Although I didn’t know it at the time, my initial motivation to be on the Town council started in high school. I would often find my father watching meetings on the public access channel. “Can’t we watch ESPN?” I would ask, but he was engrossed in the grainy footage on the TV. He would tell me, “The decisions being made at these meetings are the ones that impact our lives the most.” I didn’t understand how anybody could spend so much time watching all of those boring meetings.
Over thirty years later, and I’m completing my second term on the Council. I will never forget my first Council meeting, in January of 2016. We had a packed agenda and I had come prepared with snacks. John Sullivan, who sat to my right, looked at the bag of peanut M&M’s I had just opened. “Shorty, I have a peanut allergy,” he said. I froze, in horror, as images of Councilor Sullivan going into anaphylactic shock ran through my imagination. After a few seconds, he laughed and said, “Just kidding.” And so began my Town Council career.
For me, the most surprising aspect of serving on the Council has been the general lack of party line votes. There certainly have been a few, but overall, disagreements have tended to divide us on an issue-by-issue basis, with honest intellectual differences. The partisanship that permeates politics at the national and state level is far less pronounced on the Wallingford Town Council, or at least it has been during the last two terms.
In Wallingford, the Charter gives limited power to the Town Council. Our primary function takes place every April and May, when we review, potentially amend, and ultimately pass the town budget. Outside of that, we have limited ability to impact the daily operations of the town. But that doesn’t mean we can’t be vocal on issues we believe in, or on issues residents bring to us.
Such was the case in my first term when several people approached me about the need for a safe location to exchange items bought via online tag sales, e.g. the Second Time Around Wallingford Facebook page. West Hartford has designated their police parking lot; all it took was a phone call to Chief Wright, and Wallingford did the same.
Keeping Community Pool open for a longer season was another success. Working with the Mayor, Parks and Rec, and Public Works, we found the dollars and put forth a plan to make it happen, which the Council approved unanimously. The result was an increase in pool tag sales, and a strong precedent for longer pool seasons in the future.
During the last four years, I’ve strived to be the type of Councilor that my father would be proud of: focused on keeping taxes low and the town affordable, but also not being afraid to challenge the status quo and advocate for ways to make our local government work better for its citizens. Election Day will be bittersweet, as it marks the 25th anniversary of his passing. But I hope that he would be proud of my accomplishments and my approach and service to this town that I am proud to call home. I would appreciate your support and your vote to re-elect me to my third term on the Wallingford Town Council.
Christopher K. Shortell is a Republican seeking re-election to the Wallingford Town Council..