University of Connecticut students Colin Mortimer and Haley Hinton are hoping to improve the relationship between UConn and Mansfield by running for seats on the Mansfield Town Council.
Hinton and Mortimer are running a write-in campaign unaffiliated with any political party.
“This isn’t supposed to be partisan in any way, we’re just trying to give a voice to people,” fifth-semester pre-law student Haley Hinton said.
Fifth-semester economics and mathematics-statistics double major Colin Mortimer said he and Hinton want to give a voice to the 50 percent of Mansfield residents who are UConn students.
“For decades, the town council has been run only by permanent residents, Mortimer said. “But ultimately they’re making decisions that directly affect students.”
Hinton said she and Mortimer have had experience working with the town, as this is the second year they have sat on the Undergraduate Student Government (USG) University-Town Relations committee.
“We’ve joked about running in the past but finally said, ‘why don’t we actually do it?’,” Hinton said.
Mortimer and Hinton said one of their goals is to improve communication between UConn students and Mansfield residents.
“Issues like the zoning regulations that have been passed can be resolved through communication,” Mortimer said. “A lot of this stuff falls by the wayside and turns this bad when students and the town don’t talk to each other, when we don’t have those lines of communication.”
Hinton said some Mansfield residents see their campaign as an “attack on them,” but said it should instead be seen as an opportunity to improve university-town relations.
“Though we believe the zoning regulations are unfair towards students, at the same time we recognize that students aren’t the best neighbors sometimes Hinton said. “Town residents shouldn’t be woken up the middle of the night because of a rowdy party down the street or because of people walking home from a party. That should be addressed and we can do things to change that, ”
Mortimer said, when controversies surrounding issues like zoning regulations arise, he believes it’s important to have a direct line of communication between the student body, USG and Mansfield Town Council.
“An authentic student perspective on what’s happening would allow us to help Mansfield resolve situations from both a student perspective and a town perspective, instead of just one of those,” Mortimer said.
Mortimer and Hinton expressed their belief that Mansfield’s and UConn’s goals are more similar than dissimilar.
“Our outcomes are intricately intertwined and I think it’s better now than ever to start working with the town to pass policy that’s mutually beneficial,” Mortimer said.
Mortimer and Hinton said they don’t think students realize the resources Mansfield and UConn provide for each other.
“Mansfield offers students a library, a community center, a town hall and parks,” Mortimer said. “Students seem to isolate themselves into the community that is UConn, so we wanted to expand the sphere.”
“We also have a lot of resources at UConn that the town doesn’t know about,” Hinton said. “Our USG committee has been trying to do things to help the town for many years, and we try to hold events…with them and sometimes that’s not even known about,”
Hinton and Mortimer said they have already effected change in the Town Council.
“On Monday, the town council called in zoning regulations to give a short presentation on the zoning ordinances in response to the legislation written by Haley and myself,” Mortimer said. “And one by one, almost everyone in the town council expressed concern about the zoning regulations and called upon the town attorney and Planning and Zoning Commission to review them. This was in response to myself and Haley’s efforts to call attention to them.
Mortimer and Hinton said, if elected, they hope to bring a fresh perspective to the town council.
“I think we’re bringing a unique, young perspective to things,” Hinton said. “Whether it’s us or it’s someone (recently) out of college, I think (young people) can bring a lot of knowledge.”
Mortimer and Hinton said they hope to make Mansfield a great town and a great place to live.
“We’re willing to learn and to put in the work,” Hinton said.
Gabriella Debenedictis is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.