‘Vote for me because’ … Eight answers for eight candidates

Bristol Town Council candidates say why they’re (one of) the best choices to help lead the town

By Scott Pickering
Posted 10/22/20

Back in the good, old days of 2018, candidates used to canvass neighborhoods, ring doorbells, hand out pamphlets and ask for votes. Imagining pre-Covid life, the eight candidates for Bristol Town …

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‘Vote for me because’ … Eight answers for eight candidates

Bristol Town Council candidates say why they’re (one of) the best choices to help lead the town

Posted

Back in the good, old days of 2018, candidates used to canvass neighborhoods, ring doorbells, hand out pamphlets and ask for votes. Imagining pre-Covid life, the eight candidates for Bristol Town Council were asked this week what they would say to the voter who answered the door and challenged them with a “Why should I vote for you?” response.

Officially, they were asked why they’re the best candidate (or one of) to represent the resident of Bristol and serve on the town council.

Not surprisingly, they all had good things to say about themselves. But they also talked about their colleagues, their opponents and the nature of serving in town government. Here are their answers …

Timothy Sweeney (D)

Mr. Sweeney first turned to his record on the council for the past eight years. He pointed to what those councils have been able to achieve, and also to the way he’s conducted himself.

“I’m a team player,” Mr. Sweeney said. “I respect different opinions, from both my colleagues and residents. I try to look for compromise on issues, to move progress along for the town … No initiative is one person’s responsibility. It takes all of us.”

Mr. Sweeney believes he’s a good listener, and that trait extends to all sides.

“I don’t listen to just a small set, or a bubble. I like to talk to both sides, whether they are conservative, liberal, moderate … because I can learn from them,” he said. “I think it’s so important to not stay in your bubble, and to listen to everyone’s perspective. It’s so important to find compromise and move the town forward.”

Lastly, Mr. Sweeney applied a simple word to himself that conveys a lot of meaning: grit.

“You have to be gritty in this role, and I feel like I bring that grit to the council,” he said. “I’m not afraid to bring new initiatives.” Asked to expand on the concept of grit, he said: “I don’t think you can really teach somebody grit. It’s either within them or it’s not; it’s there when they feel a passion for something … It’s about trusting in your vigor to make something happen.”

Nathan Calouro (D)

Mr. Calouro also turned to his record on the council and his dealings with both town officials and with residents.

“I can’t say this enough. I believe in acting with respect, both for my colleagues, but also the town administrator, the town departments, and ultimately and most importantly, with the public,” Mr. Calouro said. “If you look at my history, I think that shows through.”

He added, “I really believe in fair process. I take great efforts to facilitate that, and you can see that in our meetings.”

Mr. Calouro also believes that process extends beyond those moments when the public is watching the council in real time. It extends to the way councilors and town leaders communicate with each other, prepare for meetings and research the issues before them. “Since I’ve been chairman, meeting times have gone way down,” he said. “That’s because we spend a massive amount of time to make sure I and my colleagues have all the information that we need to make a decision.”

Mary Parella (R)

Ms. Parella had many responses to this question, but they all center around staying true to herself, while representing all those who elected her.

“I like to solve problems,” she said. “I like to listen to people and try to figure out how to help them. I look for common-sense solutions. And I’m very bipartisan. I’ll work with my colleagues however I can.”

She continued, “I’m able to look at all sides of an issue. I think I’m very inclusive. I may have a sense of what I feel about something, but I’m very willing to listen to what people have to share on an issue.”

Yet she can also end up in the minority on some issues. “I also say what I feel. I want to be able to look back, at the end of the day, and say that based on the information I had at the time, I made the best decision I could for this community … I’m very, very independent in my thoughts. I don’t have a problem being the only one who has a yes or a no vote on an issue; I’m fine being the only person on one side of an issue.”

Lastly, she said, “I think I bring integrity to the job … I know some people don’t think that of me, which is surprising, because some of the feedback I receive lately is so contrary to what I think is true of me …

“I think I’m honest and approachable. I don’t just say these as words in a campaign. I strive to be this person. It’s how I approach the job.”

Mike Byrnes (I)

Asked about himself, Mr. Byrnes first talked about some of his opponents. He said Mr. Calouro does a great job balancing competing interests in town. He said Mr. Sweeney has accomplished a lot for the town and been a great contributor, especially on environmental issues. He said Tony Teixeira brings a wonderful perspective by representing the Portuguese community. “I think each one of the members has a role and creates a balance,” he said. “We’ve had a good mix on the council, and everybody brings a little different perspective.”

As for his own attributes, Mr. Byrnes talked about his varied and extensive experiences. “I lean on my experience, both in the public sector, in terms of 30 years in the military, and then in the private sector, managing a large and complex organization in China, and dealing with the Chinese, which is never a simple matter, and then most importantly, once I came back to Bristol in 2006, I immediately immersed myself in a wide variety of public issues.”

Mr. Byrnes was an original member of the Bristol Warren Education Foundation (back when it was known as the Kickemuit Education Foundation). He has served on the board at Linden Place, been chairman of the Friends of Mount Hope Farm, and he co-founded the Explore Bristol organization. Of that last effort, he talked about the scale and impact of what they accomplished. “We had more than 100 volunteers, working on seven different areas of focus — education, the waterfront, weddings and venues, leisure and arts — and I think we really made a difference over time.”

He said, “That continuous involvement in issues in Bristol gives me a good feel for what’s important.”

Aaron Ley (D)

Mr. Ley touched on a few themes in his response. The first is a passion for public service.

“I’m a service-oriented person, and I always have been,” he said. “In 1999, I raised my right hand and swore an oath to the Constitution to defend this nation” when he was activated for National Guard duty. “It’s always been ingrained in me, that public service should be a natural thing .. and when my service ended in 2005, because I decided to go to graduate school, I always felt like something was missing. I always had a feeling that there’s more I could have done, like I’ve never done enough.”

So being elected to the town council a couple of years ago was a huge honor. “The fact that people chose me … it really means a lot to me,” he said.

As for personal attributes, he believe he brings honesty, integrity and conviction. “I’m a transparent person. When I feel strongly about something, I will stand up for it. But at the same time, I also recognize there are opportunities to collaborate with others, and I will also seize those opportunities to compromise, if it’s for the good of the community.”

Lastly, he believes he has a unique skill set, derived from his professional life as a college professor teaching courses in areas like ethics, public policy and public administration. “I literally teach a class on public policy problems and how to develop responses to them,” he said. “You cannot be a self-interested person. You have to put the public first, you have to do what’s in the best public interest.”

Adam Ramos (D)

I bring some things to the table that would be really valuable to people, that come from who I am, as a person, the values that I hold, and the skills that I’ve developed through my professional training and career,” said Mr. Ramos, an attorney. “Through school and in years of practice, I’ve developed a real ability to understand issues, diagnose them and work collaboratively in a way to find innovative solutions … and then be able to make the case for those solutions in a convincing way. I think that’s a valuable skill set to bring to town government.”

He believes he has valuable personal traits as well. “At the heart of who I am, is somebody who is empathic and curious,” Mr. Ramos said. “And I think someone who is an elected representative of the people should be someone who is willing to listen to people, to try to understand where they’re coming from.”

For Mr. Ramos, the first and most important habit is that key word: listening. “One thing I try to do, in all endeavors, is to not jump ahead to come up with what I think the right answer is, but to try to ask a few questions first — before I try to, hopefully, collectively, come up with an answer or a path forward,” he said.

“Leading with a curiosity” is phrase, or habit, practiced often in the Ramos household. “Leading with curiosity is a trait that guides me, and my family, with how we interact with people,” he said. “My wife and I, when we started raising children, we started being more intentional about our approach to life … For her, part of it comes from her training as a yoga instructor … And we try to model for our children, to be curious about people, and about why they feel the way they do.”

Mr. Ramos concluded by saying that perception is almost always reality — for someone. So even if you don’t see things the same way someone else does, the fact is, they see it that way, and it’s best to try to understand why.

“Connecting with people often leads to better results than trying to push someone, or bully someone, into a direction they don’t want to go,” he said.

Bethany Sousa Foster (D)

Ms. Foster talked about “values” and “perspectives.” She believes she has the right values — “making sure town government works for everyone, especially for working families and seniors”; “making sure our schools and library are adequately funded”; “making sure our business community is thriving, so we have jobs and we attract people to live here and visit here”; “promoting green initiatives, protecting our natural resources,” she said.

“But I’m not alone in holding those value,” she said. “Actually, the other Democratic candidates share those values with me. I would really love to serve with the other Democratic candidates, because I believe we could get a lot done for this town.”

As for “perspectives,” she touched on a few key attributes. She mentioned her finance background — giving her a healthy perspective on budgeting, fiscal oversight and long-term planning.

She also mentioned her perspective as a working mother. “I do think being a working mother, and bringing that perspective, which has not been there for as long as I can remember, is important,” she said. “There are services you need when you’re running around and juggling having a job and having a family … I can bring the perspective of asking, ‘how we can help those families?’ ”

Antonio “Tony” Teixeira

Mr. Teixeira submitted a written answer:

“My life experiences. My educational experiences as a teacher, soccer coach, driver education instructor, and school administrator. My municipal government experience as a Town Councilor for four years, Town Administrator for four years, building town budgets for eight years, creating a road program in 2014, and many other accomplishments. It gives me much to build on to continue to serve our Bristol community.

“I have the background and knowledge to address the local issues that concern our Bristol residents and the community. I served on the Charter Commission, the Recreation Board, was liaison to the Bristol Senior Center, co-founded Bristol Youth Soccer, and have and continue to serve in many community organizations. I am an honest, sincere, hard worker and independent.”

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