MADISON — Two candidates have thrown their hats into the ring for first selectman. Democrat Peggy Lyons and incumbent Tom Banisch, Republican, both have announced their plans within the last week.
In addition to being an active school mom, Lyons currently serves on Madison’s Board of Police Commissioners, and previously sat on the town’s Board of Finance and Economic Development Commission.
Lyons stressed her business background in announcing her plans to run for first selectman.
Along with an undergraduate degree from Cornell and an MBA from the Wharton School of Business, she spent over 17 years advising some of the world’s largest corporations with a focus on corporate finance, mergers and acquisitions, and strategic planning. This includes positions as a Managing Director at Deloitte, a Manager at GE, and over 11 years on Wall Street at two major investment banks.
Banisch is running for his third term as first selectman, elected to his first term in November 2015.
The Republican first selectman, standing outside Town Hall on Thursday afternoon, said an important initiative to look at is pay-as-you-go and debt service as one, with the ability to shift funding between the two.
The result would be “eliminating large peaks and valleys in our budget and mill rate, therefore keeping our taxes predictable,” said Banisch. “If we do this, we can build up capital project reserve balances prior to any additional debt service coming on board.”
Lyons said that Madison needs new leadership to confront the town’s many challenges, including aging buildings, eroding beaches and the shifting demographics.
“We need a long-term vision that meets these challenges head-on, reflects the community values of today, and includes a roadmap on how to get there tomorrow – a plan that is affordable, sustainable, and continues to offer a strong value proposition to the citizens of Madison,” said Lyons. “I will provide the leadership we need to take us forward while also restoring a tone of collegiality and collaboration to town government so we can get things done.”
While Banisch stressed that he has worked hard on the local level, he admitted that there are chronic problems at the state level that will continue to affect the town of Madison.
“New unfunded mandates continue to come down from Hartford, Including storm water management, education, senior services and minimum wage, which will impact our budget,” he said. “Our PILOT funds from the state continue to dry up, even as the crowds at Hammonasset State Park grow. And there are other problems that Hartford will try to foist on us including legalized marijuana, tolls and the teacher’s pensions.”
He stressed that while in office he has managed to keep the town’s tax increases to a modest level, yet property owners need relief and that means improving the town’s infrastructure.
Banisch’s addressed the redevelopment of the Academy Elementary School when he announced his intentions to run in the last election.
Academy School closed in 2004 and was transferred to the Town of Madison in 2011. The parcel of land that the building sits on includes two ball fields and a popular playground. Since the school, located on 4 School St., shut its doors, town officials have sought a new use for the building.
At the time, asked what he’d like to see the school redeveloped into, Banisch said he envisions a mixed-use development, with restaurants and shops on the first floor and condominium space on the second level.
The grassroots organization, ACADEMY — Save The Heart of Madison, is working to keep townspeople informed about the proposed use of the property, while at the same time voicing their concern about the historical significance of the structure and loss of downtown open space if the property is developed.
Going forward, Banisch said, “I believe we need to develop a plan that will preserve and enhance the quality of life in our beautiful community, while always keeping the impact to the taxpayers in mind.”