Incumbent Council President Jeffrey Turco and his challenger Peter Gill stepped in front of the cameras at WCAT Monday night, each hoping to convince voters who haven’t already made up their minds, that they are deserving of their vote on election day.
In the end, viewers were largely left to consider the record of Turco, who has served in the position for two years and contrast it to the style of Gill, who strikingly agreed with the incumbent on several issues, but voiced his disagreement with the way the Council President has handled himself as Council President.
Each candidate was given a chance to make a two minute opening statement and a two minute closing statement. In between they were asked a series of ten questions from a panel of three, that included representatives of the Winthrop Sun Transcript, Winthrop Chamber of Commerce and WCAT television host and debate moderator Ron Vecchia. Answers were limited to 90 seconds each. Each candidate also had a chance to pose three questions to their opponent.
WCAT will continue to run the debate over the next several weeks as the election gets closer and voters are urged to take the time to watch the debate and carefully consider the candidates’ performances in making their informed choice for Council President.
Throughout the hour-long event, Turco relied on examples from his past two years as Council President to illustrate his philosophies and goals as Council President, and frequently referred to the changes that have come to Winthrop during his tenure as Council President.
Gill on the other hand, chose to use the debate as a way of framing the contest as one of opposing styles, and suggested that his style and manner will be more inclusive and empowering for residents, businesses and employees of the town.
In that regard, the debate perfectly illustrated the differences between the two candidates, which can probably best be explained here through excerpts from their opening and closing statements.
Jeff Turco’s opening statement:
“Two years ago I ran for office because I believed that we could do better. I believed that we could move our town forward. I believed that with strong leadership and a bold vision for the future we could break the seemingly perpetual cycle of threatened 2 ½ overrides versus threatened layoffs.
And some two short years later, having worked together with my colleagues on the town council and the new school committee, and our town manager, Winthrop has weathered the fiscal storm better than most communities. We have invested more than $2 million into road improvement projects. We have hired three new police officers and three new firefighters. We have demanded change in our school district by: lowering class sizes in our elementary schools, re-aligning our curriculum throughout the system, we have made full-day kindergarten free, saving Winthrop families $2,300 per child and affording them an opportunity they might not otherwise be able to afford. We hired a new superintendent with performance pay in his contract, we have slashed our athletic user fee to $225 so working families can once again afford for their children to play sports. All of this done without a 2 ½ override.”
Peter Gill’s opening statement:
I am seeking the position of Town Council President as I believe that a change in leadership style is sorely needed at this time and critical to the future of Winthrop. As your Town Council President, I will encourage citizen participation and inclusion in the decision making process. Citizen participation will be recognized, nurtured and appreciated under my leadership. Progress will be achieved by decisions made with deliberation followed by action. I firmly believe that, as Winthrop’s town leaders and citizens we need to work as a team to maximize our resources – human, natural and material. . .
My professional experience of being a public school teacher/administrator prior to opening Winthrop’s first Century 21 office as Broker/Owner, provided me the opportunity and experience of strong leadership in both the public and private sectors.
My goal is to return citizen pride to Winthrop. Attitude is contagious.
If we all strive to develop and maintain a positive attitude toward our hometown, things will improve. . .I am committed to lead a team of Winthrop people working together in a positive direction for the future of our hometown.”
Jeff Turco’s closing statement:
“The real question in this race can best be summed up as follows, ‘is Winthrop better off today than it was two years ago?’
Two years ago we had come off a contentious 2 ½ override campaign, we had laid off our police chief, threatened to shutter our senior center and our town library. Mass layoffs were threatened in our schools, and a trash fee seemed all but assured.
And now, two short years later, with open, honest and transparent budgeting, and a commitment to fiscal responsibility, our town has turned the corner. We have broken down the walls that existed between our school department and our town.
We have hired new police officers and new firefighters. We have charted a new course for our school district, one that invests in our families as well as our staff. Through consolidation of services we have eliminated unaffordable redundancies and are one the way to creating greater efficiencies in the delivery of services to our community. . .We moved the school department out of the E.B. Newton School and created a cultural center for our community. We have promoted responsible development at the old Dalrymple school and the Temple. We have worked to solve difficult problems rather than pushing them off until another day.”
Peter Gill’s closing statement:
Perception is reality. I am concerned with the level of frustration and attitude of many of our citizens regarding conditions within our town. Our citizens are disappointed with the current administration and their methods of dealing with our employees, volunteers and citizens. All should be encouraged to participate in the decisions involving the present and future of Winthrop.
Since deciding to run, I have discussed my philosophy regarding our common concerns with many citizens resulting in a groundswell of support for my election; growing everyday.
I believe in Winthrop. I have the desire and time to give back to the community that has given so much to and my family. I have the desire and drive to improve the attitude and restore the pride of our citizenry through citizen participation in the future of Winthrop. Attitude is contagious and I believe that proper citizen attitude will have a tremendous impact on Winthrop’s future.
Our local form of government is strong and will be effective if used as designed. Our Town Charter is very specific on the role of the Council President. We need to recognize the difference between leadership and management, recognize and appreciate the expertise of our volunteers and employees.
Further, we need to involve the citizenry in our efforts to ensure quality of life in Winthrop.”