her an asset in helping to move Wilton forward. She has served as a selectperson in Strong, held municipal managerial positions in surrounding towns and served on several boards and committees.

“I feel like I’ve really seen all aspects of local government, and I want to continue to see Wilton go forward and prosper,” Cushman said. “I think that given time and the direction that we are already going in, if we have some positive movement forward, it can look better than it does now.”

Cherie Ann Harrison, who is running uncontested for Wilton’s seat on the Regional School Unit 9 board of directors, was also present at the meet and greet event. Harrison spoke about the challenges of establishing a school budget that meets the needs of students within the district while also keeping costs down to lower the impact on the district’s rural taxpayers.

“I’ve seen the continued struggle to do more with less,” Harrison said.

RSU 9 residents approved a proposed $32.97 million school budget at the district-wide meeting last week. The proposed budget will go to a referendum vote on June 14 for final approval from voters in all of RSU 9’s ten towns.

Elections for the open seats on the Wilton Selectboard will also be on the June 14 ballot in advance of Town Meeting on June 20.

Lauren Abbate — 861-9252

[email protected]

Twitter: @Lauren_M_Abbate


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