First Selectman Richard Barlow has formally announced that he won’t be seeking re-election this fall. Additionally, three other board members have also confirmed they will not be running again.
“It was a privilege to be first selectman,” said Barlow, who has held the post since 2007. “It was really an honor to work with the different members of the board. At this point in time, I was ready to retire and move on to private life.”
Barlow previously served on the Zoning Commission and spent more than 34 years working at what is now the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.
On Thursday, fellow Republican selectmen Stephen Roberto and David Gilchrist Jr. confirmed they will not be seeking re-election. Lowell Humphrey, who is unaffiliated, also said he is not running again.
Gilchrist, who will be 84 in September, was first elected to the board in 2005 and has served some the town in various capacities for nearly 25 years. He said it’s simply time to retire.
Democrat Thomas Sevigny said he will be running again and said the exact role would be determined when the party holds its caucus later this month. Republicans are also slated to caucus later this month.
On Thursday selectmen acknowledged that there have been some disappointments in the past several years, such as the failure to get a new highway garage through referendum. That issue was one that went through several reiterations, each surrounded by controversy. Current selectmen, however, said they feel the town has accomplished much in the past several years.
Barlow said he is proud of improvements the town has implemented over the past several years, including the pavement management plan, a $6 million road improvement bond project, a $3.6 million track and field project, as well as other infrastructure improvements such as Mills Pond Park, downtown Collinsville and roof projects. Barlow said he is also proud of the town’s work, often with state and federal support, on the Farmington River Trail, the upper Mill Pond (Farmington River) study, two open space acquisitions, increased yearly road maintenance funding, tax relief programs, prescription drug assistance, new fire apparatus, Solarize CT participation, an employee savings account and the town’s Triple A bond rating, which was announced recently.
In the past 8 years, BOS budget increases have averaged 1.76 percent, Barlow said.
“We clearly expanded the town services and facilities and infrastructure maintenance while at the same time reduced the town work force,” Barlow said.
“Dick led this town through a very difficult financial period,” said Roberto, who was first elected six years ago. Roberto cited business and family responsibilities as reasons he chose not to pursue a seat.
Sevigny said that while he didn’t always agree with Barlow, he felt that his ideas were accepted.
“Dick has donated a lot of time to the town for 8 years,” Sevigny said. “I felt I was always treated with respect by him and other members of the board.
Sevigny said one highlight for him over the past several years has been the revamping of the Planning and Zoning process and a move toward form-based codes.
“I think it’s going to be beneficial in the long run,” he said.
In 2011, Humphrey challenged Barlow for the first selectmen’s seat. While he didn’t win, he received enough votes to get on the board. He said much of his motivation at the time was about giving people a choice. (Democrats did not have a first selectman candidate that year).
Humphrey said that while he also had his disagreements, he also felt there was an atmosphere of respect.
“I certainly enjoyed serving and we all got along reasonably well,” he said. “The differences, I think, we left at the table.”
Many of the selectmen also credited town staff for their hard work.
Roberto said he feels that many don’t realize the level of expertise, dedication and complex issues the staff is left to deal with.
“Everyone was very patient and professional,” he said.
“I think we have a dedicated group of employees,” Barlow said.
Humphrey said the town is lucky to have Chief Administrator Robert Skinner at the helm.
“I think we’re lucky to have someone of his caliber,” he said.
Humphrey, however, said he does feel that the town should consider a full Town Manager form of government.
Barlow said he sees three major issues for the town moving forward, including the highway garage, the potential costly upgrade in EMS services and roadwork. The town’s $6 million investment will be complete this year and while annual maintenance has increased from some $200,000 to $600,000 per year, Barlow said that is still not enough to keep up or do major repairs. Redoing Upper Dyer Avenue by itself would use that entire amount, Barlow said. He said it’s going to continue to be an issue.
On Thursday Lou Daniels, a former selectman and board of education member who last year differed with a town proposal for a highway garage and backed an alternate idea of combining the garage with a new fire station, was overall very complimentary of the board.
“I’m just grateful for their service,” he said. “Really my hat is off to Dick and the board. They were so fiscally responsible.”
While Daniels lamented the loss of experience, Barlow said he felt a fresh perspective can be a positive.
“I think there’s some benefit from fresh faces looking at things,” Barlow said. “New perspective is always healthy.”
While there are a few disappointments like the highway garage, Roberto said he feels the town has accomplished much in the past 8 years.
“I certainly don’t want that to overshadow the multiple great things that board was able to accomplish,” Roberto said. “The town is losing a very significant asset with Dick Barlow not running again.
Compass has called a few other sources. Check back for possible updates.