A current Selectman in Redding is looking to step up to the town's top spot and a Board of Education member is also seeking to be First Selectman. They are looking to take the reins when Natalie Ketcham retires.
Republican Chris Hocker served as President for three years and remains active with the Redding Boys and Girls Club. He has served on the Region 9 school board since 2007 and has more than 30 years experience at the executive and management level in the generation and transmission of energy.
Democrat Julia Pemberton is currently a Selectman who works at a non-profit in Fairfield. She has served 8 years on the Region 9 Board of Education and 4 years as a Selectman. She says her experience in town government, as a parent and a longtime resident make her qualified to take on the task.
Hocker says one thing many residents are concerned about is the level of taxation in town. He says that's tied to the prospect of redeveloping the Georgetown section of town. He says if that project gets restarted, it would expand the tax base and reduce the burden on residential taxpayers. He hopes to apply his experience working on major projects on getting that restarted.
Hocker says the mixed use development of the Georgetown section of Redding has a great deal of potential benefits to the surrounding area. He says part of the overall plan to redevelop the old Gilbert and Bennett wire mill site is to have another train station there.
If elected, Pemberton says she will be laser focused on the Georgetown redevelopment project. She says it's a large area and is concerned about development there that might not fit in with the town's rural feel. She says the master plan calls for a mix of housing, commercial and cultural space. Pemberton says she was first attracted to Redding's open space and hopes to preserve that feel as Georgetown is developed.
Pemberton says there is money available from the state for a second train station to be developed in the Georgetown section of town. She says it's imperative that when development happens, it does so around transportation. She says most Redding residents commute elsewhere for work, but as Georgetown is developed it's an opportunity to attract businesses. She says the ability to attract jobs is important during the slow economic recovery.
Hocker says the First Selectman's office doesn't directly supervise the schools, but sees his experience with the Region 9 Board as an asset because of the good relationship he has with the Superintendent of Schools. He says Redding's enrollment is declining while the enrollment at Joel Barlow is growing. He says there are opportunities for cost savings that the First Selectman can influence by having a good, credible relationship with administration officials.
Hocker says school security has already been addressed in the current budget with the addition of school resource officers from the police department. He says that was a point of controversy , but believes those positions will likely continue in the future at the elementary and intermediate schools while different common sense security measures have been adopted at Joel Barlow High School. He does not anticipate additional costs in future budgets over what is in place now.
Pemberton says she wants to be able to provide quality services while minimizing the tax burden for residents. She wants to do a line by line review of each department to see if services are being delivered as effective and efficiently as possible.
Pemberton says when she was elected to the Region 9 school board, it had a mixed reputation in town because of its own Board of Finance and making its appeal directly to the public. While serving on the Board, she helped create the financial oversight committee to bring more transparency to the system.
Hocker says dealing with major utilities in New York and New Jersey in his professional life, he is familiar with the energy field/ While he doesn't have direct technical knowledge of what CL&P would need to do during a storm to restore electricity, he feels he could deal effectively with the utility if a situation arises in the future like Irene or Sandy.
Pemberton says the town funds 65 percent of the Mark Twain Library's operating budget. Calling it a gem, she said it's important to continue that support. She says whatever she can do as First Selectman to create public-private partnerships to support institutions like the library, the Redding Boys and Girls Club and elsewhere is important.
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