AP NEWS

Mason launches Greenwich first selectman campaign

April 10, 2019

GREENWICH — For the first time, Mike Mason has taken his effort to be elected first selectman to the public unveiling a campaign built around the theme of “Greenwich united.”

The longtime member of town government is seeking the Republican nomination for Greenwich’s top elected office and while he officially began his candidacy in February, he held his first campaign event on Tuesday night. Before a crowd of close to 200, Mason spoke at the Eastern Greenwich Civic Center.

A Greenwich native, Mason highlighted his roots in the community where he grew up in the middle class, attended public schools and was a part of service organizations ranging from the Boy Scouts to being a volunteer firefighter.

But it was Mason’s three decades of government service, including his current work on the town’s Board of Estimate and Taxation, that made up much of his speech as he said all of that was preparation for the job of first selectman,

“I’ve had the good fortune of interacting and getting to know with thousands of residents, members of the RTM, volunteers on Town boards, and concerned citizens,” Mason said Tuesday night. “To get things done in Greenwich, we need to work across the aisle and with all the town bodies. I’ve done that and will continue to do that as your first selectman.”

Mason, who is a former chair of the BET and currently is leader of its Republican caucus and a member of the powerful Budget Committee, said he believed capital planning and priorities would be top issues for the campaign to come. He said voters were also concerned about fields in town, what the upcoming revaluation will mean for homeowners and what the state is doing about potential new taxes and higher fees.

In his speech, Mason called for increased efficiency in town government through better technology to reduce operating costs, investment in town schools and infrastructure and making sure there is a continuous dialogue among the town’s decentralized boards and commissions.

“I have been part of many decisions and policies for our community,” Mason said. “I am asking for the opportunity to lead Greenwich’s future vision. Greenwich is already a very special place to live. Our task should be to ensure that Greenwich will be an even better place to live for many generations to come.”

The crowd included former state senator William Nickerson, who served in the 36th district, and many current and former members of the BET, including James Lash. Lash, who was first selectman from 2003 to 2007, introduced Mason and will be honorary chair of the campaign.

First Selectman Peter Tesei is not seeking reelection to a seventh term, leaving open a job he has held since 2007. While town Democrats have made significant gains in Greenwich in recent years, the job has traditionally gone to Republicans and a Democratic first selectman has not been elected since Richard Bergstresser in 2001.

Mason is not alone in seeking the Republican nomination. State Rep. Fred Camillo, R-151, is also running and he officially kicked off his campaign with an event last month. The Republican Town Committee will make its endorsement in July but the race could well end in a primary in August.

“I am speaking with people every day who are excited about the campaign and sharing their thoughts on the various issues facing the town now and in the future,” Camillo said on Tuesday. “Many are advocates for worthwhile projects, some of which I have been involved with and or supportive of. So the campaign gives each endeavor more exposure and focus. I truly believe the voters need to hear what a candidate’s vision is, what his or her records shows and if the person is actively engaged with the community that he or she seeks to lead.”

Since beginning his campaign, Mason said he is humbled by the response he has received.

“The support from the team members has been amazing,” Mason said. “The race to November will be long and challenging.”

But even with the two high profile Republicans both seeking the seat, Camillo said people should not expect a personal fight.

“Mike is a longtime friend who has served the town well in his civic roles,” Camillo said. “I look forward to a campaign based on issues, vision, and record. We are two friends who just happen to be public servants interested in serving our town in this capacity, so when all is said and done, we will still be friends.”

Mason completely agreed, saying on Tuesday that he and Camillo have known each other for a long time and have many mutual friends as well as visions for how to work for the residents of Greenwich. Mason recalled that Camillo was the one who nominated him for the BET.

“I think we’re going to help each other be better candidates,” Mason said. “There’s going to be very good ideas coming from both of us during this campaign.”

RTC Chair Richard DiPreta was on hand for Tuesday’s event and said Mason would make “an excellent first selectman.” The party chair was also at Camillo’s kickoff and has made clear there will be no public endorsement of one over the other.

“Greenwich is fortunate to have such strong Republican candidates like Michael Mason willing to serve this town at all levels,” DiPreta said. “I am encouraged that so many dedicated individuals have expressed a willingness to serve in all of the positions of town government for the upcoming municipal election this November.”

Mason said he would be doing a lot of meet and greet campaign events and he would be reaching out to user groups throughout town, town officials and RTC members.

“My hope is that our residents see me as the most experienced person for the position, having the established relationships with all town management and the ability to begin work day one,” Mason said.

Tesei’s vacancy is not the only one on the ballot as Republican Selectman John Toner is not seeking reelection either. However, the plans of Democratic Selectman Sandy Litvack, who challenged Tesei for first selectman in 2017, are still unclear. He has not yet revealed if he will run again for either first selectman or selectman and on Tuesday would only say that he would make an announcement “soon.”

According to Democratic Town Committee Chair Tony Turner there is a lot of interest from potential candidates.

“Our candidate interview and vetting process is underway,” Turner said Tuesday. “Candidates with strong credentials continue to consider continued public service. And, some desire to serve in some capacity for the first time and in numbers we have never seen before.”

kborsuk@greenwichtime.com