Inaugural Town Council Holds Goal-Setting Workshop
Members of Clinton’s inaugural Town Council attended a goal-setting workshop organized by Town Manager Karl Kilduff on Aug. 26. A vision statement from the council is being developed based on the feedback expressed in the meeting.
Earlier this summer, Town Council Chair Chris Aniskovich and Kilduff brought to the council the idea of holding a goal-setting workshop to get the council on the same page. Kilduff made a presentation on the roles of the town manager and successful town councils to the council at a meeting in July.
“As a new council and the first council under this form of government, I felt there was a benefit to having the council work on a common direction to facilitate consensus,” Kilduff said. “This is a practice I have done with other councils and it helps to find the common ground.
“The council does not govern by the will of one. Rather, it is a consensus of the group. Working with the council to facilitate a shared vision and goals helps in the council decision-making process. It also helps in aligning the administration of the town with the council’s direction and budget building,” Kilduff said about why he recommended the council undergo the session.
In November 2019, Clinton officially changed its form of government from a board of selectman to a town manager/town council form of government. Instead of a five-member board of selectmen led by a first selectman elected by the residents, the town is now led by a seven-member elected council that can hire or fire a town manager who handles many of the duties that were previously handled by the first selectman.
As could be expected with a major change in government structure, there has been some bumps since the transition in government form has been made. For example, in June, Town Council member Christine Goupil attended and spoke at a rally in Clinton. Town Council Chairman Chris Aniskovich has since stated that council members should refrain from making public statements outside of Town Council meetings because it could lead to a perception that the individual council member is speaking for the entire council.
Since that meeting Aniskovich has repeated his preference that council members refrain from making statements outside of the council meetings.
Speaking to the Harbor News before the workshop was held, Aniskovich denied that there were issues between the council members or in how the council was functioning.
“I think the council is working fine,” said Aniskovich. “I just want to see the council work together as a whole.”
Aniskovich said that he wanted to see the council focus on policies that would help the town regardless of individual agendas. Aniskovich said in his view, disagreements and concerns on issues should be stated during town council meetings, but once a consensus was reached it was up to the entire council to support whatever decision was made. “When you leave the table, you work to support the council. We have to put the towns people first,” said Aniskovich.
Some of the goals the council opted to work on include focusing on increasing public trust, fiscal responsibility, and delivering services efficiently to the public.
Reached for comment again after the workshop took place, Aniskovich reiterated that he thinks the council has done a “great job” so far and said “I think it went really, really well. We benefited immensely from Karl’s experience in other towns.”
“For me, it was a productive session to work with the council on what they share in common and the direction of where they want to see the community move,” said Kilduff.
Asked if he had any concerns about what was discussed by the council, Kilduff said, “No. This was an opportunity for the council to come together as one around a common direction. It is more about the process than the topics of discussion.”
In particular, Aniskovich said showing the public that the council will follow through on initiatives it takes on and working together for common goals that benefit the town were main takeaways from the workshop.
“We don’t report to the different political parties or their chair people when we are on the council. We work together for the council goals and let the outside influences stay outside,” said Aniskovich.
Aniskovich said that another benefit of having the workshop was laying for the public what the town wants to focus on. A vision statement from the council is expected to be adopted at a future council meeting.
“So the town knows what we’re going to focus on during our time here,” said Aniskovich. “It reminds us we’re here for a reason. The council is new, it’s a bigger group than the board of selectmen was, but I want to continue to work together as a group.”
Other council members also thought the workshop went well. Council member Tim Guerra said that he views the council as being in the business of making sure the town is successful.
“I think in any successful business you have to set goals. We’ve never really set goals before and kind take thing as they come. I think now we’ll be more proactive than reactive,” said Guerra.
Guerra said he applauded Kilduff and Aniskovich for having the meeting and that he thinks establishing common goals will benefit the council.
“I really think by doing this it will take some of the politics out of running the town,” said Guerra.
Council member Carol Walter said she felt the workshop went well, but added “I think we have a lot more work to do.”
“I think there is basically agreement, but we need to be sure we’re all buying in,” Walter said.
Council member Christine Goupil participated in the meeting via cell phone and could only listen in. Goupil said she was initially going to attend in person, but when she arrived at the meeting, she became uncomfortable because the other council members were not wearing masks in the meeting despite a sign on the door of Town Hall stating the masks are required inside.
Goupil said that “most of the points discussed are why the town advocated for a town manager form of government.” Items like building professionalism, financial stewardship, building budgets and long-term planning were all aspects of governance that Goupil said spurred proponents of the government change. Rather than have new politicians in place every two years like under the old form, the town manager can provide long-term planning and experience regardless of who is around him or her, Goupil said.
“Although we are an elected body and come from a variety of different policy perspectives, sometimes we can lose focus as to why we decided to pursue this endeavor. The more we talk with one another—even virtually—the more we understand that we all want what’s best for Clinton. Setting goals—measurable goals in some instances—should better help us serve the Community,” said council member Eric Bergman.
Bergman said he was interested in collaborating with his fellow council members to examine policies in town.
“At this point I am waiting for council feedback on some drafts I prepared to pull their ideas together. After we have the concepts done, ultimately, I would be looking for the Council to vote and adopt their goals,” Kilduff said.
Editor’s note: Part of a newspaper’s mission is to hold elected officials accountable to the electorate. Because Clinton voters do not elect the Town Council nor its chair but instead its individual members, the Harbor News will continue to seek commentary from all members of the council, both inside and outside of council meetings.