The town of Woodbury’s political candidates got together at a Wednesday, Oct. 16, "Question the Candidates" night at Nonnewaug High School and the topics ranged from civility to town-owned cars to transparency.
The Debate Format
Questions were taken from the audience. Those in attendance asked their questions at a microphone or submitted them via cards. Candidates had one minute to answer. Names were not required.
Opposing candidates could offer their own answer to questions in a 30-second time slot. First selectmen candidates could do so no more than seven times.
Civility was brought up more than once at the Woodbury-Business Association-sponsored debate.
Question addressed to Bill Butterly, petitioning candidate for first selectman: What can you do to restore humility, trust and civility to political discourse with the public, among town officials and among town employees?
Butterly said it’s important to hear what people have to say and help them get their ideas implemented. He said that if elected, he’d like to meet once a month with board and commission members to make sure people are on the same page.
He said he wants to move away from micromanaging.
Incumbent first selectman and Republican Gerald ‘Jerry’ Stomski said he believes civility begins with respect and that has nothing to do with whether someone is a Democrat, a Republican or unaffiliated. He said time must be spent understanding the opinions of others as a first step toward civility.
An audience member asked Stomski via a comment card to address a rumor that people avoid coming to town offices. He said he’s unsure where that stems from but said he and his administration hear from people willing to volunteer and encourage people to volunteer.
Stomski said he and his team are respectful of those volunteers.
While on the topic of rumors, one of the cards addressed to Stomski asked him to address a rumor that he publicly carries a handgun, has it in his office and is verbally abusive to his staff.
“I do have a pistol permit,” Stomski said. “I’m allowed to carry a concealed weapon.”
He said his gun is not hidden in his desk, he certainly doesn’t threaten staff with it and it’s all about safety.
“I haven’t shot anybody at this point,” said Stomski, adding that he is one of many safe people legally able to carry a handgun.
What can you do better?
One of the cards submitted from the audience asked Butterly what he will do, besides being nicer, that will be an improvement over Stomski’s administration, eliciting chuckles from the crowd.
Butterly said he wants to host open office hours at the library or another convenient location so people can feel free to share what’s on their minds.
He cited the charter revision and said revising the document is important.
“A lot of the things that we have to do are around charter revision,” he said, adding that if he’s elected, he won’t serve more than two terms so any charter revisions don’t benefit him as a potential first selectman.
Stomski weighed in on the question and said he will always be fair to people and doesn't give favors or special treatment to anyone.
He said he is a nice guy and there’s an open door policy in his office for anyone who has questions or wants to talk.