Candidate for three-year term on the Southbridge Town Council
Kristen Auclair, 32, is seeking re-election as her first term on the Town Council draws to a close. This election season, she hopes to return to the town’s governing body and hopes the next iteration of the Town Council will “respect public sentiment and our citizens in general.”
Auclair also calls for “more respect and attention” for what she bills as a “thriving art scene” in Southbridge. “There are a lot of possibilities to incorporate unique artwork in this town to promote tourism and reduce blight,” Auclair said.
She believes a good councilor is one who is transparent and respectful of the citizenry, someone who will take the time to listen to what locals have to say on all issues. With the looming closure of the landfill on the horizon, Auclair hopes a “cohesive” Town Council will “work towards tangible short-term projects that would increase the quality of life of our citizens.”
The Citizen Chronicle: What prior experience do you have that makes you qualified to serve?
Kristen Auclair: My background is restaurant management and sales with a large focus on P&L reporting and team building. I also feel that we have several accomplishments of note in the last three years during my tenure. When I came into office, the Master Plan was largely ignored. Through the lead of the town manager, we have begun making significant progress on many of the Master Plan goals. We are in a position, now, that recognizes the importance of short, medium and long term goals, instead of falling to the default of being short sighted. Through the advice of experts we have a chance to make significant economic gain if we continue this progress, and I would like a chance to continue these efforts.
We’ve also eliminated all one time revenue sources from the operating budget, reducing the financial stranglehold and dependence on revenue from the landfill. In 2017, I helped lead the campaign against the landfill operator’s request to expand the landfill onto land that included the airport. We ultimately won the majority of votes, and thus protected one of our most valuable assets.
Currently we’re working on multiple projects including a centralized dispatch and more support for our police and fire, who do an amazing job at engaging our community in a positive way and protecting our safety.
The Citizen Chronicle: What do you think makes a good Town Councilor?
Kristen Auclair: Transparency, respect and listening to the people of the town about what is important. I also feel it’s important to listen to our paid experts and our very talented department heads. I want to work with them, rather than against them.
The Citizen Chronicle: What is your point of view on the future of the fire station?
Kristen Auclair: Our fire department has been tasked with running a full service department with EMS, out of a building they have been outgrowing for years. A new building is necessary and I support the capital expenditure of finding the correct location and size through professionals. I will also be in support of the new facility, and hope to work together with progressive and creatively minded individuals to attain this goal with the least impact to tax payers.
The Citizen Chronicle: What is your point of view on the status of the public school district?
Kristen Auclair: I believe the state has replicated a great number of the negative factors that originally led us to receivership. We’ve seen a continued high rate of turnover, cuts on the teacher level in favor of high level administrative positions, a slow rate of progress in standardized testing scores, and the inability to balance a budget.
I also see that progress is being made outside of the conventional box. A dual language program has been introduced into the early elementary programming, and we are seeing pupils choice into the Southbridge school district to take advantage of the positive aspects of this. I feel it is fully embracing the diverse nature of this community and would like to see it replicated throughout the district to attract new students.
The Citizen Chronicle: What is your point of view on the status of the landfill?
Kristen Auclair: The current landfill agreement has been allowed to proceed to the best of our abilities as a town, legislative board and within the extension agreement. Original presentations by the operator directly conflict with the more extensive reports that more accurately described the lifetime of the landfill. We’ve fulfilled our duties inside of the extension agreement, the landfill operator should fulfill theirs.
We have some work to do, on the fiscal side, to fully fund long term liabilities. However, the imminent threat of financial harm has been rectified through the work of the past few years’ Councils.
The Citizen Chronicle: What is your point of view on the hotly debated riverside park proposal?
Kristen Auclair: The Riverside Park would have succeeded in the first step of reclaiming the river, a leading tenet in the Master Plan process. This would have incorporated beautification of an entrance point to town, expansion of an existing park, while adding to the prospect of ecotourism. This was the advice of experts who specialize in economic development, who had heard the pulse of the community through dozens of meetings.
I called for the special meeting to discuss with further developments, along with Councilors Nash and Carrasco — after denied the request from the Chair. I fought after Councilor DiPietro attempted to call my legal meeting out of order, when 50 residents attended to have their voices heard.
The money allocated to this project was spent on the Rail Trail. Not the infrastructure, or schools, or police/fire or any of the other very important things the dissenters cited as reasons to oppose because “we didn’t have the money.”
The Citizen Chronicle: What is your point of view on the reputation of the town and its leadership?
Kristen Auclair: Improving the reputation of the town will improve with forward progress. We can make it there with a cohesive team, respect to our constituents, and focusing on the short, medium and long term goals of this town.
The Citizen Chronicle: What is your point of view on the future of Town Manager Ron San Angelo?
Kristen Auclair: I believe that Ron San Angelo has worked the best of his ability under a very contentious situation. His employment has been publicly jeopardized, and I hope that with a cohesive Council he can continue to do the work that I was so impressed with, in his first two years in his position. We need a Council and town manager willing to work together to initiate real change.
Ron San Angelo is a Town Manager willing to work together, and in the past year we’ve lost that asset.
The Citizen Chronicle: What is Southbridge’s greatest asset?
Kristen Auclair: Our diverse community, architecture, walking downtown and history for innovation.
The Citizen Chronicle: What is Southbridge’s greatest problem?
Kristen Auclair: It’s own self image, and lack of vision from Council leadership. Towns have begun their Renaissance with less resources than ours is blessed with. It’s time to reclaim Southbridge and get the team in place to do so.
This week, The Citizen Chronicle will be publishing interviews with the current candidates for a seat on the Southbridge Town Council. This year there will be four seats on the general election ballot on June 12. There will be three three-year seats decided on by the voters, and one one-year seat to fill a vacancy made by the resignation of Wally MacKenzie.
Interviews with the current Town Council candidates will be published in transcript-form. The publication schedule is as follows:
- David Adams, candidate for three-year term — Wednesday, April 25
- Kristen Auclair, candidate for three-year term — Thursday, April 26
- Esteban Carrasco, Jr., candidate for one-year term — Tuesday, April 24
- Joseph Cotrona, candidate for three-year term — Thursday, May 10
- John Daniel, candidate for three-year term — Wednesday, April 25
- Jack Jovan, candidate for one-year term — Friday, April 27
- Scott Lazo, candidate for three-year term — Sunday, April 29
- Mike Marketti, candidate for three-year term — Thursday, April 26
- John Pulawski, candidate for one-year term — Friday, April 27
- David Smick, candidate for three-year term — Sunday, April 29