Petitioning candidate challenges incumbent for Washington first selectman
WASHINGTON — A petitioning candidate frustrated by the slow pace of progress in town is challenging the Republican incumbent who is seeking a fifth term as first selectman.
Debbie Forese, who is running as an unaffiliated candidate against Mark Lyon for first selectman, says more needs to be done in town. However, the two candidates agree it’s time for Washington to have its own senior center.
“The town needs a choice,” said Forese, 45. “A lot of people have been frustrated for the last couple of years with things not getting done. This election begins four-year terms for first selectman and selectmen. The idea of four more years of progress at this pace can’t be tolerated.”
Lyon, 60, was endorsed by the Republican party in July to run for a fifth term.
“We’ve spent the last four years recovering from disasters,” Lyon said, referring to a propane explosion that damaged Bryan Memorial Town Hall and a fire at the town highway garage that gutted the structure and destroyed much of the fleet.
“Now I’m looking ahead. I see our next big need as a senior center or community center,” Lyon said. “I’ve secured a couple of bridge grants for reconstruction and will keep up with our aggressive road reconstruction program started three years ago.”
Forese, a 1988 Shepaug Valley School graduate, is self-employed and oversees and maintains multimillion-dollar mansions. Forese, an EMT for 25 years who has never held a town office, said she had been asked to run for the Inland Wetlands Commission but was concerned there could be a conflict of interest since she works with many contractors and developers.
“You can’t defer maintenance. That’s one thing I’ve learned in my line of work,” said Forese, who plans to organize an Independent party in town regardless of the outcome of next month’s election. “And Washington is not up to par. For the last 10 years, we’re heard about upgrades to the downtown plaza in Washington Depot. Now its on the table again. I don’t want this pace to continue.”
One of Forese’s goals is to see a senior center built. Roxbury and Bridgewater, with smaller populations, have good senior centers she said. Forese said she has spoken to the owner of a Route 47 parcel near the intersection of Route 109 about having the town or a nonprofit organization purchase the land to construct a senior center.
“It’s just a gentleman’s agreement at this point, sealed by a handshake,” Forese said. “But he’s willing to hold it until funding can be arranged.”
Lyon plans to put money in the coming budget for preliminary work on constructing a senior center. Two possible sites for the new center have been targeted, but nothing is concrete, he said.
Under Lyon’s administration, road projects long deferred for budgetary considerations have been undertaken.
TPA Design, of New Haven, has developed plans for the renovation of the plaza. An economic development coordinator has been hired, the firm of Gorman & York, which focuses on municipalities.