The Roundup has once again sent questionnaires to every local candidate running for public office in this year’s election. In an effort to properly inform voters, their answers are unedited. The goal is to give the candidates the opportunity to offer their thoughts on issues directly to their constitutes. In return, it gives voters the opportunity to formulate their own decisions on what their candidates have to say.
Name: Cheryl Thibeault
Candidate For: Council, District 3
Age: 60, but feeling 29
I am the Controller for Community Solutions, Inc.; a non-profit headquartered in Connecticut providing community-based services while operating over 50 programs and services in eleven states and Canada. Prior to this I spent 15 years in the Renewable Energy field and 19 years in Telecommunications. This has provided me with a strong balance of financial and operational management in both non-profit and for profit companies and agencies. I have built a successful career around my abilities to plan, implement and lead. I am energized with a passion for quality improvement, employee development and financial growth.
Currently I serve as a Youth Leader at my church and I am a member of Forestville Village Association. I was a co-founder of the Pequabuck River Duck Race and I chaired the event for many years. I have been a PTA officer, Scout Leader, School Mentor, Sunday school teacher. I also served on two Non-Profit Boards.
I am sure I forgot some involvement, but I hope you recognize that I value giving back to my community as I have demonstrated over many years.
Political experience: No prior elected office.
City Service experience:
Board of Finance (including 4 years as chair), Retirement Board, Fire Building #4 Committee, Greene-Hills School Building Committee, Fields Committee, Energy Task Force, Banking and Audit Committee, Donations Committee, TEAM committee and liaison to the Police Board for the Board of Finance.
Campaign Website: Facebook.com/Cheryl4Council2019
What motivates you to run for office? Name three priorities and how you will achieve them.
I am running because I care about the people in this community. This isn’t a career step, a status thing, and I accept this responsibility with a desire to serve. The most effective public servants are those that listen, challenge, innovate and act. They even challenge their own ideas and biases, they challenge the way it has “always been done” and ultimately they create solutions.
Bristol needs innovation, we need to rethink what we have been doing; measuring the costs and ultimately does it serve the citizens. Projects should have a return on investment. Some think (the current administration) that just changing up the organizational chart of who reports to who and sharing a department with another town is an efficiency, yet when looking at the economic facts, expenses actually increased over 5%. We are adding a new school (MBS) during a time of decreased enrollment, yet those elected have voted to “do nothing” to plan for that opening. Should the tax payers shoulder the additional $3-$4 million of operating costs?
The Mayor and Council are advocating to spend $65 million of tax payer money on a city wide fiber network which will face obsolescence before it is fully erected. When elected, my focus will be fiscal accountability, growth of our grand list through economic development while providing a government that confidently provides citizens with the basic utilities, physical infrastructure such as roads and buildings, social infrastructure such as education, libraries, senior centers and recreation.
Political discourse on the federal level is increasingly partisan and divisive. What skills and abilities do you have to build collaboration in with legislators who have different views than you? Provide some examples where you’ve worked with others of opposite views to achieve a compromise.
Great ideas have no political affiliation. Overall, we need to do what is best for the people who we represent. When that is forgotten, when a party forces an issue, a tax, a reform or ordinance that is not the will of the people there will be discourse. Egos need to be checked at the door.
The best tools for building collaboration is starting with the indisputable facts, find a base of agreement and build upwards towards a shared goal. Everyone running cares about Bristol. I have demonstrated this ability many times on the board of finance. This is how under my chairmanship we were successfully able to locate and fund the turf fields and fund all-day kindergarten. We included experts and advisors from other committees, we listened to the citizens on their wants, needs and visions. Through respect, transparency and compromise we succeeded in our goals.
How can you balance city growth with sustainability?
Return on investment. Every expenditure has a return, some are tangible such as buildings adding to the grand list, some are intangible such as adding police officers. But each should bring a positive return to the city. In the examples above, the newer building shares the tax burden, lessening the impact to the homeowner, it may provide jobs or services that citizen’s desire. The police officer helps reduce crime, increasing home value and the perception of the City which may lead to more business moving in.
What can be done to improve public safety?
I am proud of our Bristol Police Department. Recent accreditations, trainings and bike patrols among other new initiatives all contribute to a safer community. A well proven method to improve public safety is to build trust. This isn’t just an assignment for our law enforcement team, but all who live in the borders of Bristol.
When you get to know your neighbors, when you build community on your own street, when you contribute to upkeep and safe structures – you build public safety. Too often we abdicate our own responsibility to be active and vigilant members of our society. Join a neighborhood watch, keep an eye on that elderly neighbor, build a relationship with the kids playing on your street or riding their bikes, share your security camera footage; all these are easy tasks each of us can do.
The Mayor and Council along with others need to help foster a positive relationship between the community and those active in public safety including police, fire and other emergency responders. We need to provide the necessary staffing and training to recruit, retain and equip each of these employees so that they can safely do their jobs and return home safe at the end of shift.
How will you address the city’s homelessness issue?
We are called to be sensitive to their situation and are challenged to not harden our heart to them. We are called to help those who are hungry and hurting. But we first need to understand the underlying causes and size of the situation. Is homeless the result of the rising cost of living? Divorce? Mental illness, addiction or other? Let’s inventory who is currently serving this population and as a city how can we bring them together for discussion and coordination.
We need to explore what charities we can access to provide not only the immediate need –but what would it take to help the family or individual to become self-sufficient. City government needs to work side by side with local ministries and other philanthropic groups to find those solutions. We can be a conduit for creating a clearing house of volunteers and needs for individuals.
It is my understanding that our current Mayor forwarded a letter to the state delegation to fight tax exemptions for non-profits that provide temporary housing for such individuals. Implementing property taxes would have a devastating effect on the services a non-profit can provide. It was a move in the wrong direction and an action I do not support.
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