Stafford is Considering Changing its Model of Governance

By Laura Hayden

First Selectman Mary Mitta along with fellow Selectmen John Locke and Richard Hartenstein recently expressed unanimous support to explore transitioning Stafford town government to a town manager and town council system in the future, even though the transition would eliminate their selectman offices.  At a September 17 meeting First Selectman Mitta referred to a committee formed five years ago to look into the idea of moving to a council-manager form of government. She said officials should use that research as a start to making the change a reality.

Such a transition would result in Stafford becoming the second town in the north central region to have a hired town manager and the third to have an elected town council govern their jurisdictions. Enfield uses a Council-Manager form of government where a full-time paid professional referred to as the town manager is hired by an elected town council to be the chief executive officer.  The only other town in the area without a board of selectmen is Vernon, which follows a mayor- council model that consists of one top elected official, the mayor, with an elected legislated body in the form of a council, to which the mayor provides policy leadership and executive management.

Like the vast majority of municipalities in Connecticut Stafford, along  with  East Windsor, Windsor Locks, Ellington, Suffield and Somers, is currently governed by a salaried first selectman and two selectmen who are responsible for executive decision-making. Day to day authority is given to the first selectman who is the chief executive officer.  The legislative body in this model  is the representative town meeting. Voters select a limited number of citizens to represent them at town meetings.

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