CLAREMONT — Eleven candidates for the Claremont City Council attended a public meet-and-greet at the Claremont Community Center last night to field questions from residents before municipal elections on Tuesday, Nov. 5. The Claremont Regional Chamber of Commerce sponsored the event.
Six candidates in attendance, two incumbents and four challengers, are vying for four available at-large seats: incumbents Abigail Kier and Nicholas Koloski, and challengers Chris Fazio, Patrick Lozito, Deb Matteau and Erica Sweetster.
Two other candidates in attendance, James Contois and David Pacetti, are running for the vacant Ward II seat.
Three participants — Mayor Charlene Lovett, Assistant Mayor Allen Damren and Councilor Jon Stone, Ward III — will seek reelection in uncontested races.
With currently serving Councilors Claire Lessard, Scott Pope and Kristen Kenniston not seeking reelection, the next council will have at least three new members.
Councilors Abigail Kier and Nicholas Koloski both said that they had briefly considered not seeking reelection, but decided they had more that they wanted to see to fruition.
“After being on the council, I feel better positioned to make a difference and know what I can affect,” Kier said.
Among Kier’s top priorities is to continue the council’s review of city policies, many of which are outdated, in addition to attracting young residents and addressing the challenges of Claremont’s fast-aging population.
Kier also supports a strategic and balanced approach between adequately funding the city’s needs to grow with a level-funded budget.
Koloski noted that while the city has taken some positive steps, there is “unfinished business” such as enforcing codes for apartment buildings and other properties. For many years, the city would fail to follow through after calling out negligent building owners.
“We’ll hit a wall, and the message sent would be that we’ll leave them alone after a while,” Koloski said. “We can’t back off.”
Two at-large candidates, Chris Fazio and Patrick Lozito, want to first aim to study the possibilities for change through experience.
Fazio said he would like the city to find better ways to spend money. He mentioned the new solar project, which will lease city land on River Road for a solar installation generating 10 MW, as a practical project that will benefit the city long-term. He is less sure about the city’s plan to spend $95,000 in state aid to renovate the Arrowhead Lodge.
The candidate would also like to explore ways for the city to have a more active role in the school system. Though Fazio does not suggest that the city should oversee the school district, as some municipalities in the country, he believes the council needs to find a way to be more involved.
Lozito also thinks that the council needs to have more oversight and scrutiny over city operations. In his 11 years as a Claremont resident, the previous two city managers were non-approachable and tried to intimidate the council from being involved in their practices, according to Lozito.
“The council needs to be looking at where the money comes from, how operations are being implemented and the outcomes,” Lozito said.
Lozito expressed his concern about the city’s taxes, crime and opioid problem, as well as the city’s welfare system. As a member of the city council, he would like to find the balance between helping people who are truly in need and preventing people from exploiting the system. Lozito admitted that while he doesn’t have those answers yet, he wants the council to define its role and explore areas where it can effect change.
Bill Kennedy, a military veteran who has lived in the city since 2016, said he wants to help Claremont bring in more middle class families and young adults though city revitalization efforts.
Kennedy cited his military experience and travel globally and nationwide as background that provides him with important perspective in what works in government and what doesn’t. He thinks of himself as a strong voice for government to run ethically and be accountable.
Erica Sweetser said that her involvement in the community allows her to understand the diversity of Claremont’s community, and approach issues from the perspective of the residents.
“When I confront issues, whether they are about taxes or laws, I approach them by how they affect the people in our community.”
Deb Matteau was not interviewed at the event, but told the Eagle Times in an article this week that she would like to see the city focus on enforcing its codes and ordinances and consider its expenditures strategically toward lowering the tax rate while also moving the city forward and encouraging growth.