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Democrats win big

WINSTED — There were smiles, hugs and kisses Tuesday night at Pearson Middle School, along with looks of stunned disbelief as local Democrats celebrated a sweeping victory in Winchester’s municipal election, winning the most votes for Board of Selectmen, town clerk and constables, plus three out of four seats on the Board of Education. Voters overwhelmingly chose the Democratic ticket in what ended up being a referendum on the decisions made by both parties during the most recent term. Topping out the votes for selectmen and coming back to the board after a four-year hiatus, Maryann Welcome was triumphant in her return as the mayor-elect Tuesday night, saying that she intends to straighten out the town’s fiscal path.“I’m excited,” Welcome said. “This is the first time that I’m going to be on a board where I’m in the majority.”Welcome left political life four years ago after serving as mayor and selectman for several consecutive terms.“We are ready to get to work on funding the MBR (minimum budget requirement for the school system), as the community has said it wants, and getting the audits of the school system done. I am ready to get back to work,” she said.With more than 2,100 votes cast Tuesday, representing a 31 percent turnout, Welcome received 1,158 votes, followed by Mayor Candy Perez with 1,109, Board of Education member James DiVita with 1,089, George Closson with 1,065 and Michael Renzullo with 1,022. Two Republicans incumbents, Ken Fracasso and Glenn Albanesius, rounded out the top vote-getters, with 940 and 938 votes, respectively.Local political parties are limited to five seats on the seven-member Board of Selectmen in any election. In the 2007-09 term, the board was dominated by a five-member Republican majority, which was nicknamed the Gang of Five.Renzullo, who won a third straight term on the board, said he believes progress will be made with the new slate of town leaders.“I am so optimistic,” Renzullo said. “We now have an opportunity to actually accomplish something. I am looking forward to doing many things with the energy commission, downtown redevelopment and a capital plan to get the roads improved. This is so great. I feel like a weight has been lifted. I feel vindicated.”As has been the case for the past several terms, the overall top vote-getter was Town Clerk Sheila Sedlack, who earned a seventh term in office with 1,561 votes. Among the losers in Tuesday night’s election were former Republican Selectman Karen Beadle, fellow Republican candidate Marsha Sterling and unaffiliated candidate Lisa Smith, who earned less than 600 votes after campaigning diligently for a second term. Smith, who said in an email to The Winsted Journal that she wishes the new Board of Selectmen good luck in the upcoming term, served as a Democrat on the previous board but alienated party members with several votes that went with the Republicans, including a vote to turn down at least $450,000 in grant money for the town in exchange for protecting open-space land under the authority of the Winchester Land Trust.“She deserved it,” attorney Patsy Renzullo, father of Selectman Michael Renzullo, said of Smith’s defeat. “When they turned down the $450,000 in grant money from the land trust, I thought, that’s going to come back to haunt her.”Smith, who was huddled in a corner of the Pearson gymnasium awaiting results, next to selectman Fracasso, appeared shocked when it was announced she had received only 555 votes. She and members of the Republican party quickly left the building after the votes were tallied.On the Board of Education, Brian Shaughnessy won a two-year term in an unopposed race. Monique Parks-Abreu, Mimi Valyo and current Chairman Susan Hoffnagle won four-year terms, while unaffiliated candidate James Roberts beat Democrat Joe Hanecak for the fourth remaining four-year seat.Four constables, James Barber, Todd Arcelaschi, Mary-Elin Renzullo and Bryan Sundie, were also elected.Perez, who becomes second selectman under new Mayor Maryann Welcome, said she is not upset about giving up the mayoral position, which does not hold any significant power other than the duty to set agendas and moderate the board’s bimonthly meetings.“I think all five of us are going to contribute,” Perez said regarding the new Democratic majority. “I don’t think there is going to be any one person on our team who is going to be the leader. It’s going to be all of us. Our goal is going to be working with the community and working with the Board of Education. We have ideas for opening up avenues of communication and working side by side as we move forward.”Perez said she hopes the community’s support of the Democratic ticket will usher in a new period of progress in Winsted, including downtown economic development and improving the town and school infrastructures. “People see so much potential in this town, but we never seem to cross the threshold to get there,” Perez said. “It’s time for us to roll up our sleeves and get the work done.”

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