SOUTHINGTON — The new slate of Republican Town Committee members includes new party members but the caucus held Monday angered some party veterans who weren’t reelected.
Republican Town Chairman Steve Kalkowski said 23 of the 75 slots were filled with newcomers. Others were chosen for their involvement with party functions and support of fellow party members.
“We want folks that are really active participants in our meetings and events,” Kalkowski said. “I want 75 people who bring their ideas and recommendations.”
Cheryl Lounsbury, a former town councilor, said her disagreements with party leaders resulted in her name not making it onto the 75-member town committee slate that was approved Monday night.
Lounsbury opposed some Republicans, including former council chairman Michael Riccio, on a recent ethics code change and the appointment of Mark Sciota to Town Manager. She said she chose not to run again in November in part based on how Republican leaders treated her after those votes.
“I’m very disappointed in them,” Lounsbury said. “It just shows the party has turned into a very petty, negative party.”
Ed Pocock Jr., a Board of Finance member, and Erica Pocock, a Board of Water Commissioners member, were also not elected to the town committee and not told about the change.
Ed Pocock Jr. said he was having his hand slapped for not voting in favor of a $25,000 appropriation to hire a search consultant for the Fire Department.
Ed Pocock III, a former councilor who voted along with Lounsbury and father of Erica Pocock, said his criticism of party leaders was being punished by removing his father, Ed Pocock Jr., and daughter from the town committee. Ed Pocock III said his reelection to the town committee was a “cruel joke” by party leaders.
Brian Callahan, past party chairman and a member of the executive committee, said the new slate was chosen based on members who had attended party meetings and fundraisers regularly.
“If they felt it’s retaliation, it’s on them, it’s their guilt,” he said. “They don’t support the party.”
Party leaders present a slate of candidates who are voted on by any registered Republicans present at the meeting. Town committee members are elected every two years.
Callahan said the new committee members and new leadership are a way to keep things fresh in the party.
”It had nothing to do with retaliation, none of that stuff. That’s ridiculous,” Callahan said.
Ed Pocock III called the election a “purge” and said Callahan blamed him and Lounsbury for losing the recent municipal election where Republicans lost their council majority.
Kalkowski, vice chairman of the party since August and elected to take over in December, formerly served on the Planning and Zoning Commission as well as the Board of Police Commissioners.
The slate was being finalized right up to the day before the caucus which didn’t allow time for phone calls to those who weren’t going to be reappointed. Kalkowski said he’s excited about the slate that includes people willing to “roll up their sleeves” and volunteer to lead Republican events and bring fresh ideas to the party.
Kalkowski also said the party wanted people committed to the Republican platform and who would support other Republican elected officials.
“We need to have each other’s backs,” he said.
Brian Goralski, Board of Education chairman, was the only vote against the slate Monday night. He said Lounsbury and Ed Pocock Jr. were both past party chairs and should have the option to remain on the town committee.
“They’re the reason I voted the way I did,” he said. “I consider them both active, I consider them both people I hold in high regard.”
Ed Pocock III questioned why his daughter was removed from the town committee if the party wanted to get younger members and fresh voices.
Lounsbury said party leaders such as Callahan and Riccio didn’t want to hear opposing viewpoints.
“The leadership has been going in a very negative way in the past couple years,” she said. “They want to push out anybody who has a different point of view.”
Lounsbury said her attempts to air her opinions at party meetings discouraged her from attending future meetings.
“They publically bullied me. That’s their M.O. if you’re against them,” she said.