The Citizen Chronicle contacted all three Selectmen candidates. We will be publishing the profiles of Michael Suprenant and Chase Kaitbenski on Saturday, April 7th. Craig Moran declined to answer our questions.
Candidate for Selectman
Age: According to the host of the Polynesian show at the Hu Ke Lau … “a very young 70”
Occupation: Retired Civil Engineer/Politician
The Citizen Chronicle: Are you registered with a Political Party?
Michael Suprenant: “I’m not a card-carrying member of any organized political party … I’m a Democrat” … Will Rogers
The Citizen Chronicle: Have you ever run for Town office before?
Michael Suprenant: Yes
The Citizen Chronicle: If so, what positions, when, and what were the results?
Michael Suprenant: I ran for a seat on the Board of Selectmen 3 years ago and I’m running for reelection … so I guess won.
The Citizen Chronicle: Have you held prior offices?
Michael Suprenant: Chairman of the Conservation Commission and a member of the Board of Health in Dartmouth Massachusetts.
The Citizen Chronicle: What prior experience do you have that makes you qualified to serve?
Michael Suprenant: My 20 years of public service has included being a Town Engineer, Planning Board Engineer, Water and Sewer Superintendent/Operations Manager, Superintendent of Public Works and DPW Director, and I have served as a member of the Sturbridge Board of Selectmen for the past 3 years … In addition, I have over 25 years of experience in the private sector
The Citizen Chronicle: What do you think makes a good selectman?
Michael Suprenant: I am committed to doing the job. I attend workshops, seminars and conferences like those sponsored by the Massachusetts Municipal Association. I am a member of the Worcester County and Massachusetts Selectmen’s Association. I am the Sturbridge Board of Selectmen’s representative to the Central Massachusetts Regional Planning Commission. I am the Board of Selectmen’s representative regarding the Tantasqua Regional School District.
The Citizen Chronicle: What are the main issues in town that you’d like to address?
Michael Suprenant: I believe that the most significant issue that the Town of Sturbridge will have to deal with over the next decade is Route 20 traffic. I am the southwest sub-region alternate to the CMMPO, which decides how federal transportation dollars are spent in Central Massachusetts. I will continue to fight for Route 20 funding to reduce traffic congestion, accommodate pedestrians and bicycles, and improve safety.
Another big problem we face is the lack of parks and places for active recreation. I fully support the construction of new playing fields and a public park. Also, we know that the Senior Center needs to be expanded, so we must follow up with a feasibility study.
The Citizen Chronicle: What is your point of view on the status of the public-school district?
Michael Suprenant: I believe the Union 61/Tantasqua regional school district to be one of the best in the State. I love the fact that there is no “pay-to-play” for the various clubs and sports teams. However, with declining enrollment, I see some hard choices that will have to be made in the future, particularly regarding the budget.
The Citizen Chronicle: What is your point of view on the reputation of the town and its leadership?
Michael Suprenant: The reputation of the Town is changing from being very negative, anti-business and difficult to work with to being positive, pro-business and cooperative. The leadership shortly before I became a Selectman appeared to be unprofessional and dysfunctional, characterized by exceptionally long meetings. Since I’ve been a Selectman, I credit our Chairman, Mary Blanchard and the Town Administrator for having well-organized Select-Board meetings, where we get our work done in a timely manner.
The Citizen Chronicle: There was a recent controversy over the lack of current meeting minutes. What
do you attribute this to and is this a serious concern?
Michael Suprenant: I attribute the problem to a former Administrative Assistant to the Board of Selectmen struggling to prepare the minutes, and one Board Member always saying that they were “unacceptable” rather than giving positive feedback. Recognizing that this was a matter of serious concern for the Board, I credit the Town Administrator, our new Administrative Assistant, Selectman Mary Dowling and myself for stepping up and seeing to it that the minutes were done.
The Citizen Chronicle: What is your point of view on the future of Town Administrator Leon Gaumond?
Michael Suprenant: Mr. Gaumond is regarded by his peers as one of the best Town Administrators in the State and is active in the ICMA nationally. We couldn’t ask for a better person for the job. I believe that as Town Administrator, Leon has had a stabilizing influence on the community, especially the Board of Selectmen, and I know that the future of Sturbridge is bright in part due to the work he has done.
The Citizen Chronicle: What is your stance on any possibility of commercial recreational marijuana
establishments being permitted in Sturbridge?
Michael Suprenant: I am in favor of allowing recreational marijuana establishments in Sturbridge because tourism is a priority industry and pot has apparently become an acceptable alternative to alcohol. I believe that the cannabis laws must be modified to allow for more local control and enforcement, like the authority that we have for alcohol establishments. Incidentally, “Indian Hemp” was grown and hung as a medicinal herb from the ceiling of houses at Old Sturbridge Village from the day OSV opened until 1968.
The Citizen Chronicle: What is Sturbridge’s greatest asset?
Michael Suprenant: Our greatest asset is our children. I want to engage youth by coordinating mandatory civics education in our schools with our Town government, and to have a voluntary citizen’s academy for adults. A Jeffersonian democracy can only survive with an educated and engaged electorate.
The Citizen Chronicle: What is Sturbridge’s greatest problem?
Michael Suprenant: Affordable housing opportunities are seriously lacking in Sturbridge. I have volunteered to work for better housing choices with the Sturbridge Housing Partnership. There is nearly $800,000 set aside for housing in our Community Preservation Fund. We should use this money to leverage State and Federal programs for rehabilitation, first-time home buyers and rental units.