Ten candidates for town council and one unopposed candidate for School Committee presented their views to Southbridge voters at town hall May 31. The “round-robin” style event was co-organized by the Southbridge Republican and Democratic town committees.

Bob Chernisky introduced the event by commenting on the cooperative activities of the two groups, even as national politics become more divisive.

“The democrats and republicans in our town have come together in a spirit of civility and respect,” remarked Chernisky, noting that “This is a critical time in our town’s history.”

Moderator Rich Merrill kept the discussion moving among the many candidates. Seven candidates are competing for three available full-term council seats, at three years each. David Adams, Scott Lazo, David Smick, Kristen Auclair, Mike Marketti, John Daniel and Joe Cotrona are competing for these three seats.

Another three candidates, Esteban Carrasco, Jack Jovan and John Pulawski, are competing for a single one year seat. The one-year seat will complete the term of Wallace MacKenzie, who left the council earlier this year when he moved to Woodstock.

Merrill remarked that in his 35 years of living in Southbridge, he doesn’t recall a time when there weren’t enough candidates in an election. He said that some towns have a problem with participation, but noted, “We don’t have that problem here in Southbridge.”

Martena Shea spoke at the podium before the council candidate discussion began, providing her ideas on the future of the school system. Shea and current School Committee Chairman Bill Bishop are running for two unopposed seats on the School Committee. Bishop was unable to attend because he was preparing for the graduation at Northbridge High School, where he is the principal.

The “debate” consisted of ten questions posed to the town council candidates.  For each question, the first person to respond would have two minutes to answer and then each of the other candidates was allowed one minute for their reply. Each candidate had a chance to be the first to reply to one of the questions.

The ten questions ranged from general questions about Southbridge’s greatest strength to questions about specific issues in town such as the fire station or long-term economic development.

Each candidate said that Southbridge’s greatest strength is “Its people.” Each candidate provided this same answer, with minor variations on the theme. Candidates described the people who live in Southbridge as resilient, diverse and willing to help each other out in a crisis.

Full quotes from the candidates on each of the ten questions are available on The Citizen Chronicle’s Facebook Page. The Citizen Chronicle also summarized the responses live during the event on our Twitter feed.  The event was broadcast live by Southbridge Cable Access and will be replayed on the access channel several times before the election Tuesday, June 12. You can also view the “debate” online by visiting Southbridge Community Television’s YouTube page.

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