BETHEL - It wasn't only the first selectman's job that changed hands Tuesday.
Final election results show both the boards of education and finance will have Republican majorities when the new members take their seats early next month.
Republican Robert Burke won decisively over incumbent Democratic First Selectman Alice Hutchinson.
And in almost all the races, Republicans had the edge over their Democratic opponents, often winning by hundreds and sometimes nearly 1,000 votes. The only exception was the race for town clerk, in which assistant town clerk Lisa Bergh, a Democrat, won by nearly 500 votes over Republican Christina Berk.
On the three-member Board of Selectmen - besides Burke and his running mate for selectman Paul Szatkowski - the third seat was won by Hutchinson's Democratic running mate, incumbent selectman Patrick Wild. He received 61 more votes than Hutchinson.
Even though the political balance has changed, members of the boards of education and finance from both parties said Wednesday they don't expect major philosophical shifts on those boards. The leadership of the boards could shift, however.
"I don't see a radical change," said Republican Stuart Carlsen who was elected to a second term on the nine-member Board of Education, where there will now be six Republicans and three Democrats. "The schools superintendent (Gary Chesley) has, by and large, done a good job. And we have to have a better relationship with the Board of Finance so we can give the kids a good education."
The school board currently has a Democratic chairman - Matt Knickerbocker, who has headed the board for six years and whose present term on the board isn't up until 2007. "This is premature," said Carlsen on Wednesday, "but the expectation is we will elect a Republican chairman. It's pretty traditional that the majority party names the chairman."
Knickerbocker agreed that's a likely possibility. "With a Republican majority, we'll see a change in officers. But beyond that, I have an open mind and hope they will do the best for the kids."
Though Knickerbocker is "disappointed our side didn't do better, I congratulate them (the Republicans) for their win." Besides Carlsen, Republican Jill DeRosa was elected to a second term and Knickerbocker praised them for the work they've done on the board.
The other four Republicans are all new to the school board: William Kingston, Robin Renner, Sherri Roscetti and Sharon Holmes.
On the seven-member Board of Finance, the changes are somewhat less dramatic. Three of the current members are Democrats whose four-year terms are not up until 2007. Of the four Republicans elected Tuesday, two are already finance board members - Kevin Riley and William Britt.
The two new members are Philip Gallagher and Spruille Braden Jr. Gallagher is an unaffiliated voter who ran on the Republican line.
"I hope that we're a bipartisan board," said current finance board chairman Kevin Cleary, a Democrat. Though he'd like to remain as chairman, Cleary said, "I'll do whatever the board wants in December."
Gallagher, a former selectman who served on the finance board in the late 1980s, doesn't foresee "anything revolutionary" happening on the board.
"We're all experienced people who understand our role is to be the financial conscience of the town," Gallagher said. "We have to remind the other boards of what the limitations are and see that government is properly funded."
But Gallagher does anticipate a change in the leadership of the finance board when the new members come aboard. Though Gallagher is an unaffiliated voter, he told the Republicans that he would vote for a Republican chairman.
Contact Marietta Homayonpour
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