UPDATED: Knickerbocker, Straiton Win Second Term; Democrats Win Three Board of Finance Spots [VIDEO]

Bethel 2011 municipal election candidates share their thoughts.

Election Day 2011 was a big night for Bethel Democrats. 

Democratic incumbent Matthew Knickerbocker won a second term for First Selectman Tuesday night with roughly 2,400 votes; about a 2 to 1 margin victory with Republican Kevin Cleary earning about 1,300 votes and CT Tea Party Candidate Robert Burke around 663. Knickerbocker also won in all five districts and with absentees.

"I'm pretty amazed by the numbers, I’m humbled by them; it was a big vote total," Knickerbocker said. "I owe a great debt of gratitude to the people who voted for me and to those who contributed to the campaign."

Now with two more years, Knickerbocker said "there's so much to do," including putting together next year's budget, completing the and many infrastructure issues. 

"As I said two years ago, when I go back to work tomorrow, I’m working for all the people of Bethel whether they voted for me or not," he said.

This is also a second term win for Selectman Richard Straiton, Knickerbocker's running mate.

"It was a great win, we showed that the town has trust in us," Straiton said. "We’re going to continue our progress and finish up the things we started and complete projects from our first term."

Priorities for Straiton also include fixing Bethel's roads, as well as finding a . 

Cleary said he thanked all who voted for him and was proud that he ran a good campaign.

"I felt that I ran a clean race. I thought that everyone worked really hard on the election," Cleary said. "Matt has had two years to get a lot of work done in this town...I’m still a taxpayer and I hope everything goes well and that I can be here for support."

Knickerbocker also said he felt himself and Cleary ran positive campaigns.

He said: "I want to congratulate Kevin Cleary for running an outstanding campaign. I think for the second time in a row, the Republicans and Democrats have run a clean, issue-orientated campaign. It was all about the issues, he’s a gentleman and I congratulate him on his campaign."

Cleary said he still plans on being very active in the Bethel community and has no regrets on running this year.

"I now have new friends and I had the opportunity to talk to all the people out there and rekindle some old friendships," he said. "I was proud to be in this race. I have no regrets at all and I’m looking forward to the next phase of my life."

Republican Selectman Paul Szatkowski, Cleary's running mate, will be entering his fourth term in office and said he was humbled by this election season.

Szatkowski said: "I’ve always said I’m not a politician, I’m a taxpayer. I approach my office as selectman as doing want the people really want and not what one party wants. I’m looking forward to the next two years, there’s a lot we have to do."

He agreed with Knickerbocker and Straiton that roads were a priority, along with focusing on the police station and working on . 

Overall, Szatkowski said himself, Knickerbocker and Stration work well together, using the compromise on the road plan as an example when he suggested turning the $8.5 million bond plan for four years to $2 million per year. 

"A priority as minority selectman is to keep these projects affordable," Szatkowski said. "People ask us to think about them especially during this economic recession. There’s a lot of things we’d like to do, but we have to look at what’s affordable for our residents."

The Democrats did well in other races as well especially Town Treasurer and Board of Finance, as all three Democratic candidates won in the latter race.

"I’m very glad for the women elected to the Board of Finance," Democratic Campaign Coordinator Alice Hutchinson said. "It really diversifies that board and brings compassion back to that board. I’m really looking forward to a better working relationship between the Board of Selectmen and the Board of Finance."

Hutchinson, who is also a former first selectman, said the party owes its successful night to a lot of hard work and positivity.

"It was a very big night for the Democratic party in Bethel and I’m very proud of all the hard work that the Democrats put into this campaign," shes said. "I’m so proud of the number of people that voted and that the Town of Bethel had very clear ideas about what it wanted. We put up some quality candidates that seemed to resonate with our citizens." 

Burke, a former First Selectman, was unavailable for comment. After being out-voted by Cleary during the Republican caucus, himself and seven other candidates ran on the newly formed CT Tea Party ticket. None of those candidate won their respective races. 

Below are the list of 2011 candidates with the winners indicated in bold. Actual . (* indicates an incumbent):

First Selectman

  • Democrat/Working Families: Matthew S. Knickerbocker* 
  • Republican/Independent: Kevin L. Cleary
  • CT Tea Party: Robert E. Burke


  • Democrat/Working Families: Richard C. Stration*
  • Republican/Independent: Paul R. Szatkowski*
  • CT Tea Party: Robert Z. Crnic

Town Treasurer

  • Democrat/Working Families: Thomas O'Leary
  • Republican/Independent: Robert L. DiMatteo
  • CT Tea Party: Jack J. Moody

Board of Finance

  • Democrat/Working Families: Claudia J. Stephan
  • Democrat/Working Families: Eileen Freebalm
  • Democrat: Patricia Smithwick
  • Republican/Independent: James Roden*
  • Republican/Independent: William H. Slifkin*
  • Republican/Independent: John L. Dietter*
  • CT Tea Party: Salvatore A. Maniscalo
  • CT Tea Party: George A. Gaylord, Jr.

Board of Education

  • Democrat/Working Families: Lisa M. Johnson
  • Democrat/Working Families: Robin A. Renner*
  • Democrat: Robert Rogers
  • Democrat/Working Families: Janice L. Chrzescijanek*
  • Republican/Independent: Bryan Terzian
  • Republican/Independent: Kristen M. Lacey*
  • Republican/Independent: Scott Anthony Clayton*
  • Republican/Independent: S. Lawrence Craybas*
  • Republican/Independent: William I. Duff*
  • CT Tea Party: Kevin J. Gallagher

Board of Education To Fill Vacancy for Two-Year Term 

  • Democrat/Working Families: Ted Stevenson
  • Democrat: Janet Cosgrove
  • Republican/Independent: Beth A. Gorry
  • Republican/Independent: Elizabeth A. Frey

Board of Assessment Appeals

  • Democrat/Working Families: Robert F. Pitt, Jr.
  • Democrat: Steven DeMoura
  • Republican/Independent: Alfred J. Bernard
  • Republican/Independent: Robert Fand
  • CT Tea Party: Clinton A. Monroe, Jr.

Planning & Zoning Commission

  • Democrat: Donald W. Brown
  • Democrat: Diana Carlino
  • Democrat: Dick Shannon*
  • Democrat: Keith Watson
  • Republican/Independent: Earle Finch*
  • Republican/Independent: John Lennon*
  • Republican/Independent: Henry Karl, Jr.
  • Republican/Independent: Robert J. Legnard*

Planning & Zoning Commission Alternate

  • Democrat: Louis F. Valenti*
  • Democrat/Working Families: Sandi Richards Forman
  • Republican/Independent: Nicholas F. Hoffman
  • Republican/Independent: Stanley L. Weston

Zoning Board of Appeals 

  • Democrat: Justin E. Hurgin*
  • Democrat/Working Families: Nicholas W. Vitti, Jr.
  • Republican/Independent: John F. Hawkins*
  • Republican/Independent: Melanie Ryan

Zoning Board of Appeals Alternate 

  • Democrat: Gary F. Passineau
  • Democrat/Working Families: Jennifer Davidson
  • Republican/Independent: Susan J. Catino
  • Republican/Independent: Susan M. Dolan*

Inland Wetlands Commission

  • Democrat: Patrick Perrefort*
  • Democrat/Working Families: Don Goodrich*
  • Republican/Independent: Margarita Dietter
  • Republican/Independent: Suzanne M. Fand

Inland Wetlands Commission Alternate

  • Democrat: Robert C. Wallace
  • Republican/Independent: Daniel W. O'Grady*

Police Commission 

  • Democrat: Tony Fernandes
  • Democrat: Christopher McCollam*
  • Republican/Independent: Peter Sefsik, Sr.
  • Republican/Independent: Michael Duff
  • CT Tea Party: Tulio J. Belardinelli
Bother November 09, 2011 at 02:32 AM
Skip Clapp November 09, 2011 at 02:38 AM
a clean campaign in Bethel.
--- November 09, 2011 at 03:23 AM
Congratulations, indeed, to all those who have been selected by public desire to represent us here in Bethel, in whatever capacity that may be. Don't blow it.
Bill Hillman November 09, 2011 at 03:30 AM
Congrats to the winners of their respective seats. Thumbs down for a low turnout. I don't think the outcome would have changed, but it would be really nice to see a higher percentage of voters doing their civic duty!
Bother November 09, 2011 at 11:59 AM
I think the town can be proud of a largely animus-free campaign season. From the results we can see there was not strictly party-line voting but support for individuals. That's very, very encouraging. I am glad to see Matt returned to office to continue working for us. Kevin is a very good guy and a good citizen; an asset to Bethel and I hope he does not leave the political arena. Anyone who has ever read anything I have written here knows how I feel about the old Board of Finance, voted out yesterday. That is not to say that the new members do not have some very hard work ahead of them. They have a chance to show us what they can do and I wish them good luck. In a short time we will be judging their track records and deciding to keep them in or not. I've watched Larry Craybas do his job and I think we should all be glad he'll continue doing it. I don't always agree with him but he's got integrity, smarts and the even temperament to handle a difficult post. I've met Chris McCollam and Ted Stevenson and these are a couple of great guys also. I'm glad the town has given them the opportunity to show us what they've got. OK everyone, let's get back to work.
Lori Levine November 09, 2011 at 01:11 PM
Congrats to all! Lisa J. so close! You would have done alot for education.
David November 09, 2011 at 02:17 PM
Lets DO the Right Thing for the people of BETHEL!!!
Dan Gaita November 09, 2011 at 07:14 PM
While I cringe to admit it, this election was a loud and clear mandate in support of the Democratic Town Committee agenda. While I supported the Republican line, I also support the principals of Democracy. The will of the voters has been made quite clear. Let's see how they do, and how well they can work together to bring Bethel through this period of economic and political transition. I wish all of you the best.
Ceceil November 09, 2011 at 10:10 PM
"Knickerbocker also said he felt himself and Cleary ran positive campaigns." Shouldn't it be: Knickerbocker also said he felt he and Cleary ran positive campaigns. He felt himself just doesn't sound right to me!


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