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Political Newcomer, Board Incumbent Face Off For Simsbury First Selectman Seat

Both candidates for Simsbury’s next first selectman plan to bring their personal experiences to the job to usher in a new form of government and the town’s first-ever town manager.

Republican Mike Paine, 62, is a lifelong resident and has served on the board of selectmen, as well as a previous a four-year term on the planning commission. The married father of two has been president of East Granby-based waste and recycling company Paine's Inc. since 1989.

In addition to his business experience, Paine said his time spent watching Simsbury transform over the years will be beneficial for setting a foundation with the new town manager.

“I bring that history — and I think it’s a good history — to the table to be able to educate the new town manager as to what Tariffville’s about, where Weatogue is, those kind of things,” Paine said. “I say that tongue-in-cheek but you come in from out of town and you don’t know this stuff.”

There is not a residency requirement for the town manager position, which means the person hired for the job can live outside of Simsbury.

Paine said he envisions the role of first selectman serving as “the bridge between the board of selectmen and the town manager,” setting policy for the new town manager to carry out. He added that he believes the board will have more in-depth conversations in the future to explain to the town manager how they arrived at a certain decision.

“I think a town has core values and I think … in a town they can take on the personality of their leader and whether it’s myself or the town manger, we need to be complementary to each other and sometimes that means having uncomfortable conversations to understand where the other side ... is coming from.”

Democrat Eric Wellman, 34, is an Aetna business consultant and former journalist originally from Massachusetts. He has not held public office in town, but is a member of the insurance committee. Wellman and his wife, a Simsbury native, have a 5-year-old daughter.

“I help institutions solve business problems,” Wellman said. “I help them work more efficiently to save money and improve the quality of the services that they offer.”

“I don’t own my own business … but I still drive transformational change through building relationships and building consensus,” he added.

Wellman said if elected, he imagines “a very strong board of selectmen,” led by the first selectman, that will set policy for the town manager to implement, in contrast to some other municipalities where legislative bodies are steered by the town manager.

Both candidates said communication between Simsbury’s boards of selectmen and finance is more important than ever in light of the state budget crisis. They both said that the town must continue to exercise conscientious planning and fiscal responsibility to navigate future budgets and financial challenges.

Additionally, Wellman spoke of the need to decrease Simsbury’s reliance on state dollars in the future.

Both Paine and Wellman also said Simsbury’s strongest asset is the level of civic engagement in town.

Longtime Simsbury resident Robert H. Kalechman is also running for first selectman as a petitioning candidate.

Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 7. Simsbury is redistricting polling places for approximately 1,500 voters to alleviate crowding. Affected households will receive a mailing with more details and signs will be placed on affected streets.

The changes are also available to view on the town website under the registrar of voters tab.

The new charter that implements Simsbury’s town manager will go into effect on Monday, Dec. 4.

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