Williamsburg voters to pick new Select Board member on Saturday

Williamsburg Select Board candidates speak at a forum at the Williamsburg Grange on Oct. 15. From left are Richard Kisloski, Patrick Sumner and Paul Wetzel. Voters on Saturday will select one candidate to replace the late David Mathers.

Williamsburg Select Board candidates speak at a forum at the Williamsburg Grange on Oct. 15. From left are Richard Kisloski, Patrick Sumner and Paul Wetzel. Voters on Saturday will select one candidate to replace the late David Mathers. SCREEN SHOT/COLLIN BLACK

By Sophie Hauck

For the Gazette

Published: 11-02-2023 1:11 PM

WILLIAMSBURG — Three candidates for Williamsburg Select Board will go toe-to-toe Saturday in a special election to fill one vacant seat on the three-person panel.

Richard Kisloski, Patrick Sumner and Paul Wetzel are running to fill the vacancy left by former Selectman David Mathers, who died in July after serving on the board for 16 years. The three candidates participated in a “Meet the Candidates” forum at the Williamsburg Grange earlier this month.

Registered voters can cast their ballots at the Town Offices from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, and those who already requested an absentee or vote-by-mail ballot should send theirs to the Town Offices.

Richard Kisloski

Richard “Dick” Kisloski has 31 years of experience as a general contractor under his belt. Having supervised construction projects ranging in value from $1 million to $100 million, Kisloski said he is a skilled project manager.

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“Dealing with budgets, quality assurance, staffing issues, safety and completing projects on time and within budget were my main focus while being employed in the construction industry,” he told the Gazette.

Kisloski has served on the Finance Committee and as chair of the Williamsburg Trust Fund and Cemetery Commission since 2014, among other roles in town on the Planning Board and Capital Planning Committee.

He is interested in ensuring the town provides essential services such as police, fire and public schools to residents without overtaxing them. He also wants to help the Finance Committee develop a salary structure for town employees after many departments approached the committee last year with requests for salary increases, and the committee reached an impasse because members had different priorities.

Increasing youth civic engagement is also important to Kisloski, who noted the town is “run by” approximately 20 people, most who are in their 60s or older.

“We somehow gotta encourage the younger kids to participate in town committees…so other people have a choice,” Kisloski said.

Patrick Sumner

Patrick Sumner moved from Georgia to Williamsburg seven years ago and transitioned from managing political campaigns to preparing people’s taxes. He appreciates how Williamsburg is a “center of life” containing a market, schools and other essential services so that residents never have to leave unless they want to.

Sumner wants Williamsburg to stay this way, which he said means being proactive, not reactive when it comes to maintaining infrastructure and preparing the annual budget.

He cited the permanent closure of the Bridge Street bridge in Haydenville as one example of poor planning. The town was not prepared for the bridge to suddenly become unusable, Sumner said, and the plan for the new bridge they previously developed with the Massachusetts Department of Transportation involved decreasing the lanes of traffic to create dedicated space for cyclists and pedestrians, which he said was “hopefully ambitious” and would negatively impact drivers.

Sumner wants to ensure property taxes do not increase. He also intends to put in place infrastructure and standard operating procedures to combat weather emergencies like this summer’s floods. Improving the town’s communication with residents, whether through Facebook or a text message alert system, is another one of his priorities.

“It’s about organizing people, not agendas,” Sumner told the Gazette.

Paul Wetzel

Paul Wetzel manages the Ada and Archibald MacLeish Field Station at Smith College, a 250-acre plot of land where students learn about landscape conservation and restoration. Environmentalism is in his wheelhouse, and he thinks Williamsburg has the opportunity to commit to sustainable practices, such as at the new public safety complex, where there will eventually be a solar power generation facility.

“I don’t see why the town should actually have to pay for electricity — we can generate it ourselves,” Wetzel said. “Most things that the town does should be run through the filter of sustainability.”

He noted that town-led environmental projects could also motivate new people to get involved in Williamsburg government.

“I will be the first person to say that meetings can be a little bit dull,” Wetzel said at a recent candidates forum, adding that making residents feel heard improves participation.

Wetzel has been co-chair of the Williamsburg Finance Committee for nine years, which he said inspired him to “take [his] knowledge and experiences to a new level” by running for Select Board. He noted that he is “focused on data” and said that cutting taxes could mean cutting the services they fund. He would take a “thoughtful” approach to tax reform, among other issues, he pledged.