Gordon Paterson announces bid for mayor
By Suzanne Carlson
VERNON — Lawyer and engineer Gordon Paterson has announced his intention to run for mayor as a petitioning candidate this November and says he has the business and people skills to bring community members together on contentious issues.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that I can do the job,” Paterson said Tuesday. “There is common ground in town, it’s just how best to get there.”
A registered Republican, Paterson, 51, said he has sought the endorsement of both parties but plans to run as a petitioning candidate regardless of whatever support he might get from Democrats or Republicans.
With degrees in geology, engineering, and a juris doctorate from Western New England College of Law, Paterson’s work history is varied, and after years as an engineer and private lawyer he now manages surety bonds for construction projects.
He served as assistant town engineer for about a year around 1987 and was a member of the Republican Town Committee in the 1990s when he was also was on the Charter Revision Commission. He served as chairman of the Water Pollution Control Authority for three years and was a member for six, and also served on the Conservation Commission for two years.
Paterson said he never had interest in running for Town Council or Board of Education but said he feels well suited for the role of mayor, especially now that his three daughters are entering adulthood and his employment is flexible enough to allow adding a mayor’s part-time responsibilities.
His daughter Bethany, 24, just received a graduate degree from the London School of Economics; Eliza, 21, is entering her senior year in college in Colorado; and his youngest daughter Anna, 16, is autistic and will attend River Street School until she’s 21.
His wife, Amy Blaymore Paterson, is a lawyer who has worked on numerous local issues mainly involving the environmental impact of land use. She is fully supportive of his bid for mayor, Paterson said.
He criticized local politics in recent years as “dysfunctional” and closed off from public examination, and said he would commit to being “totally open” and transparent if elected.
“When you keep things secret you create the perception that there are ulterior motives,” Paterson said.
Paterson said that if he ever felt the need to hire someone he knew personally, for example, he would be forthcoming about the connection and why he felt the person was the best candidate.
As a lawyer, he said large amounts of money are spent on litigation trying to keep information private no matter how insignificant the detail, but that is not appropriate for the public sector.
“I think at the end of the day, things don’t progress when you try to do it that way,” Paterson said.
He also said he would remove a gag order on town staff members and allow employees to do their jobs free from micro-management.
“It’s a lack of autonomy. … It arises from the sense that if they take some initiative they might get slapped down,” Paterson said.
He said that “people really shine” when they’re trusted with responsibility, and said there are numerous volunteers and other local resources, such as the Rockville Downtown Association, that have been kept from thriving.
When asked if he had any bottom lines on issues like taxes, Paterson replied that “there’s no absolutes.”
While current Republican Mayor Jason L. McCoy has said he lowered taxes as mayor, “I think that’s a smokescreen,” Paterson said. “I don’t really feel that as the mayor I’m the person who’s setting the taxes.”
He highlighted his background in business and development and said he is well versed in assembling a team to accomplish a task and managing that team effectively.
Paterson said his daughter Anna, who is nonverbal, loves going on car rides, so “I drive through Rockville twice a day every day and just look. … I believe that if you really want to start revitalizing a place like Rockville, you’ve got to bring in the culture. I think things follow from that.”
Paterson said he hoped that mayoral candidates could debate each other before the election and is excited to move ahead.
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