First Selectman Matt Knickerbocker’s Letter to Bethel Voters
Rich and I are honored to accept the nomination for Selectman and First Selectman in the November municipal election. We thank you sincerely for the continued confidence you have placed in us.
A lot has been accomplished over the past few years, with your help and with the support of our voters. We have rebuilt or resurfaced more than half of our roads. We have upgraded our public water system using grants and low-interest public health loans. A system that was once almost $2 million in debt, losing tens of thousands of dollars per year and failing to meet state standards, is today one of the best public water systems in the state.
We have supported our nationally recognized public schools and helped launch the long-overdue renovations of our two oldest elementary schools. We secured grants that allowed us to complete the renovation and expansion of our beautiful public library, at no additional cost to taxpayers. We secured grants to add new sidewalks for safe walking routes to our schools and to our downtown shopping areas. We built one of the first municipal solar farms in the State of Connecticut to cut energy costs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
But perhaps the most important accomplishment was bringing a new level of fiscal discipline to town government. When Rich and I first took office, we discovered a “hand to mouth” budgeting system that held no regard for future planning. Our General Fund balance was dangerously low, our town’s pension plans were underfunded, and our bond rating was downgraded to “negative watch” due to the town’s weak financial health.
Today we use a 10-year forward planning cycle, updated annually. Our bond rating is AAA, the best possible, an achievement that previous Bethel administrations believed impossible. When Bethel sells a bond, the best investment firms in the nation line up to bid. Because of Bethel’s strong financial position, we consistently earn the lowest possible interest rates. Our General Fund balance and pension funds have been restored to health.
Some people seem to think Selectmen should be changed for the sake of change, like a pair of socks. They could not be more wrong. That belief simply reveals how little they understand about the reality of running a complex, multifaceted municipality of nearly 20,000 residents.
The position of First Selectman, especially, requires substantial public management experience, creativity and leadership. It cannot be learned in a few months, or even a few years. It requires in-depth knowledge of public finance practices, public health regulations, engineering, labor law, and effective negotiation techniques – knowledge that can only be gained through experience.
Rich and I have that expertise. We also have a vision for our future, with many challenging goals for the upcoming term:
- Complete the original road reconstruction schedule, now in its tenth year and nearly finished.
- Ensure successful completion of our school renovation projects, on time and within budget.
- Finalize a new, 10-year improvement plan for our town parks and recreational facilities, within budget parameters set by voters.
- Modernize our recycling center to provide more cost-saving waste disposal and recycling options for our residents.
- Continue to pay down old debt to protect our excellent financial position and ensure sustainable budgets in the future.
Rich and I are ready and eager to continue our work for you and everyone in our town. We humbly ask for your vote this November, and we pledge to continue to work hard for you.
Thank you for reading.