Mansfield Municipal Election 2017: Meet the Town Council candidates

In the upcoming municipal election which will take place on Tuesday, Nov. 7, there are 13 candidates running for the Mansfield Town Council’s nine positions. There are three Republicans, six Democrats, two petitioning candidates and two write-in candidates on the ballot. Among the Democratic candidates are Mansfield’s current mayor and deputy mayor, as well as several individuals who presently serve as town councilors. The Republican candidates include a retired nuclear engineer and a retired electrical engineer who previously served on the council. The council acts as the legislative and policy-making body within the town’s council-manager government form, according to the Town of Mansfield’s website. Councilors are elected biennially, are not paid for their work and select a mayor and deputy mayor from among themselves, the website said.

(Charlotte Lao/The Daily Campus)

(Charlotte Lao/The Daily Campus)

Paul Shapiro

Shapiro currently serves as the Mayor of Mansfield. He is running for re-election to the Mansfield Town Council for the Democratic party.

Shapiro said he is seeking re-election because he wishes to help complete the council’s work on several ongoing items, such as the search for a new town manager and Mansfield’s budget.

“Mansfield is in the midst of a search for a town manager, and we will hopefully make a selection in the near future,” Shapiro said. “We are also bearing a significant part of the brunt of the state’s financial crisis. And I want to see that through to resolution. And then we will start on the budget for the next cycle. I want to continue the good work that has been done so far.”

Shapiro said one of his main goals if he is re-elected is to preserve a high standard of living at a reasonable cost in Mansfield.

“The quality of life embraces many things, from outstanding schools to open space,” Shapiro said. “It includes the Mansfield Community Center, which is a community treasure. And it certainly includes the very successful Storrs downtown.”

Shapiro said the relationship between the town and the University of Connecticut can be improved and he is glad to help facilitate this progress.

“I am open to meeting with anybody in the university community who wants to talk about what we can do to have more and better conversations about the relationship between the town and the university,” Shapiro said. “On many levels well below the radar, good things are happening. UConn’s director of community outreach…does terrific work, and he is regularly in touch with the town about how we can improve communication.”

In relation to the current efforts of the town’s Planning and Zoning Commission to revise multi-unit housing zoning regulations, a difficulty with such housing is the presence in town of a single area which can support it, according to Shapiro.

“That is an area that is under the authority of the Planning and Zoning Commission. And while I am interested in their work and it will have an impact on the town, that is not something that will come before the council,” Shapiro said. “The challenge with multi-unit housing is that there is only one part of town that has the infrastructure to support multi-unit housing.”

Shapiro said the Planning and Zoning Commission’s approval last June of the ordinance to broaden the definition of “fraternity/sorority” to “fraternal organization” has caused some concern.

“(The ordinance) is not under the jurisdiction of the town council, because the ordinance to amend the prohibition on fraternities and sororities and expand the definition was approved by the Planning and Zoning Commission, not the council, and we do not have any legal authority to change it,” Shapiro said. “It is a concern to some of us because of how broadly the definition of fraternities and sororities is worded. That said, fraternities and sororities…have not historically been allowed in residential neighborhoods, and that remains unchanged.”

The two petitioning candidates who are running for election to the council provide voters with more options as they select their next representatives, Shapiro said.

“This is a different election than Mansfield has ever experienced. For the first time since we began our council-manager form of government in 1973, we have independent candidates running, and that changes the dynamic,” Shapiro said. “The independent candidates have made this a real election, where the voters have real choices, and that’s a good thing for Mansfield.”


(Charlotte Lao/The Daily Campus)

(Charlotte Lao/The Daily Campus)

Ben Shaiken

Shaiken currently serves as a first-term Town Councilor on the Mansfield Town Council and as the Mansfield Democratic Town Committee Chair. He is running for re-election to the council for the Democratic Party.

“I’ve enjoyed my first term, I’ve learned a lot and there are a lot of things that I want to see done and keep doing and see through,” Shaiken said. “I grew up in town, went to UConn and stuck around, and so it’s important for me to give back to the community in some way, and so this is how I’m choosing to do it.”

Shaiken said he is seeking re-election as he hopes to help the council finish its work on several continuing activities, such as Mansfield’s budget and the search for a new town manager.

“We are in the process of hiring a new town manager, and they’ll start soon, hopefully. By the end of the year is our goal, and getting them introduced to the town, to the role and making sure that they’re able to successfully manage the town is important to me,” Shaiken said. “I think we have some sort of precarious budget times happening moving forward with the state budget. Mansfield receives a lot of state funding, and we’ll need to continue to try to figure out how to be less reliant on it.”

Shaiken said one of the main tenets of his platform as a candidate is his goal to make Mansfield an attractive place for people to move, particularly families.

“I want more people my age to want to come here,” Shaiken said. “And that means maintaining our great schools, and keeping them great and well-funded and everything you’d ever want for your kids. It means access to fun stuff to do and transportation and child care…And it means jobs. And that doesn’t have to be jobs in Mansfield, it could be regionally, opportunities for people to move out this way and have a good job.”

Shaiken said he feels the relationship between the town and the University of Connecticut could be improved through increased education for residents about town ordinances and laws

“I think we need to continue to educate students and landlords and everyone else about what our laws are and what, outside of laws, the expectations are for you if you are living in a neighborhood with families and kids in it,” Shaiken said. “My neighborhood has a few rentals in it and they’re wonderful people…But there are definitely neighborhoods and areas where people are having significant problems.”

Shaiken said he is supportive of new multi-unit housing developed in a “planful way.” Such development is within the purview of Mansfield’s Planning and Zoning Commission, according to Shaiken.

“I actually think one of the biggest things that will ease the burden that our single-family neighborhoods are having right now is having more (housing) supply,” Shaiken said.

Shaiken said the council has recently started to look into the ordinance which the Planning an and Zoning Commission approved last June that broadens the definition of “fraternity/sorority” to “fraternal organization.” This ordinance is under the Planning and Zoning Commission’s jurisdiction, according to Shaiken.

“We want to know more about it, we want to hear from (the town) attorney about why he thinks it’s legal and have him explain it a little bit more to us,” Shaiken said. “On its face, it seems problematic to me to, from a constitutional perspective, to ban any gathering of any organization.”

Shaiken said a highlight of his first-term came last February when he introduced and received bipartisan support for a policy that affirms the town’s support for immigrants regardless of their status.

“We’ve got a lot of immigrants in this community…and it was very important for me that they felt welcome in town and felt like they could avail themselves of town services like everyone else, whether that’s going to the library or needing to call an ambulance,” Shaiken said.

Shaiken said he feels current town council members and Mansfield employees value civility, and he hopes this sentiment will continue to exist amongst councilors in the future.

“We have civility between everybody on the council. Across all levels of government in Mansfield, there’s respect. I think it’s mutual most of the time between Republicans and Democrats. There’s disagreement certainly, but that’s okay, that’s part of the process,” Shaiken said. “I am worried about what will happen to our government if that goes away…I really hope that the voters value that civility as much as we do that are already on the council.”


(Charlotte Lao/The Daily Campus)

(Charlotte Lao/The Daily Campus)

Toni Moran

Moran currently serves as a Town Councilor on the Mansfield Town Council. She is running for re-election to the council for the Democratic party.

Moran said she has extensive experience with government and politics.

“I taught political science at CCSU (Central Connecticut State University) for 20 years, with a focus on state and local government,” Moran said.

Moran is seeking re-election because she wishes to help the council continue its efforts to ensure public safety and improve residential conditions, she said.

“We’ve made immense progress on finding ways to regulate residential property and to make it safer,” Moran said.

Moran said the search for a new town manager also motivated her to run for re-election. She said that as she is the council’s Personnel Committee Chair, she hopes to be a part of the hiring and transition process for the next town manager.

Moran said one of the main tenets of her platform as a candidate is advocacy for fair labor relations and workers’ rights. Other tenets include responsible fiscal management and the maintenance of good government, she said.

Moran said she also aims to respond to all citizens’ needs.

Moran said that during her time on the council to date, she helped hire consultants for a number of tasks, such as the town manager search and a police services review.

Moran said she is pleased with the number of women who are running for office in the upcoming municipal election.

“I’m equally pleased with the fact of bringing younger women into politics,” Moran said.

Moran said she feels it is valuable to include women in politics.

“Bringing women into politics is important,” Moran said. “We have a different perspective. And politicians need to engage with the whole population.”


(Charlotte Lao/The Daily Campus)

(Charlotte Lao/The Daily Campus)

David Freudmann

Freudmann is a retired electrical engineer and University of Connecticut graduate who previously served on the Mansfield Town Council from May 2012 until the municipal election of November 2013. He is running for election to the council for the Republican party.

Freudmann said the principal tenets of his platform as a candidate are fiscal responsibility and respect for people’s individual and property rights.

“We spend too much and government is too big,” Freudmann said.

Freudmann said he feels some town ordinances, such as the off-street parking at residential rental properties and nuisance ordinances, are cumbersome for student renters and landlords.

“People have rights. We respect people’s property rights and we respect their individual rights. They go hand-in-hand,” Freudmann said. “And we don’t feel that it’s fair that we can entertain (in our homes) at will and other people are treated as second class citizens and may get tickets for (it).”

Freudmann said he does not agree with the ordinance which the Planning and Zoning Commission approved last June that broadens the definition of “fraternity/sorority” to “fraternal organization.”

“The issue is that the very act of assembly is being is being made into a violation,” Freudmann said.

Freudmann said he opposes several aspects of the landlord registration ordinance. He said he believes the ordinance leads to increased rental costs and a greater number of houses being converted to rentals.

“The only part of that ordinance that I agree with is that landlords should register and should be subject to some inspection…there needs to be some protection for renters,” Freudmann said.

Freudmann said he and his two fellow Republican candidates for the council hope this election to keep the three council positions allotted to Republicans. He said they then wish to run a full slate of six Republican candidates for the council in the next municipal election two years from now, gain a Republican majority on the council and rescind some ordinances.

“Big government comes about because you pass all kinds of ordinances and have all kinds of programs that cost a lot of money,” Freudmann said. “And then a town like Mansfield becomes too expensive for young people starting out and they can’t afford to live in this town because…(the ordinances) cost money to enforce.”


(Charlotte Lao/The Daily Campus)

(Charlotte Lao/The Daily Campus)

Ric Hossack

Hossack is a retired nuclear engineer who has lived in Mansfield for 22 years. He is running for election to the Mansfield Town Council for the Republican party.

Hossack said he managed several manufacturing plants and worked on their profit and loss responsibility throughout his professional career.

“I’ve done a lot of work on budgets,” Hossack said. “I’ve made them work under less than ideal conditions.”

Hossack said the main tenets of his platform as a candidate include support of the town’s taxpayers, advocacy for all people in town and fiscal responsibility.  

“My main concern is the taxpayers of town,” Hossack said. “Not the special interests, not the personal agendas, but the taxpayers.”

Hossack said he believes some town ordinances, such as the nuisance and zoning ordinances, are inconvenient for student renters and landlords.

“Our objection is they’re too encumbering,” Hossack said.

Hossack said he hopes voters will differentiate in the upcoming municipal election between the Republican party on the national level and this party on the local level.

“We joke about how ‘evil’ we are, because we’re branded as being the national party,” Hossack said. “We’re concerned about the money, and that translates to taxes. That’s my main concern, the taxes.”


(Charlotte Lao/The Daily Campus)

(Charlotte Lao/The Daily Campus)

Bill Ryan

Mansfield Town Council member and Deputy Mayor Bill Ryan said he’s proud of Mansfield’s current financial situation, and, if re-elected for Town Council, he hopes to put a focus on Mansfield’s schools.

Ryan is a Democrat who has served as both a member of Town Council and chair of the council’s finance committee since 2009. He was elected Deputy Mayor by the councilors at the beginning of the current term.

“(As deputy mayor), whenever the mayor is absent I have to take his place in whatever function it is. I also meet with the town manager and the mayor a week ahead of each council meeting and we decide what’s going to be on the agenda for the next council meeting,” Ryan said.

Ryan expressed his pride for Mansfield’s financial situation.

“Since 2009, we’ve had a fund balance- what’s left over after you take in all your revenue and spend your money- of a little over $2 million, or about 4% of our total budget. This year our fund balance is over $5 million which is about 10% of our budget,” Ryan said.

Ryan said the fund balance is important because bond rating agencies look at it to determine potential interest rates.

“If you’re in good shape you get a low interest rate. But if you’re not so good, you get a high interest rate that can cost millions of dollars over the years,” Ryan said.

Ryan said the number of students in Mansfield’s schools is “shrinking” and that in the upcoming term, the Town Council may decide to consolidate some of them.

“I think we need to either build a new school and eliminate all three of the elementary schools that exist in town, or perhaps shut down one of the schools and divide the students among the other two,” Ryan said.

Ryan says he believes the town gown committee comprised of UConn students and Mansfield residents has been successful and the relationship between Mansfield and the University of Connecticut has improved.

“We still have problems with parties and rented facilities in town, but we’ve taken some steps to reduce the number of parties and the number of people that can live in each home,” Ryan said. “It’s a problem that I don’t think is ever going to be truly solved, but there’s a lot less tension there than there used to be.”


(Charlotte Lao/The Daily Campus)

(Charlotte Lao/The Daily Campus)

Terry Berthelot

If elected to Mansfield Town Council, Democratic candidate Terry Berthelot said she would focus her efforts on preserving the town’s schools and helping its aging population, as well as changing the tenor of the current political dialogue.

“(The current political dialogue) is not so much a Mansfield issue but an issue for all of us in politics across the country. I want us to be building bridges rather than tearing them down,” Berthelot said.

This election marks the first time that Berthelot has run for public office, as she was appointed to the Planning and Zoning Commission, where she currently serves as an alternate.

Berthelot said that the quality of Mansfield will remain a priority in the wake of budget cuts.

“If we need to make cuts, I hope to make sure that we do them thoughtfully to preserve the integrity of the town,” Berthelot said.

Berthelot said she will focus on helping both Mansfield’s children and its aging population.

“I very much want to make it clear here in Mansfield that as we’re looking forward, we’re preserving our schools and therefore preserving the future of the children in Mansfield. At the same time, we’re reckoning with the fact that we have an aging population. I want to do everything we can to to make it so that they can age in place- age in their own homes- here in Mansfield,” Berthelot said.

Berthelot said she wants to show her 11-year-old daughter, who was “crushed” when President Trump won the election, that America cares about the issues and people she believes Trump has ignored.

“(My daughter and I) went to the Women’s March in D.C. together. I want that moment to not be a moment of defeat for her but a moment of inspiration, where many of us came together to say that this is not the future. That the future of the country is not in the misogyny seen in people like President Trump, but in people who deeply care about children, about the environment and about older people and people with disabilities,” Berthelot said.

Berthelot currently teaches two Human Development and Family Studies classes, titled Legal Aspects of Family Life and Gender and Aging, at the University of Connecticut.

Berthelot has a Masters’ in Social Work and a law degree. Prior to teaching at UConn, she ran a hospice program and worked for a national non-profit law firm.


(Charlotte Lao/The Daily Campus)

(Charlotte Lao/The Daily Campus)

Peter Kochenburger

Mansfield Town Council member Peter Kochenburger said, if re-elected for Town Council, he hopes to maintain Mansfield’s affordability while continuing to expand the town in an effective way.

Kochenburger, a Democrat who served on the Planning and Zoning Commission for 10 years prior to being elected a councilor in 2009, said he’s proud of the progress Town Council has made since he first became a member.

“We continued what we inherited and I think we’ve maintained and expanded it,”  Kochenburger said. “We have the lowest taxes of any town around us, and I think some of the best services. Especially during the economic crisis, we resisted raising taxes for awhile, and did so only in ways we thought were appropriate.”

If re-elected, Kochenburger’s main goal is to maintain Mansfield’s affordability and prioritize the quality of its schools, he said.

“If we have to prioritize more than we’ve had to in the past, I hope we focus on schools. A lot of this will depend on the state budget over the next few years,” Kochenburger said.

Kochenburger added that he believes Storrs Center has been a success.

“Both Democrats and Republicans have recognized the need to build an independent tax base and that’s what Storrs Center is. There are a lot of good things about Storrs Center but one of them is that it helps make the town more fiscally independent,” Kochenburger said.

Kochenburger said he think it’s important to “maintain a balance” between the town of Mansfield and the University of Connecticut.

“I think generally, in most cases UConn and the town have similar interests, and what’s good for one is often good for the other,” Kochenburger said.

Though there can be times when the interests don’t coincide, both the town and the university are usually willing to communicate and work with each other, Kochenburger said.

“Working with each other doesn’t necessarily mean agreeing with each other, but at least we communicate well and we do often have agreement,” Kochenburger said.

In addition to being a member of town council, Kochenburger also teaches at the UConn School of Law.