Three Vying for One-Year Selectman's Seat in Cheshire
CHESHIRE, Mass. — Voters will decide a three-way race for the one-year seat on the Board of Selectmen on Monday.
James M. Boyle, Robert S. Ciskowski and Karmen B. Field-Mitchell are running for the vacant seat.
Boyle, originally from Windsor, has been involved in politics and business throughout his life.
"I think a combination of my business experience and working in the community would bring a new light to the town of Cheshire," Boyle said.
He was a Pittsfield city councilor for eight years and chairman of the School Committee when living in the city in the 1990s. He also helped create the tourism council in Pittsfield.
"I worked on a multitude of different economic development items that I worked on in Pittsfield trying to bring in more industry and jobs in the city," he said.
He has a business administration degree and has taken courses leading to a master's in public administration. He said he was a business manager for a nonprofit agency for 11 years.
"I have the financial ability to look over budgets and try to see where we can save some money and just general operations of good government," Boyle said. "Plus with working in the city, you develop a lot of contacts and relationships that can, hopefully, benefit everybody in the town of Cheshire.”
Boyle said he would like to help bring Cheshire into the "new century."
"I think we have a stagnant economic base as far as growth," he said. "The costs of the school and government are both going up, and the actual value of the town is going down due to lower assets so we are forced to push increase the taxes."
Boyle said he would like to bring in new businesses to help lower the tax rate.
"We need to expand the tax base so we bring in some new kinds of business in good locations to bring the tax rate down," he said.
Boyle also said if elected, he would fight for more government transparency and have selectmen's minutes more available. He also said the selectmen's meetings should be televised.
"I think everyone should know exactly what’s going on," Boyle said. "These things need to be brought out into the open so people can know and discuss things, and people need to know about them so they are not caught by surprise."
Boyle sees many assets in Cheshire and explained that he would like to look into creating a new senior center and expanding on the library.
"We have great assets here, but I don't think we are using them as well as we could," he said.
Ciskowski isn't a newcomer to town government. The Cheshire native served on the Selectmen, the Planning Board, the Finance Committee, the Town Government Reorganization Committee and the Cheshire School Advisory Council in the 1980s.
"I think with my background on the town boards, I have a pretty good understanding of how government works, and I also understand how it doesn't work sometimes," Ciskowski said.
He also owned North Mountain Excavating,a construction business based in Cheshire.
Ciskowski said he decided to run for selectman because he doesn't believe town government is moving things forward.
"I really think I can contribute," he said. "We don't have to throw out all the old ideas because a lot of them are good, but I think we have to realize it is 2014."
He said many of the things he worked on during his term as a selectman remain incomplete.
"I have some things I was working on a dozen years ago as a selectman, and I just don't think too much progress has been made on some of the things that I was working on," Ciskowski said.
If elected, he said he would like to make government more transparent and publish selectman minutes.
"I'd like for people to be able to see the government process and not just the end result," he said. "I think open and transparent is stronger."
He said he would also like to see board bring the community together.
"We all share common goals here in Cheshire, and I think the selectmen can be the ones who bring people together and work together," he said. "I think I did that last time I was selectman, and I think that I can do it again."
Ciskowski sees the town's decreasing population as an economic problem.
"If there are less people on the street we still have to plow them, and if there are less people in the schools we still have to have the schools," he said. "I think responding to the population decline is an issue, and it's not really an issue Cheshire can solve by itself, it's a system problem."
Ciskowski said he had a great life growing up in Cheshire and would like to make sure future generations can have the same experience that he did.
"I'd like to extend all the good I experienced and make it available for the next generation because all the decisions we make today will influence what tomorrow is going to be," he said.
Cheshire native Field-Mitchell is new to politics, but has been active in the community.
Trained as a special education teacher, she also managed a Rite Aid Pharmacy. She later became a member of the Council on Aging and was heavily involved in the Senior Center.
Field-Mitchell said she would bring proficient people skills to the Board of Selectmen.
"I am able to talk to people and listen to people," she said.
She would like to help Cheshire progress, but in a responsible way.
“You just can't come in and bulldoze your way through; the Cheshire people won't allow it," she said. "We have to keep moving forward, but not at the speed of light."
Field-Mitchell said Cheshire has to be mindful of its older population, yet make it interesting for the younger generation.
"We have a nice mixture of country and class here, and a lot of people that move to Cheshire want that attitude and environment for their families because its family friendly," she said. "Yet we still understand that we need to progress in order to keep the young people interested in wanting to raise their families here."
Field-Mitchell sees the mixture of different people and attitudes in the town and she wants to be able to help and please everyone.
"I want to help the people," she said. "I want to help the seniors, the children, the animals, and help keep our town country with class."
She said she loves living in Cheshire and wants to maintain what makes it such a special place to live.
"I like Cheshire because it is still a small town, it's still country, it's still classy, and it's the heart of the Berkshires."
The election takes place Monday, May 5, from 9 to 7 at the Senior Center on School Street.