Smart Growth for Vernon, CT
Vernon will have a choice

Journal Inquirer
Published: Tuesday, July 26, 2011 12:02 PM EDT

It looks like the town of Vernon is going to have four candidates for mayor this year — but one of them won’t be incumbent Jason McCoy. McCoy has announced he won’t seek a third term.

The Democratic Party is backing Pauline Schaefer, a veteran of local politics now serving on the Town Council.

James Krupienski is an unaffiliated member of the council who has told supporters he plans to run as a petitioning candidate.

The GOP nomination will apparently go to George Apel, a Vernon school board member and longtime good citizen and volunteer.

And last week local lawyer and engineer Gordon Paterson announced that he too is running for mayor as a petitioning candidate, though he is a registered Republican and a former member of the Vernon Republican Town Committee.

It is an interesting field and Paterson may be the most intriguing of the bunch. He is an outsider in the crassly political sense. He has not been a part of town infighting and is not at all a partisan. But he is an insider in terms of service, having served on several town commissions, and even, in his younger days, worked as assistant town engineer. His campaign is, in one sense, a leap forward — toward a less divisive and more professional town governance. But in another, it is step “back to the future.” In the 1950s, ’60s, and ’70s, town government in this state was dominated by good citizen types who were not partisan, who worked together across party lines, and almost none of whom sought, or would even accept, “higher” office. They simply loved their towns and wanted to give back.

Somewhere along the line, town politics, in many towns, came to be dominated by small-time politicians with oversized egos.

If Paterson has a plan for getting Vernon politics out of its current vindictive and dysfunctional mode, his campaign could gain traction.

The public wants progress, not family feuds.

The current mayor and council seem to be always angry — very angry. The council is angry at the mayor, almost before he acts. The mayor sometimes seems to be angry at the world. And none of this is helping the town.

In any case, Vernon citizens can’t complain they have no choice in November. The hope is that so broad a field will result in a series of debates and that real issues can be explored in those debates:

— How can the town control its costs and taxes?

— Can Rockville be redeveloped? If so, how?

— Can the town take better advantage of its good services, parks, and proximity to Interstate 84 and attract new business and industry?

— Can civility in town politics be restored?

In recent years, Vernon has sometimes barely had a two-person race for mayor. It was more like 1½. Will this race really consist of four strong contenders? Or will it come down to the two strongest? It’s impossible to predict. The contours of the race depend on who works hard to develop a platform, who campaigns person to person the most, and who gets his or her issues out front, by whatever means. A vigorous race should be good for Vernon. The town can do better.

Copyright © 2011 - Journal Inquirer